On Kissing Terms

This past weekend I had a Paris breakthrough: I am now on kissing terms with the owner of my corner café.

Now before you start imagining all sorts of torrid things, let me remind you I am speaking simply of the bise (nothing like the make-out session I witnessed at the Musee d’Orsay).

Still, it’s always a minor victory when you’re finally accepted into certain bastions of French society; when you are granted entrance like an old friend.

I feel lucky to have a corner café that is always open – on Sundays, holidays, even in this ghost town of August for crissakes. As a former New Yorker used to everything being open 24/7, this tiny reminder of an everyday establishment you can rely on does my heart good.

As it is, literally, on my corner, I pass Café Lino all of the time – when I go off to do my shopping, take the metro, or head off to the market. I’m not an everyday café patron, but often enough that I’m recognizable.

My view from my writing table; a slow afternoon at Cafe Lino

Over the last few months, the owner (I think he’s the owner, at least, maybe just a proprietorial-seeming barman) has been giving me the eyes. (Not those kind of eyes, though who knows, right?) We’ve gotten to the point where we always smile and wave when I pass by.

On Saturday night as I returned from a yummy dinner of crepes, a little Brazilian concert was winding down at the café. The owner was strumming his guitar and the few clients were gathered around singing. The warm, red glow that emanates from the interior only enhanced the convivial atmosphere. Wow, I’m in France, I thought. (After four years, I still have these moments; probably always will).

I was this close to going and joining in, especially as I caught the owner’s eye. But the circle seemed a bit too cozy. Sometimes I manage the solo entry well; sometimes I do not.

So I just walked home.

The next day, I came for a tea and I was greeted like an old friend. Why didn’t you come in last night? Denis wanted to know. You doing ok? Ca va? And it was obvious we were going in for the bise, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Two air kisses on the cheek.


I’m sure those more social than me have already experienced this moment many times before. But me, this is my first time of crossing over to the bise with the people in a local establishment. Sure, nice small talk, even smiles. But the bise! As if I belonged here.

I better watch out or soon I will be kissing all of Paris. And we know that I do have my own issues with the bise. (This one was perfect, though. No complaints!)

Addendum: Um, the owner has asked me for my phone number, which I kindly declined to give. Awkwardness has managed to be avoided – thank goodness as I come here to write – but kind of changes the original dynamic, huh? Well, I am still proud. The waitresses are nice to me, too. Even the new one who had been scowling at me at the beginning of the summer. I’ll just wait another 2 years for them to start kissing me, too.

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13 Responses to “On Kissing Terms”

  1. 1 LostNCheeseland August 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

    HUGE progress! He wasn’t offended that you declined to give him your number?


  2. 3 Paris Paul P August 11, 2010 at 11:52 am

    “The owner was strumming his guitar and the few clients were gathered around singing. The warm, red glow that emanates from the interior only enhanced the convivial atmosphere. Wow, I’m in France, I thought. (After four years, I still have these moments; probably always will).”

    I LOVED this paragraph. So visual and true. As a Parisian of 20 years now, I can assure you that you will always have those moments.


  3. 5 theladyd August 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Ha Ha…
    I had already figured that he was hitting on you from the “get go”. Watch out for those waitresses!


  4. 7 shan August 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    There should be medals for this — now you can enjoy all the perks that go along with it like decent service!


  5. 8 Sweet Freak August 11, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Bravo on the breakthrough! And double bravo on having the panache to politely decline the phone number request. And TRIPLE bravo for having the moxie to keep going back!!


  6. 9 pariskarin August 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I’m with Sweet Freak up there — kudos to you on the successful negotiation of a culturally-charged situation, and then going back. You have some cojones, girl. 😉


  7. 10 Marianne Renoir August 13, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Looks like a lovely spot from the photo. Even though Paris is literally bursting with cafes I feel like it’s harder and harder to find a nice one. Our town literally only has one nice one, all the others either ripped out their furnishings and replaced them with hard plastic Ikea style stuff or have enormous televisions in them (or usually both).

    Good on you for getting past the awkward come on too! That is a delicate and not easy to get around situation, so go you!


  8. 11 paris (im)perfect August 14, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Thanks, everyone! Yes, as long as it’s good for a blog post, I’ll put up with a little awkwardness. 🙂

    Seems to be ok, though. I’m glad, because it really is a nice, laid-back place where they let you sit for hours. Wouldn’t want to feel barred from going back!


  9. 12 lilian August 16, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    hi sion, just a reader who really enjoyed this post. i fell in love with my boyfriend over our first bise so i know how thrilling it can be. thanks for blogging about your experience in paris – i miss it!


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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