Friday, April 21, 2006

Liberte', Egalite', FIDELITE'?

French women fascinate me. The freshness of their chevre is just as important—if not more so—than the fidelity of their husbands. The women are utterly precise with their appearances, casual with their sexual affairs. I can’t quite decide if I admire these sexual libertines or pity their lack of judgment…

I once wrote that my Granddaddy had a way of presenting the modern-day, American South as if it were 19th century Gallic society—albeit a bastardized version.
“For Granddaddy, it wasn’t just the pace of life or rhythm of speech, but the social structure. Money wasn’t so much earned as it was maintained in estates and property. Staying in his good graces would be far more lucrative than chasing a Northern dream…”
Naturally, this Dixie laissez-faire attitude would transfer over into the sexual, the social—like their French counterparts, right? Wrong.

In general (in general, for those of you ornery blog readers), Southern women are fiercely protective of their partners and husbands. I’d venture to say that equal time is spent loving them as is spent watching their every move, searching for clues of infidelity and betrayal. What a waste. But, yet, I can’t seem to resolve these two sides of my heart. A little play was necessary…

With $10 in hand, I walked my Southern sensibility and Francophile proclivities to see the French movie, “Nathalie.” Bernard (Gerard Depardieu) cheats on his wife, Catherine (Fanny Ardent), and offers no explanation other than, “One day it dies.” Of course, he’s referring to marital passion, not the desire to have a perfectly executed 4-course French meal on the table night after night. Catherine very coolly accepts the blame for his infidelity and sets out to find a hooker who will report back to her and, in detail, describe what Bernard likes in bed, what his darkest and dirtiest sexual practices are when the other woman isn’t wearing a wedding band. I won’t spoil the end of the movie because I think each and every one of you –married, committed or otherwise—should go see it.

I left the theatre and did my usual walk down Broadway, past the imposing brownstones and the patisserie gems in the window of “Le Pain Quotidien.” Finally I reached the north side of Washington Square Park and walked through it’s own Arch de Triomphe. France in New York. A Southerner in the City. I suddenly realized that I did’t have to ascribe my beliefs to one side or another. That’s the beauty of my chosen home, the Big Apple. I can take the best of all my influencing worlds and begin to form my own system of beliefs. Elementary, really, this sudden thought that seemed so brilliant at the time. But, just as it came to me all at once, it made me quite happy.

Next time Chef and I are enjoying tartare et frites and escargots at “Balthazar,” I'll tie on a silk scarf (tres, tres parisienne, mes petits), keep a cool watch over my love and our surroundings and ever so subtly keep a warm hand on his cuisse...

How French. How Southern. How South-of-Houston.

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