Unless you’re a fan of Skype sex, long-distance relationships aren’t worth the extra minutes on your phone bill. While romantic adventures with someone in another time zone have a certain appeal when you’re in your twenties, it isn’t worth the effort once you’re in your forties no matter how many frequent flier miles you have. Which is why I thought my friend was nuts when she suggested I try online dating in Paris while there on business.
“I’ll only be there for one week. What’s the point?” I asked.
“You want to spend your evenings in the most romantic city in the world," she said, "alone in your hotel room, watching 'Breaking Bad' in French?”
Huh. I went to a popular dating site, unsure if it reached outside the country and VOILÀ! Gone were all the divorced dentists and lawyers in my zip code. Instead, I was gazing at intriguing photos of available Parisian men my age with the kind of credentials and interests that curled my toes. They had degrees up the wazoo, but their profiles focused on their passions, not their work. Literature, philosophy, music, film, skiing, theater, wine, etc. Ooooh la la!
I sent messages to three, explaining that I would only be in the City of Lights for one week and managed to convey that I was not looking for “room service,” just the pleasure of their company for dinner. One expressed interest. Pierre was an attractive Jewish doctor (I cannot escape my gene pool) who worked for a multi-national pharmaceutical company. Dating the same guy in my hometown wouldn’t have been particularly novel. But when Pierre showed up in my hotel lobby on Rue Cler, I felt fizzy before the first glass of champagne.
Normally, I dined in restaurants near my hotel, ordered the “special” and had a reasonably good meal. Whizzing around the Étoile and down the Champs-Élysées in Pierre’s Peugeot, I felt a giddy excitement. The Left Bank restaurant he chose was elegant but empty. It was 8 p.m., early for Parisians who don’t dine until 10 or later. I’m used to having just one glass of wine with dinner. Pierre insisted I have an apéritif. My Kir Royale, a cocktail of champagne and crème de cassis, came with a small bowl of sugared almonds.
You know those awkward moments on a first meeting with someone you met online? Well, they didn’t exist. Pierre was a charming conversationalist who had me enthralled without ever mentioning his career. We talked about the places we’ve traveled and things we had in common. My apéritif was followed by the arrival of an exquisite appetizer and the first of three bottles of wine. Yes, three! The French change wines with every course. No wonder they’re so intent on pursuing life’s pleasures and so disinterested in the details.
I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant and what I ate that evening because it was all spectacular. But the truth is, I was beyond tipsy. At a critical juncture, between dessert and cognac, I excused myself to go to the toilette. It was located up a steep flight of marble stairs that I barely managed to climb, clinging onto the banister. Fortunately, the ladies' room was unoccupied. Once inside, I fell to the floor and laughed uncontrollably. I had never been so blissfully drunk and happy. Paris has this effect on me. So does too much champagne.
Now came the biggest challenge of the evening. Going back downstairs on my feet, not on my behind. Somehow I managed. Pierre must’ve known I was three sheets to the wind, but he did nothing to call attention to my inebriated state, other than to hold me firmly under the arm as he guided me through the cobblestone streets to his car.
Nothing happened that night. We didn’t madly go at it in a back alley. He didn’t ask to come up to my room. But, then again, everything happened. I had taken a giant step outside my comfort zone and had an unforgettable evening by daring to go the distance.