Soon after we are allowed to sit at a proper dining table and participate in adult conversation we are sternly warned that politesse dictates one must avoid three taboo topics : Sex, Religion and Politics.
In France, the moment guests are a table and the crisp, damask napkins settle onto their laps someone has launched into one or the other (or both) of their favorite dinner table discourses: Sex and politics.
I've found no one delves into religion, unless it's an obscure historical footnote used to underscore another point. In France there's not much to say really.
When I first arrived in this country I was shocked at the dinner table flirting, innuendo and naughty play on words the French adore. Heated arguments about politics often left my stomach churning and my head aching. Now I find nothing more fun than lively, stimulating, thought-provoking, raucous (but ultimately always polite) dining debates.
Since food is so important one learns quickly spicey conversation can be a perfect compliment to fine cuisine and excellent wine.
Other favored topics include: wine, restaurants, food in general, books, films and Parisian gossip (which usually gets us right back to sex and politics). This heady cocktail never fails to make for sparkling evenings.
Once again this is where a woman of a certain age is in her element -- posing questions, listening with rapt admiration, tossing out witty bons mots, flagrantly flirty and charming all in her wake. She is so brilliant at this exercise she is mesmerizing. She has no age, she is beautiful, she is riveting, she is irresistible. I give you my word I am not exaggerating. I watch, I learn.
Who could imagine, certainly not I, that some feel a certain laisser-aller has set into what has long been considered one of the fine French arts? Apparently dinner party banter is stalling and in some cases screeching into abrupt silence around banal remarks and dead end references. (We haven't been invited to any of these unfortunate events and tant mieux -- so much the better.)
But once again, where one individual sees a problem, another perceives an opportunity. Et voila a product is born: the Lanceur de Discussion, a conversation launcher or better yet, a topic prompter.
It consists of 110 cards with saucy, impertinent, "let's get this dinner discourse rolling" questions. For example: Do you look inside other people's medicine cabinets; Where is the most embarrassing place you've ever woken up; If you could only use three words for the rest of your life, what would they be? And so on. . .
I'm seeing this catalyst in an entirely different context: A DIY parlor game.
My how-to guide: Buy a pile of index cards, blue is always nice, whip out your Montblanc stylo plume and begin writing scores of indecent questions to liven up your soirées. How about these for example: What one thing would you change about your life; If you could run away from your world where would you go -- who would you take with you; What would you like to change about yourself, your partner; What's your worst character flaw; If you could have an affair with anyone in the world who would it be (?) [my best American friend here says her choice would be "Mr. Clean" or as he's called over here, "Monsieur Propre" and mine would be Mr. Picard who, if he even exists, runs a chain of frozen food stores that can transform anyone -- even moi -- into a three star chef].
From my point-of-view it's much better than charades because you don't have to stand up and make a fool out of yourself. You can be seated, holding a glass when you make a fool out of yourself.
Let your imagination run wild, ask everything you've ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Can you imagine how much fun this could be?
If you want the original it's 20 Euros at DOM Christian Koban. The real deal is a twofer -- a topic launcher and a French lesson.
Do you think I need to write up a business plan tout de suite? I'm thinking maybe it's not a bad idea. I'll talk to my son-in-law, the lawyer, about copyrights. . .