Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Droit du seigneur

Poignant is a meaningless word that should be excised from the English language, but there’s one situation to which it can be applied, well, poignantly. It’s the experience of knocking on the door of a so-called “club privé” in Paris, behind which the thump of techno and gay laughter can be heard, seeing a peephole in the door open and hearing through the intercom “je suis desolé.” This is the way the French reject you, which brings up the question of what the French do with their untouchablesthe class of ugly and unsexy citizens who might echo Woody Allen’s line from Annie Hall, “I'd never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the I.M.F. head who was arrested on charges of attempted rape, is obviously one of France’s beautiful people. Married to an American-born French TV journalist, one would suppose he has never had the experience of being told “je suis desolé” by anyone—until now that is. Odds are that both Strauss-Kahn and his wife will soon be shunned from one of France’s most exclusive clubs: the upper echelons of the Socialist Party. Make no mistake. If socialism means spreading the wealth, the French version has nothing to do with egalitarianism. Ségolène Royal, the last unsuccessful socialist candidate, may have been told “je suis desolé” by the electorate, but it’s unlikely that the Catherine Deneuve of French politics has ever been told “je suis desolé” by anyone else. Even those who didn’t vote for her would eagerly have invited her into their private discos and dining clubs. St. Tropez, which epitomizes the height of chic, embodies the experience of “desolation,” a noun created for the benefit of all those who have suffered the experience of being told “je suis desolé.” Don’t go to St. Tropez if you are ugly and unsexy, especially if you’re not French. Which brings up the related notion of droit du seigneur. That’s the complex Strauss-Kahn was suffering from when the chambermaid in his room tried to say “je suis desolé.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.