A while ago, I answered the question “Why French Women Do Not Ask Men Out?“
But there was one comment that I never published. Why? Because I thought it deserved its own post. Yes, it was that good and that interesting.
So here it is:
“Even though this idea came into context quite a few centuries ago I believe that certain things often integrate themselves into society so much that people do not even realize that they are there, but do you suppose that this (generalized) mentality might have anything to do with the influence of the roman courtois and the notion of courtly love? I don’t know how familiar you are with Medieval Literature but these type of mind games seem a lot like what happened with Lancelot and Guinevere in Le Chevalier à la Charette. (If you’re not familiar with it essentially Lancelot must humiliate himself in order to save Guinevere but, because he hesitates before humiliating himself when he arrives to save her, she decides that he must not love her enough for her to allow herself to be saved by him and so he must humiliate himself even more before she will allow him to save her.)”
I completely agree with you.
One thing people underestimate when it comes to love and relationships are their cultural aspects and dimension…
You always hear the usual “love is universal,” “love is the thing that unites all of us together”, etc.
To that I say BULLSHIT!
Love is cultural, like everything else when it comes to what human beings do.
Sure, love is the result of dozens of thousands of years of evolution, for the sole purpose of making males stick around once they got the female so that he can protect her and their progeny, allowing said progeny to become adults (and not fresh and tender meat for the next alpha male that passes by). As an evolutionary byproduct, it exists in all human beings. However, since humans started wearing clothes made from other things that the fur of the animals they killed, started doing a bunch of things that had little to do with survival (doing arts, doing business, believing in supreme beings, writing blogs), different cultures started to develop all over the world.
And guess what, love started to adapt itself to said cultures.
So yeah, love exists in every culture, it’s even possible to fall in love with somebody from another culture. That doesn’t change the fact that love expresses itself differently from culture to culture.
In France, until the Middle Ages, love was not that different from the rest of Europe. People got married. Men went to war a lot, there, if they survived the latest battle they could rape as many women as they wanted once they had torched the villages they just conquered. In the meantime, if the woman was lucky enough to be the wife of one of the victors and not one of the losers, she’d get incredibly bored. Well, I’m talking women from the aristocracy here, the plebes were busy enough with the fields, the kids and the rest, especially because the husbands were away from home busy raping and/or getting killed at war.
During those times, there was one kind of man that was incredibly lucky. We could even say that they were the smartest guys around. First, they were actually very smart, they even managed to not be enlisted in the army. I’m not sure how, I guess I’m not as smart as them. And not only they escaped having their skulls smashed by enemies, they got hired to sing songs and tell stories to bored aristocratic women.
One thing you need to know if you ever have to sing songs to a bored woman from the aristocracy is that bored aristocratic women don’t care for war stories, so don’t start singing song about how their husbands break skulls and rape they way through enemy territory. They craved for something else. Something else that those guys - let’s call them Troubadours - designed little by little, by paying attention to what their audience liked and disliked. Yes, you read me right, those men, those troubadours, could even listen to women and knew what they wanted! Super-humans, this is what they were if you’re asking me!
This is how Romance Stories were born.
Those guys became extremely popular with the ladies, they literally were the rock stars of the time. And husbands were happy, while they were busy warring (and hunting when they were not warring), they knew that their wives were not bored, as they were busy listening to those long haired effeminate dudes singing stories to them. Were they worried that their wife would be unfaithful? That’s the thing. If the wives were too bored, yes, they might start to look for ways to occupy themselves and those teenage boys in the stables were quite muscular indeed. But as long as their wives were obsessed listening to those singers who were probably gay, there were nothing to worry about.
Of course, troubadours were not gay (well, maybe a few were, I never asked, I respect their privacy), and the joke was on the husbands (and the teenage boys in the stables too, poor kids).
|Oh yeah, you can mock the way they look all you want.
Guess where he is going to sleep tonight?
If you answered your wife’s bed, you won!
And this is how, little by little, women started to be more and more demanding from their husbands when they got home. Sure, after a while they started to become suspicious about those troubadours, but they were long gone to another castle, and now, if the husband wanted to get some, he had to abide to his wife silly demands, yes, that included washing more than once a year and not forgetting to pick up some flowers on the way back from hunting.
In the end, yes, the idea that “French men are romantic” comes from that time and courtly love.
This is actually my favorite example on how literature can have an influence on society (sure, I just told the story in a -hopefully- funny way, but the general idea is factual) as “courtly love stories” had a huge impact on France (and later the world). It invented the modern Western concept of Love, as well as novels and a few other things.
One detail, about the word “Romance“.
It also comes from those stories. They were called “romances” (that’s a French word by the way) because they were invented and told by people from the South of France, and their language was not “Old French”, but the “Roman” language. This is how people from the North (Paris and around) called the language of the people from the South (nowadays we call it “Occitan”) and although it was not Latin (the real Roman language) it was much closer to Latin than the language from the North was (think of it as a mix between French and Spanish for the South-West and a mix between French and Italian for the South-East).
(on a side note, yes, it means that men from the South of France, especially the South West invented what Westerners call love… just saying…)
This is also how languages like French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian (and a few lesser known others: Occitan, Catalan, Romanche, etc) ended being called “Romance Languages” in English.
And do you know what is the French word for “Novel”? Roman.
Oh and while we’re on the language topic, the word “Troubadour” means “Finder” (of good stories) in Occitan/Roman language.