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Texans abroad: What is it really like to date the French?

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Paris at night
What's it really like to date the French? Photo courtesy of Briggs Freeman Sotheby's

Editor's note: Ah, spring. It's the time of year to celebrate love and lovers. It's also the time of year to jet off to destinations unknown. In honor of new romance and old flings, and in celebration of our first direct flight from ABIA to Europe beginning earlier this month, we figure we should probably start embracing our new reputation as a destination for the traveled set. So we decided to begin with the most pressing question, "What's it really like to date French men?"

When I moved back to the United States after my third stint living in France, many female friends wanted to know what it was like to date French men and how they compared to Americans. Because the art of French seduction has become cliché, they wanted to know if French men lived up to the myth. Did one smoldering glance, delicate touch or dropped 'h' make my pulse race and my body tremble? (As Olivier Martinez and lusty, quivering Diane Lane showed us in Unfaithful.) But often they're more like former French president Nicolas Sarkozy; wearing shoes with lifts, arrogant and curmudgeonly, though still managing to marry super models.

In my twenties there was Jerome, the sexy Harley riding bartender from Le Palace nightclub where I hung out when I studied in Paris my junior year. Then came Jean- Pierre, the passionate and gregarious Toulousain who lived and breathed romance and was the closest I ever came to dating Pepe Le Pew. In my thirties there was Jean-Laurent, the dark, brooding writer/musician, who wooed me with talks of literature and cooked me pasta carbonara in his tiny apartment over looking Pere Lachaise.

They were all intense, under 5'9", smoked, and could turn a night debating politics, literature, art and music into foreplay. Because these men, and other French men I've known, take themselves quite seriously, they could be rather gloomy, not to mention the greatest naysayers the world has ever seen.

Here is a breakdown of what to expect, including insight from ex-pats who have also dated French men.

Courtship (or "La Chasse")
French men are pretty confident about asking a woman out on a date. Even the trolls are confident. And the ones who already have girlfriends or who are married are the most confident. Not all French men are cheating, they just act like they are. However, among ex-pat friends it was unanimous that you're hit on more frequently in France by married men than in the United States.

With French men you know where you stand when they ask you out. They want to date you and don't fear relationships. Unlike their American brethren, they are not looking to just "hang out" and "play it by ear." It's true that French men do know how to woo — I will give them that — but that doesn't necessarily mean they are good lovers. According to my British friend Laura, "they all drive around on bloody mopeds hoping that'll mean you drop your knickers. And then pop in for a coffee and play the guitar to you. I mean that stuff is priceless. Most British men wouldn't dream of doing that." Even French President Francois Hollande secretly visits his mistress by moped.

On our first date Jean-Pierre presented me with his favorite novel by Boris Vian, a romantic read about illness, destitution, murder and a suicidal pet mouse. It is not unusual to receive trinkets of appreciation from the French — poems, flowers, perfume, lingerie. American men, can you please take note?

Faire L'amour
Once you've succumbed to the seduction, sleeping with the French usually occurs on date two or three. Gratefully, I've never had a French guy invite me to a sporting event. More likely they will invite you over for a home-cooked dinner with ample wine. Seduction of the mind is important so intellectual debate is considered sexy and necessary for a good date.

Do they make for better lovers? Well, good courtship doesn't equal good coitus. "My experience would assert that the 'French lover' is a myth," my friend Nissa says. "I wonder what they're basing their Casanova-esque prowess on? What or who are they comparing their performance to?"

Break up (or "Denouement")
I've often found with American men that you can tell the "relationship" is over because they just fade away. With the French there is usually a break up and it is clear things are over. "Once you kiss a guy, you are his girlfriend until further notice. And once you break up, you break up," says Brandy, an American friend.

Ultimately there are all different kinds of French men and I'd be open to dating more of them, as apparently distance makes the heart grow fonder — as long as their name doesn't begin with the letter J.

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