My friend Megan from the States is in town for a few days, and yesterday we spent a lazy Sunday walking up and down the Seine, making fun of French joggers in ridiculous running gear and checking out the guys who passed us by.
“Wow, Paris definitely has some attractive men,” she noted as a particularly dashing gentleman in a perfectly tailored suit passed by us.
“Indeed, it does,” I agreed. We walked on a bit more, taking in the sights.
“Oh man,” she said. “Like that guy that we just passed, did you see him? So. Hot.”
“What? Where? No.”
“How could you not see him? He was looking straight at us.”
“Leo, I think you have a bit of a perception problem. You really don’t seem to catch on when guys are checking you out.”
“I do too! I just don’t try to make anything too obvious, you know?”Just then, we came up to a slightly bizarre sight—there were two scuba divers floating in the river water. I’ve seen the police practicing before in the Seine; they swim laps and are followed by a police boat. I always find this hilarious considering how disgustingly dirty Paris’ river is. These two guys were literally doing nothing, face-down in the water, and I began laughing at how odd it was. As we approached, I asked a slightly official-looking man watching over them what it was for.
“It’s the fire department,” he told me. “They’re training.”
I smiled and snapped a pic with my iPhone. “Is this for Facebook?” he asked jokingly.
“No, no. It’s just for me,” I replied, thanking him as we waved goodbye.
“OK, that guy was flirting with you; did you not understand that?” Megan said after we were out of ear shot.
“He was not. You’re crazy.”
“Seriously, Leo, I think you need to keep your eyes open a bit more. Maybe this isn’t why you’re finding more love opportunities.”
I hated to admit it, but maybe she was just a bit right. I am quite closed off in the public domain. For starters, I have my street-smart New York City background. But here in Paris, I’ve also felt like I’ve wanted to be completely inoffensive (and as polite as possible) to French people. Maybe in the process, I had become invisible?
Just a few days ago, I’d had a prime opportunity to meet someone. On Saturday night, I randomly ended up at an amazing party in a mansion off the Champs-Elysées. The scene was something straight out of a Euro-fied “Cruel Intentions”: Free pink champagne was offered like water in high-ceiling rooms filled with gilt-framed mirrors and wood-paneled walls. In the main foyer, pink lights cast a haze on a dance floor where Versace types moved coolly or just stood there looking beautiful. People were partying in every room on every floor of this place—there must have been five levels. And every room or hall you walked into, you felt people watching you. The pickup vibe was undeniably floating in the air. And yet, I walked home without any new acquaintances. Why hadn’t I just tried to talk to one of those guys who had locked eyes with me when I entered a room, instead of pretending to look around with purpose, only to leave a few minutes later? Or what was I doing, even when standing alone at this party, to not invite attention or suitors? I had to be projecting some sort of closed-off vibe. True, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable there, but only because of a lack of confidence. It’s a bit hard to feel like you’re something amazing when your competition is a size 0 blond girl with perfectly smoky eyes.
That was a rare night in Parisian nightlife—a real party where many of the people there were obviously single. I should have seized the day.
I want to tell myself now to promise to make an effort to be more perceptive, or to just smile more, or to feel less afraid when someone looks at me. But, is it just me, or is it kind of hard to return a look, or to offer an obvious smile? What’s there to be so afraid of?