This morning, as I stepped out from the grocery store, encumbered with about fifty pounds of life's necessities between my rolling cart, backpack, and shopping bag, I was accosted by a young man who was selling some sort of journal. I said my usual, "non, merci," with no eye contact and expression, but he continued to follow me very close at my side down most of the block murmuring in my ear. I tuned him out and kept repeating, "non, merci," but I caught a few words that surprised me -- "l'amour" (love) and "ce soir" (tonight). Goodness, he was trying to sell more than reading material. He finally let me go at the end of the block when he realized he wasn't getting anywhere with me.
I think it was last year when I bought lunch at a little Greek sandwich stand near the Opera House. I chatted with the friendly proprietor, who was very curious about me and eventually found out I was married and had a kid. Despite this, he proceeded to ask me for my number. Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.
Things like this don't just happen in Paris. In Barcelona, I ran into a scary situation. Our first morning there, John, Maylin, and I enjoyed the hotel buffet breakfast and were greeted by a young staff member who verified our names and room number so he could charge the meal to our account. He was very nice and kept smiling at me, and to be polite, I smiled back, naively. I definitely would not have smiled if we were in Paris because a smile is often interpreted as an invitation, but for some reason, I thought, "Hey, this is a different country -- I can go back to my American ways because I'm a tourist." After breakfast, John went out to move the car from the public garage to the hotel garage, and Maylin and I went up to our room to wait for his return. A few minutes later, the room phone rang. I thought it was going to be John, but it was the young man from the hotel restaurant. He told me I was beautiful, tried to confirm that my husband was out ("he'll be back really soon"), asked if he could come up to see me ("of course not"), and then asked for my mobile number ("I don't have one"). Thank goodness he respected my wishes and did not come up. And we also didn't see him again until our last day at the hotel.
Okay, no more smiling at male strangers until I'm safely back in the States.