Several years ago, a French friend offered me a piece of advice he considered essential for navigating Parisian society. When invited to dinner, it is important to look the hostess up and down and tell her how “ravishing” she is. “You must undress her with your eyes,” he said. Not to do so is rude. From then on — no longer the “cold” Englishman — I was always sure of a warm and flirtatious welcome.

Such behavior might go amiss in the Anglo-Saxon world, but for our Gallic neighbors a bit of playful “galanterie” has long been considered part of the social code. And being a coquette in return is by no means a sign of submission. French feminism and overt femininity have co-existed in harmony.

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