Since when did it become impossible to enjoy lewd verbal foreplay at lunch, or a nooner if you’re getting technical? At a snazzy New York watering hole with The Impresario one afternoon, you couldn’t get a smutty word in edgewise between the fanfare required to introduce each course and the endless queries to see if everything was okay.
Like a virgin who has memorized the sex manual, our waiter – or “server” – had all the right moves and all the wrong timing. I began to feel that I was responsible for his happiness rather than he for mine. Might he plunge into despair if I reported a soggy cheese croquette? He obviously hadn’t picked up on the cue that this lunch was but a snack before the main event – a detail any French waiter would not have failed to miss.
So why does the French waiter get such a bad rap? Instead of bemoaning his arrogance and snippy indifference, The Sultanette suggests that he could teach us a thing or two about sex.
EXHIBIT A: Christina Nehring’s WSJ piece, “In Defense of the Notoriously Arrogant French Waiter” (February 21-22, 2015). Below the prickly exterior of these maligned maestros, Nehring writes, is “their oddly expressed eagerness to please; their expertise; their agility, and the beauty of what they provide and the way they provide it.” Now that’s a good lover!
No worries about performance anxiety among these garcons de café! One evening, ex-pat Nehring observes the waiter at her local brasserie “balancing eight wine goblets, a dozen stacked dinner plates and two water pitchers on his barbell-heavy silver tray” while stopping at one table and “plunging his free hand into his pocket to count out change, and at another table to crack open and pour a bottle of beer, his tray still perched on his upturned palm.” When she asks him how he pulled off this “virtuoso performance” he replies, “Il faut le faire amoureusement.” You’ve got to do it with love.
Like seasoned paramours, the French waiter and I want to please each other. I will appreciate his acute sensibility to my preferences and his experience in serving things up hot. He will enjoy my appetite for each new course, the way I sometimes defer to his suggestions du jour and other times demand extra sauce.
His notorious arrogance? My insolent requests? If dining – or sex – doesn’t come with a little power play, some experimenting, and a few luscious surprises – it can become as banal as pornography or as boring as eating the same meal every night. Where is the desire?
My loyal followers have previously been introduced to Christina Nehring on this blog. (See The Male Harem post, In Praise Of Being A Loser In Love.) In her book referenced there, Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century, Nehring celebrates the shift of power between lovers. “This liaison in which power is constantly being renegotiated,” she writes, “is a force field alive as the ocean tides.”
Are we denying the tides of erotic tension when we tick off a checklist for a lover as if we’re choosing an apartment? (Sunny. Comfy. Safe. Lots of closet space for the baggage.) Whether it’s a one-night stand, a romantic fling or a lifetime lease, a liaison that isn’t open to the precarious thrill of uncertainty is a wet blanket between the sheets. “My French waiter and I? We keep each other guessing.
I was weaned on the art of it. Yolanda the Sultana, (RIP feisty mum) was forever baffled by my father’s inability to follow the script. Yet beyond the occasional tiffs until death they parted, I remember the sense of mischief that prevailed between these strong-minded souls to the last breath of their five-decade marriage. At the end of the day,” writes Nehring, “few of us want to feel that our passion is simply fair exchange.”
When the Good Ex and I were living in Paris, he hosted a business dinner one night at a culinary shrine along a grand avenue in Paris. The occasion was to celebrate the launching of the latest campaign featuring the latest New York super model selling the latest lipstick so girls in Lyon could get laid. I was the only woman among a cadre of bigwig businessmen who all looked like Francois Mitterrand. No doubt their wives were off with their lovers.
Feeling adventurous, I ordered the baby pigeon. (Leave it to the French to turn an air rat into a delicacy.) When the waiter who looked like Charles de Gaulle triumphantly presented the petit oiseau crowned like a little Caesar in a wreath of rosemary, I panicked. What was the proper method to jump its precious bones?
The men politely waited for me to take the first thrust. As I assessed the arsenal of cutlery at my place, our waiter, who had played his haughty role to the hilt, leaned over and discreetly whispered in my ear, “You may eat it with your fingers, Madame.” I don’t know that The Sultanette has ever gotten a better offer. Service compris.