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Sex and the Single Woman in Paris

HandsThere’s a scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary where the eponymous Brit is invited to a friend’s dinner, only to find that she’s the lone single person there. Half a dozen cozy couples line both sides of the table, peppering her with questions about her singlehood. Of course, the implication here is that unless you’re one half of a twosome, you may as well have scales on your back.

Funny scene, yes, but sadly relatable, as I have the distinction of being the sole singleton in my circle of friends on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., I really don’t feel the stigma of my status, at least not until I’m at a wedding. That’s when I get stuck at the grown-up version of the Thanksgiving kid’s table, where I’m joined by those who share my affliction. And the only thing that makes this seating arrangement uncomfortable is that there’s an assumption that I’ll have some sort of chemistry with at least one of the men seated with me. It’s yet to happen.

However, in Paris, I have found myself in social situations that end up being rather uncomfortable. It invariably involves a Parisienne who moves closer to her husband while we converse, or who eyes me suspiciously from across the room with the same level of scrutiny one would expect of a U.S. Air Marshall looking to see if I possess a bomb in my undergarments.

Of course, these women are perfectly charming to my face. But a friend—a Parisienne—explained to me that in a society where love affairs are de rigeur, these ladies were simply being cautious.

When it comes to the single Frenchman, apparently anything and everything is fair game. American women, in particular, harbor sometimes elaborate fantasies about taking a French lover. There’s almost an expectation that the male of the French species possesses remarkable skills in the bedroom.

What I’ve found is that, while those skills are no more or less extraordinary than men of other nationalities, there seems to be more of an effort to ensure the satisfaction of the woman involved. I’m not even talking about sex here. I’m talking about being wooed. I’ve had Frenchmen cook me lunch and dinner, buy me flowers, talk to me, listen to me and make some sort of effortless but thoughtful gesture in their efforts to romance me. And while each man undoubtedly hoped the evening would end with a romp beneath the sheets, they maintained the romance of the situation even when it became apparent it would not.

And to be perfectly honest, all men could stand to do more wooing. Even the gal who only wants a quick fling likes to be wooed—before, during and after.

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