One often hears people wax poetically about the ‘old world charm’ and ‘old world manners’ of Europe, all of which is true.
What those same people don’t discover, unless they move here, is that some of those old world manners aren’t so charming when faced on a daily basis.
Mon mari didn’t notice anything particularly different, but, then, he’s a man. Things weren’t different for him.
He wasn’t banned from golf courses and club houses; I was (me being a woman, the weaker sex, and all).
Tradespeople and salespeople always address him; I sometimes get a nod (me being a women, less intelligent, and all).
Our first hint came when we had fuel delivered to our house in Ireland. The nice man came in to have a chat and give us the bill when he was done pumping. He only spoke to mon mari even though I was sitting there. As he pulled out his invoice book I went and got the checkbook. He wrote out the bill and handed it to mon mari who then gave it to me. I wrote out the check and gave it to the fuel guy. He inspected it, and thanked mon mari. He wrote out the receipt and gave it to mon mari, who then gave it to me. He shook hands with mon mari and left. I had been totally ignored. I was invisible.
I wasn’t used to being ignored. I am now.
After our first grape harvest the neighbors came to see how our wine was working and if they could be of any more help. I should have picked up on the fact that it was 3 men, no women, but I’ve been one of the guys as long as I can remember, so I don’t notice these things. They almost ran me over going down to the cave, not because they didn’t see me, they just hadn’t expected me to try to go there as well and thought I would step aside.
I later learned the proper protocol for visits to the cave, ours and others:
Women are not to assume an invitation. It is proper for the men to go to the cave to taste the wine, discuss it’s merits and solve world problems. Women should go to the kitchen for coffee and to discuss cooking, children, and other topics their feeble brains are capable of.
On the rare occasion that women are actually invited to the cave (the wives) and offered a glass of wine they are, of course, to graciously accept. They then: may have a thimble full of wine to taste; upon tasting offer suitable praise; decline any further wine and accept a glass of orange juice from the proper wife of the host. After all, two thimbles of wine might cause said women to lose what few wits they have been gifted with (and it’s known what loose moral characters they have). The men, will, naturally, finish off the barrel with no adverse effects.
Under no circumstances may a woman in her, ahem, time of the month, enter a cave or go anywhere near the wine. Her mere presence would cause the wine to sour. If she is issued an invitation (see above) she must smilingly decline, giving no reason, but a gentle shake of the head. All the other women must then forgo their own invitation and join the outcast in the kitchen for coffee (see above).
On the other hand, I may not be competent enough to forage for mushrooms but I know what to do with them when I get them: make pasta.
I have finally stopped making salads! This week my entry for Presto Pasta Nights, founded and hosted by the always proper Ruth of Once Upon A Feast has a decidedly autumnal air.
The recipe, Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce, has been updated, nutrition information added, and re-posted here: Pasta with Mushroom Sauce.
Check with Ruth of Once Upon A Feast on Friday for all of the wonderful pasta dishes.
Two more tidbits about manners in France:
It is considered extremely improper and rude to ask to use the bathroom at someone’s house – even if you are there for a 5 hour dinner party. Again, advantage male – they can (and do) go outside for a smoke and a piss while the women sit in misery.
The signal (that you must wait for) that the evening is over is when the hostess brings out the glasses of orange juice. That is the final bit that is served. You may now leave…and find a bathroom…
Oh yes, when you see men pissing on the side of the road, street, or in the ladies room, wherever, it is considered improper to ‘notice’. I take that to mean that laughter is frowned upon also….