But when it comes to l.o.v.e. and the rules of seduction the French are in a class of their own. I do not know at which point in time Paris became synonymous with love, romance and couples sighing into each other's eyes and seeing brightly lit étoiles in them. They are everywhere: sitting entwined on the grass, along the canal, on the banks of the Seine, in a cosy two-seater at a brasserie...ah, amour is sweet. When I first arrived in Paris, I quickly dispelled with the notion that falling in love would be all soft petals, moonlit walks and coy looks. It was more a cocky young'un who would accost me and declare very importantly that I would be making the biggest mistake of my life if I did not come for a drink with him at the nearest café. And this said without the merest hint of humour. Often, I would do a double take and search their faces for a second, until a light bulb moment when I concluded, 'no, he IS being serious!' It took me a while to realize that unlike other more 'politically correct' societies, in France men and women are not afraid to check each other out and let the other know they like what they are seeing. Like I said, a class of their own.
On a few occasions, I wounded male pride with my refusal, causing mortal offence, and, more often than not, a bit of wheedling and cajoling. ('It's okay even if you're married, I just want to drink to your beauty...') Well oh la la. And, rather interestingly, this particular exchange prompted a discussion on adultery, which I'm told is practically an institution in France. Even an overnight bag is called a baise-en-ville (screw in town). Go figure.
I would have chalked it all down to randy youths trying their luck if the same did not happen with older men, albeit with a decidedly more gallant air. Last week in Paris, I was amazed at the incredible sense of déjà vu I experienced in this regard. It was like coming back to a favourite place to discover not a lot had changed; everything was as I had left it. I was waiting for the train when a man, who must have heard me as I parted ways with a friend at the entrance of the station, sat in the seat next to me, and said (in English) that he would like to show me a good time. This was not accompanied with a lick of the lips and a rearranging of the crotch, but it may as well have been, because he managed to leave his statement in a suggestively lecherous haze. Non, merci.
That said, Paris does deserve its title as the City of Love. You cannot help but think along those lines when you are out walking. You take in the centuries old buildings, quaint streets, and of course, the ubiquitous entwined lovers. I always think the city is bathed in a beautiful, shimmering glow when night falls. Quite apart from the intangible je ne sais quoi that makes it a mushy backdrop to many movies, Paris has an eternal tribute of declarations of love in the Love Wall, where I found 'I love you' in not one, but two Ghanaian languages - Twi and Ga - possibly more if I had known its equivalent in other Ghanaian languages.
|Just yards away from the Love Wall a newly married couple beam into the cameras at Montmartre|
Now how can I not be seduced by this city? I'll drink to its beauté any day.