This morning I went to buy my Sunday’s newspaper. The newsagent smiled at me and, after hearing my strong French accent, told me that he must know me from somewhere. Yes, I live around the corner. He looked disappointed.
For a French woman living in London, it is a double whammy: you have to deal with the causal sexism -the old boy network is still alive and kicking over here-, and, to top it up, you have to live up to the French cliches. This basically means that you are supposed to be a sex goddess, a great cook, you don’t get fat, your kids must behave impeccably, and so on, and so forth. Honestly, where does it end?
I keep being asked whether there is some truth in such cliches. I hate to break to to you, but no, I don’t think that there is. There it is. Sorry if you are disappointed. If I had a magic recipe to achieve what is expected of me, I think that I would know by now. I am tired just like any other woman. Not to mention the fact that, this Christmas, I finally tried some brandy butter, and I am pretty sure that it made me fatter. Just like the rest of us, really. The only truth is that, in France, life doesn’t stop when you become a mum, and there is a strong pressure on you to go back to work. After all, the maternity leave is only 16 weeks. You can get more, but it will be unpaid.
In short, it feels a bit like we are pre-programmed to think that we are different, when in fact we are not. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of cultural differences between the French and the Anglo-Saxons. But the perceived differences are a lot bigger than the real differences. Am I making sense?
So here it is: I am tired of the French cliches. I am very normal and proud of it. So please stop asking me how many lovers I have -I am happily married-, or why French women look so sexy -I have no clue, except that I stole my teenage daughter’s top today-. Oh, and I don’t like drinking (except a cup of champagne from time to time).