Last week, I was having a cup of coffee with a friend of mine. She was at the end of her tether. How come? I asked. Well, she has a French boyfriend, you see. Everything is going well but there is something bothering her: he likes to wander stark naked in their apartment. All the time. She is not very comfortable with this. And the day before, he even went on the balcony -without his clothes on- to water the plants. When she confronted him, he simply didn't understand what the big deal was. To him, being naked in his own flat is completely natural. And the balcony is part of the flat. Of course it is.
I listened politely and didn't laugh. She was very worried. This is not good behaviour, you see. Memories started coming back to me. My neighbour, in Saint Tropez, spends the whole summer without any clothes on and we got so used to it that we were having whole conversations with her (we were fully dressed, for the record). I have to admit that I don't notice her any more. My grandfather, who still has sharp eyes despite nearing 90, pointed out that she has new breast implants, and he doesn't like them. Something is wrong with the shape, apparently.
I hate to generalise but, in France, being naked is less big of a deal. Young kids routinely go naked on the beach and nobody bats an eyelid. In short, I tried to reassure my friend and explain to her that it didn't really matter. She was a bit more upbeat in the end. She was convinced that this was nothing more than a cultural difference. A job well done, I thought. I was very proud of myself. Silly old me.
I went to their flat yesterday to bring back a forgotten scarf. I knocked at the door, and was greeted by the said boyfriend. Stark naked of course. I kid you not. Well, I have to admit that I almost had a heart attack. I dropped the scarf on the floor and couldn't get myself to get it back because that would have made my face even closer to you-know-what. I made my excuses and left as far as I could. I can't believe that I was so patronising with my American friend. He does indeed take it to a whole new level. This whole nudity thing is a bit too much, even for me. I couldn't make small talks as if he wasn't naked. I just couldn't. It was beyond me, don't ask me why. Maybe I am getting older.
Or maybe I am more British than I thought. It simply was too much for me. It reminded me of a neighbour who used to put the rubbish out for collection in his underpants (see here). Not nice. I wasn't expecting to see this. Don't get me wrong, he is very good-looking and everything, but I can't handle it. Note to myself: don't defend French men any more. Ever.