We headed to the old part of the city, a typical European old town complete with cobbled streets, medieval-style buildings and souvenir shops on every corner.
We sat down at the restaurant and the waitress brought out a bottle of wine. She poured the red into Matthieu’s glass and asked him, ‘C’est bon, Monsieur ?’ (is it good, sir?), to which he replied ‘oui, c’est bon’ (yes, it’s good) and then the waitress filled my glass.
Where did I get asked if I wanted to try the wine? Did I come into the conversation at all? No! I don’t think I even got glanced at during this ‘wine tasting exchange.’
I held back and just looked incredulously at him as we continued our lunch date like nothing strange had happened… Well, I guess for him, nothing strange had happened. I wasn’t particularly offended or even angry – if anything, I thought it was funny. Overall I just didn’t get it.
Whenever we’d been out to a bar or a cafe he always asked me what I wanted, what was so different about ordering wine?
I know that in French culture, it’s not common for women to pour their own alcoholic drinks, especially in a dinner situation. If I remember correctly it’s the ‘job’ of the man on your right (or is it left?) to keep serving you wine at a dinner party. A lady should never have to refill her own wine glass in France. If you happen to sit next to a man who won’t fill your glass, social custom would say that you die of thirst before filling it up yourself!
Eventually I asked Matthieu what was going on that day.
“So, you don’t care about my opinion?” I asked him in a teasing voice (I really wasn’t angry about it after all 🙂 )
“Oh… Well, you know… The man chooses the wine, he’s ‘chef de la maison’ (head of the household)” he said with a smile. I rolled my eyes and laughed, putting it down to one of our many cultural differences that we occasionally ran into.
This whole ‘men choose wine’ exchange got me thinking. Is this the last remaining stranglehold of French patriarchy? French women have achieved a lot of equality over the last 50 years, but is the one thing French men will not give up being in charge of is red wine? Do French women even notice this? Do they even care? And what happens if you don’t like your boyfriend’s choice in wine? Hm…
I suppose that for any woman who ever dates a French man, I hope for your sake that he has good taste in wine!