I’ve had my hand kissed three times. I mean the hand kiss that you see in movies (check out Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer in “The Age of Innocence”) but rarely in real life. In fact it’s so infrequent, at least in my life, that I recall each instance!
The first time I was at a fancy soiree and was introduced to a baron. Yes, a real baron, who upon seeing my outstretched hand to shake instead lifted it to his mouth, lowered his head and held my fingers near his mouth but did not touch them. Needless to say, it was a heady moment!
The second time a good friend greeted me this way–someone I had not seen for several months. It was a very charming moment and this friend knew the correct protocol: no wet smooch, only dry lips which barely graze the lady’s hand. Again there is something very breathtaking about this graceful gesture. It does make a great impression. Here is a gentleman who is cultured and confident in his masculinity. And the third time occurred here and in a most unlikely venue but that I believe is the essence of Paris: surprise and wonder.
We had finished an exhausting and messy four hour adventure at Porte de Vanves sifting through the wares of over 200 vendors and needed to sit, eat and use the toilette. So we went into a small, tattered bar/bistro not far from the metro stop. Locals were there–no tourists–and we took a seat. The waiter took our order which included pomme frites. The food arrived and Ken asked for ketchup. The owner said, “No ketchup, mayonnaise.” Ken was dismayed; “I want ketchup,” he said. “One moment,” the owner said. We saw him run out the door, run down the block and shortly reappear carrying a small plastic tub full of ketchup which a neighbor restauranteur must have provided. “Voila!” he said, as he placed the little tub on our table. We all had a big laugh and Ken was delighted.
Later as Ken was paying the tab, I went over to the owner, extended my hand and said “Enchante, monsieur.” At that moment, he looked at me, smiled, and took my hand in his, brought it to his lips, bent his head and lightly touched his forehead to my hand. All the bar habituees were enjoying this bit of play as was I. As we left, he called out, “Bonne journee, Madame et le Roi du Ketchup!” Everyone roared. Ken didn’t understand, but I translated for him later. So what does this tell you about Paris? Surprise and wonder; the unexpected will delight, anger or amuse, but it will always be there waiting for you if you are open to it.