While I had so many thoughts about French dating customs, and how I should act, I could hardly parse out my ideas before my date with Mr. Cupid once I realized that the real dilemma was what to wear. I tore apart my closet, feeling every outfit was too cliché. Jeans made me look too American; all black was like I was trying too hard to be French. A dress said I was trying to look older, but a pink top screamed young and girly (it must be said the Mr. Cupid is in his early 30s, which he clearly sees as a big age difference; I don’t). I settled on a stretchy but not too-tight plain navy dress with 3/4 sleeves, oxford heels, a black blazer, and a few gold necklaces.
Good thing I dressed up a bit, because Mr. Cupid had come straight from work, and was wearing a suit. After doing the double-cheek kiss, he suggested we go to a street known for super good Japanese and Korean restaurants. As we walked, it took me a few minutes to register my reactions to his looks, as I concentrated more on keeping up with him in French. When we finally sat down at a noodle place, I got a good look at him. Definitely attractive, I thought. But probably not the type I’d automatically pick out of a crowd (which is sometimes a very good thing).
I wanted so desperately to speak French with him—admittedly, I have a slightly perverse and subjugating fantasy in which a French boy is impressed and endeared by my language skills but takes pleasures in the role of being a teacher for the naïve, young girl.
The whole French thing with Mr. Cupid hadn’t been well set up to begin with. When he first contacted me, he wrote in English, but when I had switched to French. He had proceeded with caution, noting, “If the French is too hard for you, let me know, I’m fine to write in either language.” Pffft! I haughtily wrote back something braggy about studying at the Sorbonne.
So I’m sure Mr. Cupid was not at all impressed when our first phone conversation went something like this:
“Salut, Léo, c’est Monsieur Cupid, ça va?”
“Oui! Ça va bien.”
“Pour ce soirwordsidontforthelifeofmeunderstandoui?”
So over dinner, the French lasted for about 20 minutes and, sensing my brain fatigue, Mr. Cupid seamlessly switched languages (albeit with a very thick accent). From there, the conversation pleased me. We covered some interesting topics like book translation and concepts of success. After dinner (he paid, and was profusely apologetic about the mediocre quality of the food), we decided to get a drink, crossing over from the Right Bank to the Left to a better bar area. As we passed the glass triangles of the Louvre, I spotted the illuminated Eiffel Tower in the distance, its moving beam of light projecting across the sky. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“What is so funny?” Mr. Cupid asked.
“Oh, you know … Paris at night, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower there …. all those romantic clichés.”
When we arrived in St. Germain, Mr. Cupid looked around, a bit at a loss for a finding a bar he knew. I had at first pretended not to know much about the neighborhood or Paris in general (a total lie), and finally grabbed his arm, and said, “Come on, I’m going to show you something.” I congratulated myself on the move, believing a French boy would find it cute to see the American take-charge mentality. I led him to one of my favorite bars in the city, a sort of divey ’60s Paris place where we shared a pitcher of sangria.
Before I knew it, it was midnight and it was getting closer to metro closing hour. I would be walking home, but Mr. Cupid needed to take the train. I walked him to the station, now sure I was very interested.
A bit of an awkward goodbye filled with the requisite, “Get in touch,” “I had a great time,” which you can just never know is said out of courtesy.
I’m pretty sure now that from his side it was genuine, because 20 minutes later, he sent me a sweet text (another restaurant apology … an American guy would never!). I sent back a thank you, and he replied to finish.
To top it off, the next day, he sent me an email at about 4 p.m., although not to make plans. Just to say he hoped I had slept well and that work is going well. Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about delaying the response for at least a few hours … an obvious “rule.” But, if in France there are no rules …