During my time in France, I have recognised at least two distinct types of men, I called them the Peacock and the Pigeon.
The Peacock is your most common and recognisable group, one that in the UK might be called: wannabe alphas.
Grey-back culture does exist north of the channel, but go to any gym or bar in England and watch how the bulk of the population do all they can to avoid them.
Not so in France, where men comfortably project masculinity, leaving it in no doubt. Peacocks walk with shoulders folded back and their chin calibrated up, as if smelling for something on the air.
They gesture with their arms like performance artists, whilst speaking in a melodic cantor, undulating in volume. I don’t write this post to mock but merely note the contrast with the English male, which can still resemble the bumbling Hugh Grant character of a dozen Richard Curtis movies.
The male of southern France may only be talking about the cost of tomato compost, but nevertheless it will be with the passion reserved for issues of life and death in England.
For a seat at the top table, Peacocks still care about who gets to walk on the footpath and who has to step off the curve. It’s important to wear the right watch, the correctly labelled sunglasses, to attain the even tan, the nice shirt, the right jacket, the correct way to sit, or sip, or how wide apart your feet are whilst talking or how to stroke the broken bread across your plate at the end of a good meal.
Peacocks make sure to look you in the eye when raising a toast, as it all matters, you gain points that add up to your social standing in the estimation of other Peacocks and in that respect it is difficult for any outsider to add up to much when heading in the prevailing wind of ancestral testosterone; which pretty much blow a force ten down any bar, pavement, beach or even repas with friends and family, should they include a peacock or two, which has happened many times.
Then what of the Pigeons? This is the second genus most notable during my years in Provence.
At first, I thought it was my imagination, but after a while I realised a lot of women walking around (especially when heading to the beach) had a creepy guy shadowing some short distance behind, often in cap and dark glasses. The coastline of the French Riviera from May to October is covered in half-naked people, and for every beauty, there would appear to be a Pigeon not far away.
Their behaviour reminded me of back home, how the male pigeons on the pavement of Brighton would relentlessly pursue the females, back and forth, dragging their tail feathers behind them in a bid to catch their attention.
They are not all old, the younger guys are as likely to pigeon, although at a younger age is it perhaps a little less ‘icky.’
The majority are older though but if you can retire anywhere, then begrudgingly there is a logic to do so beside sun-warmed sands dotted with bikini-clad women. It just edges out the alternative, looking over a roundabout from sheltered accommodation in Stuttgart or Swindon.
Pigeons sometimes come in pairs. I have seen many who sit there with their wives, making sure their beach chair is placed in the perfect spot to ogle the topless girls laid out a foot or two in front. I once saw one filming with a video camera hidden between his legs, and even when I’d walked up and stood in front of him to signal I’d seen what he was doing, both he and his leather breeches of a wife took no notice.
I shouldn’t be so surprised, having grown up in the seaside resort, I am used to seeing the old men peering over the railings, looking down on the sunbathers. It could be a universal law of the nature the world over, that for every one semi-naked woman, there is a man with a semi of a different sort watching from behind the lip of his newspaper.
Who knows, perhaps in 30 years when I’m collecting my free bus pass, I won’t be so judgmental and truth be told Pigeons are a species commonplace the world over, while Peacocks are a little more picky about there natural habitat.
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Hey Cheers Roger, missed your comment first time round. I think the cultural differences are fascinating, generally though I feel there is a subtle difference between English and French men. I’ll always be pondering what they are and why. I try and write it from a good place without judgement, it’s just an observation. English guys like myself have just as many hang ups!
I lived in France, Paris and Cote d’azure for a decade. I think I must have stumbled into the same men as you. You’re right on the button.