Saturday, September 28, 2013

honneur aux jolies filles

One Friday evening last year, I stopped outside a supermarket somewhere in Paris near the Saint-Lazare train station.  I was accompanying two friends, Jeannette and David, to a house party and we wanted to get some food beforehand.  At some point during the stop, I was observing the streets packed with people and I noticed the abundance of pretty women around.  Fascinated, I told David something to this effect: "Man, there are so many pretty girls in this city!"  He replied rather dryly: "Yep, there are pretty girls everywhere.  But it does not mean anything if all you do is look at them."  Right.

Several months later, with this moment still fresh in mind, I launched Operation Les Jolies Filles.  Indeed, Paris does have lots of beautiful women, and I felt ready to do something more about it than just look from afar.  Actually, I wanted to change how I perceived women in general.  I had grown tired of the fantasy in which I held them, as well as the suffering that resulted from maintaining that fantasy.

In other words, Operation Les Jolies Filles was designed to do away with something of an inferiority complex.

The operation as I had imagined it certainly had the potential to transform the turn of events in a situation similar to the one that occurred in Angoulême last July.  It presented itself also as an excellent opportunity to become better acquainted with women in France, since the only reply that I could muster to questions like "So how are the women in France?" or "And French women?" was "I don't really know", because I just didn't know.  An answer based on what I thought was the stereotype, that French women were "difficult" and "demanding", was naturally a no-no.

So during the first five months of the operation, I said "Bonjour" to random pretty women that I passed on the street.  The interaction remained at that.  There was little chance to wait for a "Bonjour" in return, much less to have a conversation, since I was already gone looking for the next pretty girl.  I did this every other day, and targeted at least two women and no more than five on operation day.

After taking my time to greet 250 women, I figured it was high time to take things a step further.  I therefore decided to stop after approaching a pretty girl to interact with her.  But only to tell her "Je vous trouve très jolie" ("I find you very pretty") before moving on along.

For three days straight, I failed to get this next step off the ground.  It was not that I did not cross paths with a pretty girl, but that I could not push past the fear of saying something that was unusual and unnecessary to a girl that I did not know at all, and on the street of all places.  In addition, I was afraid that my actions would make the girl think that I was trying to pick her up, which I was not comfortable with.  At the rare moments when I was able to overcome all these mental obstacles, I tried to get the job done.  I looked at almost every woman coming in my direction and got ready to do my act if I had deemed that she was pretty, only to end up doing nothing as we passed each other.  It was a sequence of events that repeated itself over and over again, leaving my mind increasingly in utter chaos.

But on the Sunday morning of September 1, I broke through.  I was not having it.  I was just going to do it.  I had to push past the fear.  Besides, how painful could it be to compliment a girl?  I had been told often that girls liked that kind of stuff.  So I got my mind ready.  Instead of taking the metro or a Vélib' like I usually did when going to Marché d'Aligre, I was going to walk there and talk to the first five pretty girls that I found on the way.  Which I actually did.  Well, five out of six.  Or seven.

The first encounter was interesting and clearly the most important.  In a large and virtually empty square, I saw the target, a bespectacled young woman with matte skin and curly hair.  Having decided that she was pretty, I stopped her with a "Bonjour" before following through.  "Je vous trouve trrrrr, très jolie."  A faint smile let itself out towards the end.  With a larger smile, the young woman replied : "Merci, c'est gentil" ("Thank you, that's kind of you").  The end.  Sure, I finally tasted success, but what was that R about?  The very thing ‒ the pronunciation of the French R ‒ at the core of my greatest complex with the French language had resurfaced to spoil the long-awaited occasion.  Or rather, perhaps, to make it more memorable.

Naturally, I felt good about the done deed and could not be more delighted with the result.  After all, the target got a sincere compliment.  I got a courage experience.  At the end of it, we each felt better.  Win-win.  I love win-win situations.

I followed suit with the remaining targets without much trouble until the operation was completed.  Target 2 looked at me and promptly ignored me.  Target 3 reacted by making hand gestures that seemed to say she did not understand, while she moved her lips at the same time as if to say something even though no sound came out.  In any case, she did not bother to stay.  Target 4 ignored me, without the slightest sign of eye contact.  Target 5 said thank you with a smile.  The best part of it all was the summary that my friend's Aziz gave after I recounted the day's events to him: "2 thank yous, 2 ignorances, and 1 confusion."

I see this kind of interactions as something playful for everyone involved.  And so, I look forward to more thank yous, ignorances, and confusions.

No comments:

Post a Comment