I See France

Anatomy of the French Male

All of us entertain ideas about ourselves that aren’t shared by others. The French entertain more of these than most. For instance, a visitor walking the streets of Paris can’t help but notice how many of them are named for French military men. The French clearly like to think of themselves as a nation of war heroes. Now, when an American hears the word “Frenchman,” he does not naturally think “war hero.” At best, he thinks “chef.” I have spent three months walking the streets of Paris and not stumbled upon one named for a cook.


The French male, it seems to me, is chiefly responsible for the discrepancy between his nation’s view of itself and an outsider’s view of it. The French female arrives pretty much as advertised. The French male, by contrast, is a walking self-contradiction. He conceives of himself as a testosterone oozing, war-winning, club-wielding lady-killer. An expression favored by French men when speaking to French women is (my French teacher translates): “Shut up and be pretty.” I mention this not to enlist the outrage of the American female but to highlight a curious fact. The French male who thinks of himself as Mr. Heterosexual looks, to the eyes of a visitor, gay. In France, and France alone, you can see young men wearing extra-tight shorts and Marcus Aurelius hairdos swanning into gyms, lifting weights in a manner that sweatlessly creates muscle definition, leaning suggestively against their fellow male weight-lifters and then … surprise! … walking across the gym to hit on some babe.

I am no match for Professor Breedlove. My gaydar is not finely tuned. But even if it were it would be of no use. The French male is a gaydar-jamming device.