All I Ever Needed to Know About Love I Learned from a French Waiter

Cultural achievements of France include stinky cheese making, Frenching, and cigarette smoking

As I’ve noted before in What is Wrong with the French?, France is famous for many things (chauvinism, tongue kissing), and Paris is “supposedly the world’s capital of romance” according to this article from the New York Times, “An Affront to Love, French Style” though the author of that piece sounds a bit skeptical, what with adding the “supposedly” there.  It’s almost as if she were thinking, “I guess Paris is supposedly  the world’s capital of romance, but I’ve never gotten laid there.”

Over there in Paris, people are wandering onto bridges, hand in hand with their amour, securing padlocks, and then dramatically tossing the keys into the water below.  This is supposed to symbolize . . . something.  Never ending love?  Prison?  Parisians are divided in their interpretation.

“The fools! They haven’t understood a thing about love, have they?” was the conclusion recently of a 23-year-old waiter at Panis, a cafe on the Left Bank with a view over Notre-Dame.

All I ever needed to know about love I learned from a 23 year old waiter.

I’m crazy about this guy, just from reading the two sentences quoted in the article.  I imagine he’s thin, dark, and brooding, with a cigarette dangling from his lips, his eyes squinting against the rising smoke, and a white towel over his arm, as he waves his hand in disgust, dismissing all the childish, ignorant lovers and their padlocks.  He’s still muttering to himself as he walks over to the next table to take an order.

I’m not sure how I feel about a padlock as a metaphor for love.  I think those of us who have experienced love can understand that desire for permanent, impenetrable bond. But I can also understand why this image of love as a padlock can raise concern.  It really does convey a disturbing sense of balls and chains, and handcuffs (and not the good BDSM kind), and imprisonment.  I want my partner/spouse to be with me because he wants to be with me, not because he’s bound to me, against his will.

The article concludes with a discussion of Alain Badiou’s book, In Praise of Love, in which the French philosopher argues against dating sites as taking the risk out of love.

It is love comprehensively insured against all risks: you will have love, but will have assessed the prospective relationship so thoroughly, will have selected your partner so carefully by searching online–by obtaining of course a photo, details of his or her tastes, date of birth, horoscope sign, etc.–and putting it all in the mix you can tell yourself: “This is a risk free option!”

I blogged a little bit about dating websites/applications in There’s an App for That, so it’s good to see that French philosophers are thinking about the same things I am.  I eagerly await Badiou’s next treatise on ugly people fucking and/or celebrities who whack off in public, ’cause I’m sure he gets all his best ideas from my blog.

Ok, so where do you stand?  Is love the safety and security of an impenetrable padlock?  Or is it the exciting, risky adventure that may leave you alone and your partner/spouse off fucking someone else?

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3 thoughts on “All I Ever Needed to Know About Love I Learned from a French Waiter

    • Karen says:

      Thanks. I’ve thought about this over the past day, and I’m probably going to agree with you-we want love to be both. We want the boring security of a permanent relationship and yet we also want the incredible thrill, the almost narcotic high of risk at the same time. I guess my question is, do we have to choose? Is it possible to have both? I’m gonna say no, you can’t have both. That’s part of the problem in long term relationships–trying to recapture the thrill of the early months/years and not just feeling like you’re settling for safety.

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