I am miffed. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I am always ‘the French one’. My friends and colleagues still consider me to be French. Why? Why such a double standard? I have colleagues who, just like me, are naturalised citizen. They are considered to be British. Sometimes, someone says that they are ‘Indian-born’ or ‘from the continent’, but that’s as far as it goes.
As for me, despite my British passport and the fact that I have been living in London for the best part of 14 years, I am always considered to be French. ‘Ask Muriel’, someone says. ‘Who is she?’ ‘The French one’. But of course. What did I do to deserve to be stigmatised like this?
It is all over the press and is coming from the celebrated actress Kristin Scott Thomas: apparently we French women, unlike our British counterparts, can be attractive without abusing our sexy side. You can read the article here : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3461270/SEBASTIAN-SHAKESPEARE-Fake-tan-short-skirts-Actress-Kristin-Scott-Thomas-blasts-UK-women.html
Is there some truth in such sweeping statements? Obviously the article is written in a slightly provocative way (after all, it was published on the Daily Mail), but I do think that, in my home country, there is a stronger pressure on us women to look good in all circumstances. This is one of the reasons why I find living in London liberating. I will always remember the day when I so one of my neighbours buying her Sunday newspapers at the newsagent around the corner wearing her bathrobe and flip-flops. Shocking. This simply couldn’t have happened in France.
It had to happen, right? I suppose it is a compulsory step when you are a female blogger. What am I talking about? Well, to cut a long story short, I was asked a couple of months ago to be part of an advertising campaign…for an underwear company. This means that they wanted me to pose, well, in my undies. Yep, you read that right.
Obviously, I was flattered to be considered, especially at my ripe age. But I turned it down. All my male friends told me that I should have accepted, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that I would have looked great, and so on, and so forth. Suffice to say, they didn’t make me change my mind. I am a bit stubborn like that. And I can’t help thinking that they would have enjoyed the whole process a lot more than me.
Let me be clear here: I am not a prude. It’s just that I don’t want to be ‘the woman who posed in her underwear’. Because once you have got this label, it is a hard one to get rid of. Whatever you achieve in life, you will always be the woman who was photographed almost naked on a billboard. You can speak four languages fluently, have a business and two master degrees, but that’s it, you are the woman who posed in her undies. And don’t get me started about what my children’s school mates and my husband’s colleagues would say.
This year, for some reason, I can’t get into the mood for Valentine’s day. I have had enough of pink hearts, romantic gestures, and sweet love declarations. Can we move on please? Come to think of it, it’s all so incredibly boring once you stop being a teenager. I might be French, but maybe I have finally turned into a responsible adult after all. Miracles do happen.
Why am I becoming so cynical? Well, you can buy one red rose (just one), at my local supermarket, for £5. You can also buy lovely chocolates for a tenner. They come all wrapped up in red, which apparently double the price. In short, you can be romantic, but it will cost you. It feels a bit like a charade. Because you can’t buy love, right? So why would you? I don’t get it.
A sweet Valentine’s day doesn’t mean a lasting love story. Right now, lots of friends are divorcing, despite some of them being used to flying off first-class to Thailand just for a romantic weekend. This year, some of them are spending the day on their own, wondering how their are going to make ends meet, while their divorce lawyers are working on their financial settlement -or what will remain of it after the legal fees. And what about the single ones? The elderly? The sick ones? The depressed ones? Who will bring love to them?
Yesterday I was asked by the friend of an acquaintance what my secret to look so young was (really? I feel my age, this much I know). I was very embarrassed. I didn’t know what to answer. The secret is, well, there is no secret. I still feel 15 in my head but I will be 40-something + one year very very soon (just don’t mention it. Birthdays are overrated anyway).
I therefore decided to tell the truth. Because I am well-behaved. Because I am honest. And, most importantly, because I have nothing to sell. I therefore said:
” Well I run almost every day ”
I even run in the bloody British rain
She looked so disappointed. She was clearly expecting something else. Like ‘I have found the youth elixir, and here is what you need to do…”
She didn’t believe me. She looked suspicious.
I felt ill-at-ease. I shut up.
“Really? Nothing else? No miracle product?”
I discovered this side of the Channel that we French were supposed to be (in no particular order) romantic, sexy, cute, stylish, and so on, and so forth… Don’t you find it amazing what people assume about us? The reality may be quite different. Here is a list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about us. So much preconceived ideas, right? Read on…
You have kept asking me what is going to happen to the romance of the summer, Carine & Archie (see the first chapters here, here and here).
Well, to cut a long story short, I have decided to publish their story around spring time and, in the meantime, I will let you know more about them. I will probably go down the self-publishing route as publishing companies keep asking me to ‘tone it down’ -whatever this means-. I was also told that Carine wasn’t really nice, which came to a surprise to the publisher.
Well no, she is not. She happens to be French. And I hate to break it to you, but nobody is perfect, and we French women are no exception. Sorry, I had to tell you. Are you still listening?
While we are at it, I think that it is time for you to know that French women do get fat. Our children are not that well behaved and no, we don’t smoke to cut our appetite. We are just –gasp- normal. Shocking, right?
I am not saying that there are no cultural differences, but they are tenuous. Even subtle sometimes. And not necessarily what you would expect them to be.
And I keep being asked whether I am Carine. More about this some other time!
It had to happen, right? Spending twelve years in London was bound to leave some marks.
Today, I was near my home town, in Toulon, speaking at a conference (see the details here: paperdotcon). It was good to be back. You see, I love everything about Provence: the light, my childhood friends, the food, and the Mediterranean of course. But today, I was told (half jokingly, but still) that I had a British accent.
Me, a British accent?
It happened over the weekend. I was reading various newspapers when I stumbled upon yet another article on French women: this one explained that we French women are ditching tampons in favour of -wait for it- ‘instinctive bleeding’. You can read it here: http://metro.co.uk/2015/09/04/french-women-are-ditching-tampons-in-favour-of-instinctive-bleeding-using-pelvic-floor-muscles-5375971/
Seriously? Does anyone believe this? Call me wonder-woman please. I am totally in control of my bleeding and can hold it in. It is one of the many, many superpowers we French women enjoy. Don’t try to argue, it’s in our genes. You will never get it.
Seriously, this article is so wrong that I actually find it hilarious. Thanks for the laugh, guys. Right. Where to start? First, let me make a few things clear:
It is impossible to talk about the French without mentioning food. To cut a long story short, there are two things we French are supposed to be good at: sex and food. When I mention that I am French (which everybody knows by now anyway), we usually start talking about food. Why food first? Well, because the British don’t like talking about sex when sober. It usually comes after a few pints. But I digress. I could write the script of the conversation in advance: my interlocutors start mentioning the restaurants they have been to lately, and try to get my approval. They want me to admire their exquisite tastes. Alternatively, they list the bottles of wine they have recently bought at an auction, and want me to say that they managed to get a fantastic deal. Most of the time, I don’t know the restaurants they are talking about, and I would never buy super-expensive bottles of wine, because I simply don’t see the point. Most of my British friends have a wine cave in their house. To cut a long story short, we don’t. Nor to we have a sex dungeon, for the record.