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

In honor of Bastille Day, I’m reposting one of my favorites about France and the French.  Vive la révolution!


The achievements of France include stinky cheese, French kissing, and cigarette smoking

The achievements of France include stinky cheese, French kissing, 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 smoke rising from it, 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 lover to be with me because he wants to be with me, not because he’s bound to me by some exterior force like a padlock, or the threat that I will eat every pint of Ben and Jerry’s off the supermarket shelves if he leaves me, so help me God, I’ll do it, I mean it this time.

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.

So whaddya think?  Is love the safety and security of an impenetrable padlock?  Or is it the exciting, risky adventure that may leave you alone and your lover off fucking someone else?


12 thoughts on “All I Ever Needed to Know About Love I Learned From a French Waiter

  1. bodycrimes says:

    Well, I don’t know if love is a padlock or not. I do know that the recent trend of padlocking is ruining bridges and monuments across Italy and France! I thought it was cute the first time I saw it. Now I just want to bang their little lovey-dovey heads together.


    • Karen says:

      Oh, I dunno. The sappy headed little nit wit in me kind of swoons at the thought of the romantic gesture, but yes, I know the trend is causing lots of problems with infrastructure in Europe.

      Why can’t they just get matching tattoos (that they’ll have to spend a fortune on laser treatments to get removed after they break up)?


  2. Clever Girl says:

    After reading this post, I immediately went to the ugly people fucking link, which isn’t a big suprise, but anyway, what does NSFW stand for?

    Then, I was too afraid to click on any links in that post since it’s only early Sunday morning here. But it was very amusing.

    I’m making my way through the rest of the links on this post…


  3. Elyse says:

    I think that if my love wanted to signify his love for me with a padlock, I would be heading for the hills. It is one of those trite, symbolic things that have no place outside of junior high.

    And throwing the key off a bridge? Oy.


    • Karen says:

      Oh, gosh, am I the only sappy headed little nit wit around here? It looks like I am!

      I think I would absolutely melt at the gesture, but I would probably spend the entire rest of the date brooding over exactly what it meant, and wind up breaking up with the guy because I decided that dumb lock meant he wanted to control and contain me.


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