God bless Frenchmen. They know how to compliment a woman. They know how to make her feel attractive and sexy and flirtatious. Even if you’re an older lady like me, they still notice you because you are anything but invisible to them.
Tell you what I mean.
For the last several years I’ve had longish hair that was past my shoulders. But recently it looked kinda droopy so when I went in to get it done I told the lady to chop off a lot. Now it’s up around my chin and bouncy.
Went to work on Monday. Every last man in the office looked at me and saw that my hair was very different. None of them said a word. I felt invisible. Then I go to fencing. None of the guys in there say anything either. But Henri is different from them all because he’s FRENCH. He’s giving a private lesson to someone, but as soon as he sees me he calls out and hurries over and chatters away.
Henri: (imagine this in a French accent): “Hey, what happened? Did you have a hot date? Your hair, it looks great. It’s sexy hair. (Throws in a knowing grin, like I must be getting lots of lovin’ now.) Ah, yes, it’s very sexy. It looks good on you. Very good!”
Of course I giggled and beamed and generally melted into something resembling a dreamy-eyed teenager. This brief encounter also left me with a single question: WHY CAN’T MORE AMERICAN MEN BE LIKE THIS?
Bear in mind that Henri, for all his fussing over my hair, is kinda macho. He’s a former Olympian (in fencing, of course). Loves to ride his dirt bike in the mountains and in Moab. Loves big old American cars with powerful V-8 engines. But like any good Frenchman he also loves women and he knows how to talk to them.
This is yet another reason why Layla likes to hop from Dublin over to Paris for a weekend – it ain’t just the antiquities that draw her to the place.
Rome is the same, for that matter. When I was there (too long ago!) I was in my mid-thirties, which is old by American standards for females. Yet never, ever have so many men and even young boys (and I mean Middle School age) made me feel like I was sexy and attractive. They’d look me up and down and nod in approval – not lewdly and not with leers or comments, but as if they simply found something about me that they appreciated. And that’s saying something because Roman women were also everywhere. In contrast to me (bluejeans and sandals) they were perfectly groomed and wearing highheels and tight skirts and zipping around on Vespas with an attitude that screamed I AM SEXY AND BEAUTIFUL SO YOU MUST ADMIRE ME! And Roman men did admire them. So, obviously, did the male foreign tourists.
Which leads me to a small problem…
In The Compass Master, a large chunk of the story is set in Rome. Layla’s (former) lover Zach has been to Rome a couple times before and is there again for business and pleasure. Of course he’s quickly swept up into the plot/conspiracy, but before that happens I describe how he’s anxious to see the art and buildings because he’s an architect. Only now do I realize that I failed to make a Zach a full-blooded character in one important respect:
He also wants to sit in a café and just plain look at Roman women.
At least this is an easy change to make in the manuscript. I have only about a hundred more pages to edit, and it’ll be easy to go back and put in descriptions of Zach looking at ladies. When Layla shows up, on the other hand, Roman men won’t get to see much of her because she moves around mostly late at night. Still, there’s at least one key scene with Layla in Rome in the middle of the day, and even though there’s a lot of action going on and she doesn’t want to be noticed, she will be because Roman men will definitely pay attention to her.
I am so jealous of Layla.