paris (im)perfect: Faux pas or dating tip?

paris (im)perfect: Faux pas or dating tip?

Comments3 comments

Sion breaks a(nother) Parisian social norm and finds herself fending off an admirer.

Under certain conditions, I’m a dangerous woman.

Start with a little sun after a drawn-out deluge, dress in cute summer attire, add a little dancing and me without my glasses – these were this week’s ingredients.

It’s like this: It rained for days, for weeks without end. It was as if we would drown, as if the city might swim away. So when the sky suddenly opened into sunshine, I cannot tell you how miraculous it felt.

We skipped over spring fever and headed straight to summer. Life is beautiful again.

I went to dance class on Tuesday as I do; it's my favourite time of the week. With the majority of my life spent sitting and struggling over words, the chance to move and express myself in a totally different way feels like freedom.

Dancing is a saving grace.

After class it was still light outside – after 9 PM!

I don’t know if it’s all that rolling around and sweating and shaking it to good music, but I’m always much looser after class. Maybe too loose. I still have the songs in my head and sometimes I unwittingly break into a dance shuffle on the street. I try to keep it under wraps (conform to societal norms, Sion!), but I guess I’m not that much of a conformist.

So I’m walking up my block and I kind of throw my head back and arc my arms behind me; one of my involuntary improv moves.

Up ahead a man in a sky blue shirt does a double and then a triple take as he crosses the street. I smile because I realize – oh yeah, that probably looked kind of weird, huh?

But so now I’m smiling at him and he’s really like, what? (quadruple take!)

He stops on the street across from me and just looks.

I’m near-sighted and I don’t often wear my glasses when I’m out (I don’t know why. Maybe because I can see directly in front of me and it’s fun when the rest of the world past that point is a surprise when I get to it!)

So I can’t tell anything about this man except what he is wearing. That he is tall, lean. His face? A total blur.

I give him a shrug of my shoulders and a cheeky smile and continue walking.

After a brief pause, I hear him call after me and now he is crossing back across the street, walking behind me, trying to catch up.

Oh no, what have I done? Don’t smile at men on the street like that!

 paris (im)perfect: Faux pas Friday - hazards of the happy dance

But part of me gets a little tingle…oh, what if tall, blue-shirted man is cute? Amazing? Spontaneous like me?

After pretending I don’t hear him for a few moments, I let my curiosity get the best of me. I stop and turn around.

Watch as the blur approaches.

Closer, closer.

And…oh, dear god, no. He is…a child! (Ok, maybe not a minor, but really, really young. I do not want to hazard a guess).

I look at the boy and hope that he realizes I’m old. (I consider myself young, too, but not when compared to boys. Ahem).

He does not seem to notice I am old. He asks my name.

“Sion.” (Why my real name? Ugh, I am incapable of lying).

He introduces himself.

“Do you live around here?” he asks.

(Lie, Sion, lie!) “Yeah, right up there.” (Doh!)

“I’ve never seen a woman do that before,” he says and gestures, lifting his arms behind him slightly.

“Yeah, I know. I just came from dance class. I don’t know; it’s weird.”

“You have a beautiful smile.”

“Thanks. Well, bonne soiree!” I say chirpily trying to get the boy/man to disappear.

“Can I have your number?” he says pulling his phone out of his pocket.

“No, I’m sorry.” I have made a grave error, I’m thinking. Young man, shoo!

I flee into my courtyard.

But after a moment, he’s behind me again.

“Ok, not your phone number then. I just want to do one thing with you and then I’ll go.”

(Oh dear god, no. You want to do one thing with me?)

“Can I kiss you and then I will go?”

“No, I’m sorry,” I say.

C’est vrai?” he asks seeming to be genuinely confused.

“Yes, it’s really true.” …that I do not want to kiss you. I am so sorry I smiled at you. I am a strange, girl, it’s true.

Bonne soiree,” I say again, hoping this time it’s more definitive and move rapidly to my building. Now I’m a tiny bit peeved at myself – he knows where I live!

Luckily he did not follow me further so I could laugh at myself in peace.

I have found it very difficult to date in Paris. As in, my dating life is nonexistent. (The French don’t even have a word for a “date.” That might be one of the problems.)

So I’m the single girl in the City of Love gettin’ no lovin’. Feeling mostly invisible, to tell the truth. All those stories of fawning French men, the amorous stereotype – this has never been my reality.

But perhaps I’ve found the key. Break it down (or do bizarre moves) on the street and there’s sure to be some attention.

Only, I should wear my glasses more often so I can be a better judge; it’s best to smile only at appropriate ones.



Reprinted with permission of paris (im)perfect.

 Sion Dayson is an American writer living in Paris. Her work has appeared in a number of different venues and she blogs about the quirkier side of the City of Light at paris (im)perfect.




Photo credit: Alan Cleaver (photo 2)

Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.

If you believe any of the information on this page is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know. Expatica makes every effort to ensure its articles are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible, but we're also grateful for any help! (If you want to contact Expatica for any other reason, please follow the instructions on this website's contact page.)


Captcha Note: Characters are case sensitive
The details you provide on this page will not be used to send any unsolicited e-mail, and will not be sold to a third party. Privacy policy .

3 Comments To This Article

  • Sion Dayson posted:

    on 27th October 2012, 22:55:33 - Reply

    Thanks so much for the comments, Sam and Irene! And Irene, thanks for backing me up - I did mean "date" in the way you explain it. I'm glad to hear that the term RdV galant isn't used anymore; otherwise I'd be thinking I was missing out all these years :)

    And ah, New York. Yes, every place has its own cultural codes to get used to!
  • Irene posted:

    on 21st October 2012, 11:17:08 - Reply

    What a great story, Sion, you have great sense of humor and am sure this will attract some really nice guys, once they get to see/hear it though.
    I had a similar experience when I got to the States for the first time, all those men smiling at me, and this in New York, not exactly famous for its "friendliness"; I was wondering what was I doing that suddenly so many of the opposite sex would try to pick me up.

    Now, to linguistics: R.V galant is not that much used anymore( sorry Sam) except with a bit of irony of tone, the other option "sortir ensemble" works fine as long as it is a proposal and you're using it as a verb. If you're referring to the English noun though, like in "she is my date for tonight", for example, then, you're right, I don't think there is an exact equivalent in French.
  • Sam posted:

    on 17th October 2012, 15:14:14 - Reply

    Sion, In French, the official word for a date is a Rendez Vous galant or RdV galant. You can also say Est ce que on peut sortir, or peut on se voir. Anyway French women don't smile at men, but American women do - just to be friendly. French men take that American smile as a come on, so be careful. I've lived many years in France and understand the cross cultural mistakes very well. If you need more info, just email me!