Dating a la recession - from the French

It's hard to imagine that anything having to do with romance is actually cheaper in France, but apparently, dating is!

The salon -- a cultural institution that dates back to 17th century Paris -- may be gaining momentum in Les Etats- Unis. The salon originally evolved from the French court. Aristocratic and upper bourgeoisie women ran the salons from their homes and intermingled writers, artists, philosophers and patrons.

Jamie Cat Callan, author of "French Women Don't Sleep Alone -- Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love" (2009) has looked closely at romance in France and noticed some striking differences.

French women don't date. They meet men in the context of a group of friends. Dinner parties are regular events for mixing and mingling. They also travel with a group of friends -- a Coterie -- to bars, museums and concerts. As everyone knows, French women dress up -- although not everyone knows that they also dress under -- that is, they wear sexy lingerie -- everywhere. They walk. They sit in cafes reading books. They meet men in museums, bars, bookstores and parties and they chat up everyone. Callan also says that love in France is slower.

Emerging salons in the U.S. sometimes have themes. A recent Hartford, CT event centered on, "What Men and Women want from one another in relating/relationships." This was a "Bring your own food and drink to share" event. Other salons have been ongoing, one for example worked with Jack Pransky's book, "Somebody Should Have Told Us -- Simple Truths for Living Well" (2008) and drew three women and seven men.

Sometimes there is a special guest star. Sometimes there are warm-up games.

What the salons have in common is that they are a less intense, often less dreary, safer, and , certainly for men, a less expensive way to get to know new people.

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