Ah, those French. Sometimes, they are just so…French.
Today’s example: M. Nicolas Sarkozy, president of la France. This is a man who, just a few months into a new job heading up a major European nation, finds the time to publicly and enthusiastically conduct a new romance. Sure there’s a prime minister around too, but still. And Sarkozy was so enthusiastic about the whole thing that he and Italian-singer-former-model-monogamy-detractor Carla Bruni even got themselves hitched this past weekend.
Now, as I remember, real dating – when it’s done right – takes a lot of time and energy. And they seemed to be doing it right – they managed to be reported googly eyed in an amazing number of places given the few short months they’ve been together. Reading the papers has been uncomfortably like getting stuck as a third wheel at the table with a couple really hitting it off on their first date. Sarkozy might have considered the Disneyland Paris date as doing double duty by displaying a pro-U.S. stance, but even so it’s an unusual show of priorities for a head of state.
But this attention to le romance seems quintessentially continental. Like making good food and wine an important part of daily life, it’s quite in keeping with the stereotype to see a Frenchman take time for the rose-smelling, so to speak, side of life. We’d expect an American, by contrast, to typically be all business and efficiency – and take a fast food kind of approach to satisfying hungers.
To test this hypothesis, and speaking of fast food by the way, let’s look at an example of how a sitting, so to speak, U.S. president managed his affairs; how’s about Bill Clinton, simply because we know more than we need to about how he did so.
Clinton by all accounts put in long days on the job and should have felt free to take a few minutes away from the office. Yet, like many Americans these days who find love where they spend the most time, he picked a partner from where he worked – la Lewinsky, an intern. And in a real display of efficiency, but perhaps little romance, he enjoyed the interludes right in the office itself. Though I’m happily not privy to bedroom details for M. Sarkozy for comparison purposes, Mr. Clinton even chose what some gentlemen feel is a streamlined path to satisfaction, at times, if I remember the old reports properly, not even seeing the deed through to its natural completion.
Sarkozy’s romance unfortunately was a bit too, what? Exuberant? Whirlwind? Indicative of a need for therapy? In any case, too something for the French, as his approval ratings fell during the courtship. Clinton’s approval ratings weren’t hurt (surely the French can’t be more prudish than Americans?), but of course he had his own little impeachment difficulties following his in-office romance. So ahead of Valentine’s Day, you can consider whether you prefer a French or American path to love, but if you’re a nation’s leader, no romance (at least not in public) does seem like the best idea.