She smiled at me across the cafe table. The setting Parisian sun illuminated the slight wrinkles around her mouth. My mother’s best friend, a Pakistani who’s lived in Paris since the 1970s, seemed somehow vindicated by the July 1 reports that the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was coming undone. That afternoon, the hotel maid who accused DSK of assaulting her had been discredited; it seemed as though national pride and the image of one of the country’s favorite sons had been restored in one fell swoop.
It was my last night in Paris, and I had chosen to start the evening with someone who described herself as both a Parisian and an outsider.
“This is really what so many of us had hoped for,” she said, cigarette in hand. What I’d seen and heard on the streets from others that day more than confirmed her statement.
Yet I was a little confused about the French people’s continued support of DSK. Other shocking accounts of him assaulting women had emerged, including one involving a reputable journalist. Meanwhile, in the US, Anthony Weiner had, only weeks earlier, stepped down after evidence surfaced suggesting that he flirted with — but had not physically encountered multiple women online.
What emerged as my brain tried to reconcile Weinergate and the DSK scandal was how nation-specific value systems can be. As I attacked my steak, my mother’s Pakistani-French friend continued to rattle on about why scandals like this “just aren’t the end of it all in France, my dear.” The bottom line is that standards are different there. Plus, the steaks are better.