What style! American hand kissing is formal and done at a distance. Not so Chirac's. He comes in close, clasps the woman's hand with both hands as if it was a priceless treasure, and leans down to it. He looks at it for an instant as if to savor it, then closes his eyes and delivers a passionate kiss directly to the skin; that's the skin, not the air above it, which is customary.
Here he is (above) kissing the hand of German Chancellor, Angella Merkel. She looks happy. Man, one hand kiss from this guy and a woman must feel like she's had a whole nasty weekend with him, replete with ocean breezes and Pina Coladas brought on a tray from the hotel bar. Where did Chirac learn how to do that?
Maybe it's in the air in France, at least that's what Elizabeth Scioling says in her new book (above). She says France is a whole country founded on love stories. Even the word "seduction" is much more in common use in France than in America. You see it in newspaper headlines like "Afghanistan: The French in Seduction Mode." The word has been stretched to mean: to attract or influence, to win over, even if just in fun. The techniques employed include: sensuality, subtlety, mystery and play.
So far so good...it all sounds great...but the rules of French seduction can work against Americans. Smiling, for example. We like to smile and will often smile at everybody we meet, and this grates on some Frenchmen. For the French the smile is reserved for the person we wish to seduce or influence. To lavish it on everybody in the street is to cheapen it. I don't agree, but it's an interesting thought.
I love the way the French speak in old films like the ones by Renoir and Truffaut. Where an American might say," You can meet a girl anywhere, you can't predict where or when," a Frenchman in the films might say something like, "You can find the woman in your life in a restaurant, in a cafe. It starts with an innocent, stupid sentence. 'Can you pass me the salt? Can you pass me the carafe of water? And then...a look!' "
Do you see the difference? The Frenchman excitedly illustrates his thought with examples. His speech indicates that he relishes the imaginary moment when the game of seduction begins.
"Every man has two countries, his own and France," says the old saying, and I concur.