On July 3 of this year, I wrote a blog referencing Two Lipsticks and a Lover by Frith Boswell, a book which details how French women differ from their American counterparts. Yesterday, while I was browsing among titles at the Dollar Store, I came across another book on the subject: What French Women Know by Debra Ollivier. The author is a U. S. expat who married a Frenchman and lives in Paris with her husband and their two children. Scanning the first few pages of her book, I found her style lively and amusing, so I tucked it under my arm and brought it home. I could tell she and I were comrades, of sorts, both in awe of the chic, Parisian woman.
In her introduction, Ollivier explains that while American women are hampered by their Puritan backgrounds, French women have no qualms about opening themselves to desire and pleasure. For them, men are not the opposite sex, suggesting a position of combat, and do not seek to domesticate their husbands, as American women are said to do. For the French women, men are to be treated as potential lovers. All of them whether they are fat, bald, sweaty or have beads that fall to their knee caps. Women extend this courtesy because they know it is unwise to expect too much of men. Or, as Marguerite Duras, a grand dame of 20th century letters explains:
You have to love men a lot. A lot, a lot. You have to love men a lot. Otherwise they are simply unbearable. (What French Women Know, by Debra Ollivier, G. P. Putnam & Sons, N.Y, 2009, pg. 18.)
Accepting men’s peccadilloes also means accepting that sex can be funny. (Ibid. pg. 10) I know this is true,. A French man taught me it was so.
When I was in my early 20s and ship bound for Europe, I met a delicate and deliciously beautiful Frenchman, also in his 20s. He had been married a scant 3 days yet during the passage, he pursued me with ardor wherever I went. One evening, he cornered me at the ship’s stern where I’d been hiding. As he approached, I could feel nothing but exasperation. “Why are you bothering me?” I snapped . “You have a wife of three days. You’re still a groom!”
A wicked gleam came into my suitor’s eyes. “Ah yes, I am a groom. But don’t you see, cheri? I offer myself because I am married. What greater pleasure could I offer than a taste of forbidden fruit?”
Now that was funny.
(Courtesy of www.poxpulse.com)
(Originally appeared 8/8/13)