Of Seduction And French Men
London is "stuffy", New York is "ambition", Rome is "sex". Such were the considerations of Liz Gilbert in "Eat Pray Love" when she led a quest to find her own defining word.
I spent countless hours pondering what the word for France should be when it hit me square in the face.
But of course, how could I not see it before?
It was so obvious.
The word for France could be no other than...
Seduction powers our society at large, so much so that an entire book was devoted to it: "La Séduction: How The French Play The Game Of Life" by Elaine Sciolino.
Seduction has nothing to do with sex.
Seduction is exquisite, it is refined. It is silk on skin. It is biting into a dark chocolate candy and the surprise of a sweet and tart nectar tickling our tongue.
Ms. Sciolino held seduction to be France’s “unofficial ideology, a guiding principle codified in everyday assumptions and patterns of behavior so well established and habitual that they are automatic.”
She is right. Seduction in France is ubiquitous, and so ingrained in everything we do that we often don't notice we are subjecting ourselves and others to it.
We aim to seduce and be seduced on a daily basis.
By each other.
By ideologies and ideas.
By our politicos.
By beautiful words.
By experiences, by rituals.
By food in delicate packaging.
By clothes on the backs of impossibly elegant women.
By art on every street.
Just a few days ago, a French expatriate friend and I were discussing our experience of seduction. She has been in the US for a year and a half, and I for nineteen years; yet our feeling was the same.
We miss being seduced on the streets of France. In a city where people are so devoured by their own projected image that they don't notice others (Lalaland, tralala),
We haven't seen it done quite like the French do.
How is that, you ask? Very simply, very spontaneously, by noticing something special in someone else and not being afraid to show or tell them.
Bless them for it, we miss the efforts made by our French men. They can be a bit much at times, we'll concede, but they have continued to vocally appreciate us despite a complicated political climate in which the lines between verbal appreciation and harassment are becoming blurrier by the day.
There is still much work to do to define the right balance.
But in the meantime, it dawns on me: seduction as we have grown to know and love (or at the very least get used to) may be under attack.
There is a risk to it. It alarms me and here is why: as much as I'd like to feel beautiful within myself, I am always - without fault - left high-spirited when a nice, tasteful compliment is offered to me. I, as I think many of us do, tend to trust my beautiful reflection in the proverbial mirror more when someone else tells me they see it too.
I fear seduction will be lost forever if we push it too hard.
The mirror will be shattered, irreparable, and too will be the memories of how my French man of a husband seduced me. With his fearless eye contact, his suave demeanor, his humorous words, his unapologetic appreciation of me, his badinage with abandon, and, last but not least, the way the girl in me revived with every kiss he stole on street corners.
So I dare say, dear French men,
Keep on savoring us.
Keep on making us vibrate.
Don't shy away from your adoration.
Tell us, even if we don't respond. It may make our day.
And don't ever, ever, stop kissing us on street corners.
Words: Cécile Charlot.