Ooh La La! … Loving like the French

File:Jean-Honoré Fragonard - La lettre d'amour.jpg

I recently read an article that suggested American women would be much happier in relationships if they learned to love like French women. The reason for this, according to the author, is that French women enter into relationships, and love, without expectation.

We American women, apparently, are so goal-oriented in everything we do, that a businesslike approach has flowed over into our relationships. When we meet, and date, a new guy, we cut right to the chase, laying it all out on the table:  our expectations, our wants, our desires, our relationship failures, basically our life plan. Heck, all that’s left to share is our tax returns! By the time the first date is over, our potential partner knows everything we expect to gain from the relationship. Love, in the U.S., is hard work!File:Maud-Muller-Brown.jpeg

French women, apparently, are much more circumspect. They are less inclined to wonder if their date is going to be a good husband/lover/provider/father. They go with the flow, entering into relationships wholeheartedly, leaping in feet first, reveling in the experience, the mystery, the possibility, the excitement of it all. I liken this to the way I approached relationships when I was younger, and the way I see my teenager entering relationships. There was no fear that the relationship would end badly, that I would be hurt, that this person was anything but the guy I would spend the rest of my life with. Young love is nothing if not optimistic.

On the other hand, American women don’t like to be hurt, so we avoid it any way we can. That means making measured choices in love as well as in our work. French women may cry, rant, and scream, before they shrug and say “C’est la vie!” For the French, the possibility of heartbreak is all a part of the journey. You can’t experience such tragic lows if you haven’t allowed yourself to reach tremendous highs.

While I don’t necessarily agree one hundred per cent with the description of how American women approach love, I do see an element of truth in it. So it makes me think…how will my heroine approach love? Will she throw herself into it whole-heartedly, throwing caution to the wind, or will she carefully consider whether the hero measures up to her expectations of a life partner? Is she from a family of optimists, or an optimist in a family of pessimists? How does this approach to love inform the storyline? Will the hero love her in spite of her approach to love, or because of it?

As a reader, to which do you relate — the cautious heroine, or the devil-may-care heroine? Would you rather read about a heroine who allows the hero to break through her protective walls, or the heroine whose love scales the highest peaks, with no fear that she will come crashing down to earth?

Hugs,

Jaye

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12 Comments

  1. Nicole Doran

     /  August 14, 2012

    Jaye,
    What thought provoking questions this AM! And so true on so many points. Since I tend to be on the cautious side – and less spontaneous – sadly – my heroines seem to follow suit. But it would be a change to write either a heroine or hero for that matter who just goes for it..into the deep end. There’s a movie I love called French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline – and she is the cautious heroine who let’s it all go in the end…I could watch that movie time after time.
    Have a great day! Nicole

    Reply
    • I agree, Nicole. I would love to write someone who is totally opposite of me…trusting, carefree, a little crazy. It would certainly be a challenge!

      I haven’t seen French Kiss..I’ll have to rent it. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Jaye

      Reply
  2. Great post, Jaye. I’m attributing French women’s successes with love to the amount of TIME they spend on VACATION! Everything closes down in August in France – that’s a month. Plus the shorter work hour, holiday vacations, and time off when everyone goes on strike. It’s hard for American women to work, mommy, and date with all of the expectations put on women to be like Wonderwoman in everything they do. Just my opinion. 🙂 Michele

    Reply
    • Hey, Michele! That can be said for Europeans in general. I know my husband always seems to have to work harder in the summers than any other time of year. Just when you think you should have time to relax and enjoy life, he has to bust his butt.

      You’re right about the expectations American women put on themselves…to be SuperMom! I used to do that to myself, then I finally cut myself some slack. Maybe we need to do that in our love lives, as well?

      Jaye

      Reply
  3. I would love to throw caution to the wind. In may I went to Disney world and rose the hunted mansion ride. Half way through your chair turns and you are pulled down backwards, on a hill. I hated it. Made me realize I have trust issues. Meg Ryan is a great example of that heroine.
    Jaye great post, you girls are spoiling me. I have something to look forward to in the beg of the week.

    Reply
  4. Thanks, Lori! I know what you mean…it would be nice to just be able to fully let loose, wouldn’t it? I wonder what it is in our society that makes us so uptight? I envy people, especially women, who can just let it all go and enjoy the dance!

    Reply
  5. Interesting post! There was a lot in the news earlier in the year about the differences in French and American parenting. So why wouldn’t there be differences in the way we approach love, too? I always love the idea of the man pursuing the woman and she’s holding him at arm’s length.

    Reply
    • I had forgotten about the parenting comparisons. Of course, there are the “French Women Don’t Get Fat” comparisons, too. Why are we always being compared to the French (and found wanting)?

      So, are you saying you like controlling women? 😉

      Reply
  6. Great post! I checked my tales…and the woman is always surrounded by brick walls.
    Marie…remember that line?
    My heroes have to prove themselves to the woman.
    Anyone have a problem with that?
    Now, American women…no one can hold a candle to them. They, as most Americans, deal with the reality of the world. It is easy to develop attitudes as so many in Europe(you would be surprised at how Americanized Asians are) I will not get into a political tirade, but they live in make-believe worlds surrounded by ivy-covered towers. That’s cool, but the towers are supported by our taxes…
    ok…enuff said…
    I will leave this blog now, and talk to myself for about two hours…
    Joe
    where is my medication?

    Reply
    • Joe…you only say “no one can hold a candle to American women” because you have to sit in a room full of us on Saturday. You wisely don’t want to set yourself up for a lynching, lol!

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head…men do have to prove themselves to American women. We don’t take anything at face value. We’re a tough crowd. 😉

      Reply
  7. R.A. DeFranco

     /  August 17, 2012

    Very interesting and thought provoking post as usual, Jaye! I would have to agree with earlier comments. We live in a much more stressful society. Between a full time job, family, writing, carpool, etc. it doesn’t leave much time in the day to relax and enjoy the moment. As for our heroines…as a reader it really depends what mood I’m in at the moment because that is my time to escape. As a writer….hmmmm….this takes more thought…I think my heroines tend to be independent and maybe like Joe said above, the hero needs to prove himself.

    Reply
  8. Hi Jaye,

    As Joe mentioned, I tend to have my heroines build brick walls around them (or at least her heart) based on prior bad relationships. By the end of the story, she’s learned how to be strong and true to herself. But she has allowed the bricks to crumble and can open herself to love again. For my hero, I sort of think of his heart a little like the Grinch’s, real tiny and not aware of what it feels like to love. By the end, his heart has grown three times its size.

    I agree with what you said about American women putting too much expectation on relationships. I had always done that. I was too ready to jump to the HEA. In retrospect, I’d enjoy the journey to see if he was worthy of the HEA.

    Reply

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