However, all the parties aren't quite so formal. There are more casual versions, last-minute invitations and pot-lucks. The point is to get men and women, mixed singles and marrieds into one room for a night of lively conversation and flirting and even they even enjoy a little tussle about art or politics.
It's sexy and fun and an incredibly natural and wonderful way to meet men and get to know them. Also, the dinner party buys a lot of time for a woman. She can flirt with one man while being observed from afar by another—perhaps the real object of her desire. The dinner party is a great opportunity to be seen and admired. Then men can compete for her attention and affections.
Do you think this would go over well in America?
Sure. Especially in these recessionary times, I think men would appreciate not plunking down a couple of c-notes just to find out whether or not this is a friendship or something more.
Okay, but after a while—say a man and woman clearly like each other—then they go on a date, right?
No, actually, they'll go for a walk! It's a great way to see and be seen and keep the man guessing. The French are very theatrical, so they are always looking at each other. For a woman, it's a wonderful way to put her man on notice—that she has other admirers. So, even when the affair begins for real, she'll make sure they get out and about. And that means more dinner parties.
I love the idea of dinner parties and going on walks—I don't think Americans know much about those French customs. But there's another thing Americans think when they think of France and love: infidelity. Do they really have no problem with cheating?
The acceptance of the mistress is really a myth. We talked to hundreds of French women and they all agreed they would never tolerate their husband having a mistress. One woman told us she warned her husband, "If you ever hesitate between me and another woman, I will make it very simple for you, there will be no more hesitating. You can go with the other and forget about me."
We did find that women in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's put up with their husband's affairs—not so much because they were fine with the affair, but because of financial restrictions and the difficulty of divorce. So, no, France is not the grand free-love society you might imagine.
That said, the French are having affairs. Both men and women. But, this is true in America, too. The difference is, we don't talk about it quite as openly and we don't have a clever name for the after-work trysts. The French call it "The Five to Seven." These are the hours of indiscretion where men and women are meeting in hotel room, apartments and the like.
Ha! That's incredible.
Want more? Click here for 10 ways to connect with your inner French woman.