I realised that we French had the reputation to be stylish in all circumstances when I crossed the Channel to come to live in London. This reputation also extends to French children who apparently often are the coolest kids on the block, no matter what. I must admit that I never really understood what earned us such a reputation but hey, here we are. Let’s just enjoy it. There is no point in fighting cliches, right? I decided a long time ago to go with the flow anyway.
That said, I also quickly understood that anything remotely French was more expensive this side of the Channel. As in, far more expensive. Come to think of it, it is the same with restaurants, isn’t it? Whenever the menu is translated in French (often with a lot of mistakes), the price goes up. And up. Seriously, brands that would be completely common in France suddenly become super-expensive when they are sold over here. And to make matters even worse, quite a few brands are not available at all. It takes time to find where to shop when you move abroad. Well, at least, it took me some time to know where to shop. And I still stock up on some products in France. Yes, even after 10 years.
Have you noticed that we women have a much tougher deal than men? Seriously, why do we have so much pressure on our shoulders? How are we supposed to ‘have it all’? Seriously, just try to list all we have to do all the time:
1. We have to look good
2. We have to be great cooks BUT..
3. We mustn’t put on weight -of course we mustn’t (see point 1)
4. We have to take care of the children, the household, and sometimes a job on top of everything else (don’t talk to me about sharing the workload, we women always end up with more than our fair share. Always. Sorry, guys.)
5. We have to pretend that we are not tired (no, Darling, not at all) when hubby is in need of some affection
6. We must always be a good daughter/wife/sister/friend/person…(doesn’t it upset you that men can get away with murder when we get slammed just because we forgot a birthday card or, even worse, we got a bit angry at someone or something? Seriously, why the double standard? )
7. We have to justify our every move when men NEVER get a single comment about their choices (Yes, I want to run a marathon. But what about the time it will take to train? Now give me a break, this is a question you wouldn’t ask if I were a guy. See what I mean?)
And so on, and so forth. It just never stops.
I woke up in a bad mood. First of all, I am not a morning person. Especially before my morning’s coffee. And to make matters even worse, over the weekend the clock went forward by an hour (which effectively means that we lost an hour). In short, I was a bit cranky. As a result, when I had to run a few errands after dropping the kids off to school, I couldn’t smile. Because, you see, I am normally a happy-go-lucky sort of person. Not very French, I know. But today I was a bit, well, sombre. And tired, if you must know.
The thing was, people seemed to love it. Seriously, I was getting a lot more attention than usual. A guy (who could have been my son) smiled at me, and asked me what was wrong. I managed not to smile but his question made me feel like a million dollar. It was only the start: the cashier was all smiles and opened a new till for me. The barista gave me a free cappuccino to help me wake up. Not to mention that I was called ‘Darling’ ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Pumpkin’ more times than I could count.
Dear oh dear. Maybe I should be grumpy more often. Seriously, everybody seems to like it. Especially men, if you must know.
It is the latest craze in town and I am sure that you can’t have missed it: apparently, the French are better at parenting than the British or the Americans. To top it up, French children don’t throw up food, are better behaved, know what the limits are, and so on, and so forth.
How come I hadn’t noticed? Why hadn’t anyone told me?
Let me be blunt here: I am not sure that the French have “parenting secrets”- we are all doing what we can. And as you know (you can read the post here), one of the reasons French kids are so well behaved is that we French tend to be much harsher with our kids. That said, the secret -if there is one- is that French women have a life that doesn’t revolve around kids. I have seen many women who simply lost themselves when they became mothers. Their whole life is about bringing up their offspring as best as they can, sometimes to try to make up for their own mistakes and choices.
I read something that still puzzles me. Here it is: “Compared with the women of France, the average American woman is still in the kindergarten.” It was written by the hugely talented Edith Wharton. I wonder what she meant. Personally, I think that it says more about her than about us French women; after all, she loved it so much in France that she ended up living there. She understood the culture and the social rules, and after a while adopted them wholeheartedly. That said, it made me wonder whether we French women really have our own ways. Seriously, what’s so special about us? I scratched my head, and came up with a few traits that might (only might) explain such a statement. That said, feel free to add to the list. Simply put, I don’t fully understand what is so special about us. After all, I am still learning (aren’t we all?).
Sometimes you have to act fast. As in, when you are about to go on a date. Or a job interview. You want to look French instantly. There is no time to waste. That’s the challenge I was set today. Let me explain: I bumped into a mum at the school gates, and she told me that she had no time to read my posts: she was going to catch up with an ex-colleague whom she fancied (she is divorced). She wanted to look French there and then. She is deliciously British, and I really didn’t understand why she so desperately wanted to look French but hey, who was I to judge? I know that we live in a fast-paced world, and I love a challenge. So I decided to give it a go. Don’t get me wrong, looking French is a slow process. You need to be familiar with French social rules, which can take a lifetime (sometimes even generations). And I still remember all the dictations at school (Ah, les dictees…). I have to break it to you: being French isn’t as easy as it seems. But if you don’t have it, you can try to fake it, right? It might work, at least to an extent. So here we go:
The truth is that we French women are not so blooming perfect. Yep, you read that right. And do you know what? It’s all right not to be perfect.
We all know someone prettier, younger, slimmer or fitter. So, frankly, why do we keep punishing ourselves all the time? Don’t you think that it might be time to take it easy and enjoy what we have? The fact that French women have the reputation of being glamorous in all circumstances this side of the Channel says more about the British than the French, in my opinion. Maybe, just maybe, this cliché has everything to do with British insecurities rather than this perceived French je-ne sais-quoi. Just a thought.
So, why are women that little bit more insecure this side of the Channel? I wonder. French women seem to ooze confidence because they know that they are unique, despite –or even thanks to- all their imperfections. In general, they know how to behave. They try to remain classy. For instance, binge drinking isn’t really their thing. Don’t get me wrong, we let our hair down from time to time, but not in the same way. And frankly, getting drunk on cheap wine is a terrible experience; there should be a law against it. I wonder why governments haven’t thought about this. I need to write to my MP about it…
Maybe this Anglo-Saxon insecurity stems from the fact that boys and girls are usually educated separately in the UK. In France, all schools are mixed (except some marginal exceptions), and boys and girls are more probably used to interacting on a regular basis. That said, I recently found out that going to a single-sex school doesn’t mean that boys and girls don’t interact. Quite the opposite, in fact. But still, it’s different, boys and girls are not used to being together.
So what is it that we French women do differently? I thought I didn’t know until I noticed small things that we French women tend not to do, whereas they seem to be common practice this side of the Channel. As you will see, we are not talking about big things here, but, added together, they might tip the scale in the right direction. Here are the main ones:
No, not me, silly! As you know, we French women don’t do cosmetic surgery. Because we don’t have to: we don’t age. We mature. We get better. It’s a genetic predisposition. And if some of us indulge in a little bit of nip & tuck occasionally, we will never, ever admit it. That’s just us, I suppose. What can I say? We are beautiful naturally, and that’s all there is to know. Did I also tell you that I wake up already made up? No seriously. It’s a French thing, we all have it. It is in our DNA. And no, I didn’t go to the hairdresser to have a blow-dry. Somehow, my hair places itself naturally. I promise. As for my dress, well, it just happened to be placed in my wardrobe and was just, well, perfect. So lucky, right? And of course I am naturally slim. After all, I am French. I didn’t go to the gym this morning. It wasn’t me, you must be mistaken.
This is, apparently, what everybody believes. Seriously, guys, how gullible can you be?