The owner of a French café called me "Mademoiselle". He made my day. Make that week. I wanted to hug him, except by the alarmed look on his face he guessed and gripped his chipped metal tray as if ready to hit me over the head with it if I took one step towards him. "Mademoiselle"! I haven't been called "Mademoiselle" for years. Look it up; "Mademoiselle" is reserved for "young" women. It means: "You are young". It means the person addressing you has looked, yes looked, and decided, if you are not obviously under 30 that you are at the very least young enough to accept "Mademoiselle" as a compliment and not a lack of respect. If they had the slightest doubt, they would say "Madame" as calling a Mademoiselle "Madam" is less insulting than calling a Madam "Mademoiselle".
"Mademoiselle" is also used for the unmarried but not any old singleton; only the young unwed. This makes it very different to the English "Miss", used for the single of any age but which, after a certain age, transforms its subject into a sniffing, fussy, tragic, sexless spinster - think Miss Haversham, think Emily Dickinson... An unmarried Frenchwoman of advanced years would never expect to be called "Mademoiselle". If she was she would probably snatch that tray and whack the person addressing her over the head. Except, of course, if she is easily flattered, short-sighted and still feels 18 in her head, in which case the "Mademoiselle" is probably sarcastic and the person using it having a bit of a joke. He may, in fact, think she looks something like a small silvery drumfish.
I went to the loo and caught a look at myself in the mirror. "Bastard" I thought.
Why I love Belgium
2 days ago