I was going to stop talking about dating Frenchmen after explaining the choreography of getting through the door on the first date. But last week, Mr French and I went out for a lovely meal and I was reminded that the dance continues while you’re at the table.
Okay, you’re sitting down, so it is not really a dance, but there is a routine. And you may, or may not want to follow this routine, that is totally up to you and your personal style, but like any skilled rancher, it is best to know the lay of the land before you start wrangling cattle (really bad analogie, but I’m having fun with it).
I realize that the year is 2012, not 1962, but if you are out for an evening with a traditional guy,
you should not be surprised if he expects to place your order. Or not. At first, I thought that this was just happening because I am old and dating older guys and assumed that guys in their 20’s and 30’s do not do the same. I was informed otherwise by girls who would know. And because the French tend to love to confuse us (masculine and feminine nouns… ‘nuf said) your date may place your order one evening and expect you to order for yourself the next.
How’s a girl to know? If he asks you what you’re ordering before the waiter arrives, you can guess that he may order for you. Of course, he could just be asking out of sheer politeness and perhaps he is genuinely curious, or looking for a bit of inspiration for his own meal. You can’t be sure. Fortunately, the waiter will generally speak to Monsieur first, so your date will order for himself, and perhaps even for you and you’ll mercifully hear the order, which is your cue to order. Or not.
That bullet dodged, here comes one of those quirks of French etiquette that I have not yet learned to appreciate; a lady never pours for herself. Neither water, no wine. It is expected that she sit there and wait to be served. Love the concept. But in practice, I tend to get very thirsty, particularly at meals and I like to drink A LOT. At dinner parties I find myself pleaing like Oliver, “Please sir, may I have some more?” Its only water I crave, yet I feel like an incorrigible lush after about the fifth or sixth request. On a date, this can be particularly bothersome. He may be gazing lovingly into your eyes, completely enraptured in the moment when you have to break the mood requesting that he serve you a drop to drink, feeling like a mother reprimanding her negligent son to clean his room. I have yet to find an romantic solution, but I was recently advised that holding up one’s empty water glass and shaking it works for women who have been married a very long time, so perhaps this would work on a date. I have me doubts….
Back to our dinner at Les Garçons. Les Garçons is a local café. Fun and easy with an impressively young crowd for our quartier. We were there for a casual Friday date and were enjoying the ambiance, food and wine immensely. Les Garçons serves traditional bistro fare with a decidedly international, modern twist. The have a burger of the day, with special sauces from across the globe and creative entrées that really follow the seasons. Like any true bistro, the menu tends to rely heavily on the meats. When it is quiet, the chef comes out of his kitchen to chat. He is very proud of his cuisine and it shows in the quality on your plate. We were having a lovely evening and Mr French was being particularly attentive. Which meant, he kept filling my glass. And filling it, and filling it… by the end of the evening I was hiccup-drunk!
If things are going well on a date, you may also let down your guard as he generously serves you glass after glass and before you know it, you’re dancing on the table tops and a complete stranger is sipping champagne from your mercifully new high heels. This is probably not a good idea in the beginning. I had to learn to sip delicately and keep careful tabs on the bar tab, oh, and I’d wear fabulous shoes, just in case things went too far and they ran out of champagne flûtes.