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?
|Picture by Alejandra Moral. Prep Anastasia Parquet. I told you, I am not skinny.
From time to time, I meet up with friends and, inevitably, we talk about losing weight. Because women of all shape and age seem to be obsessed with their weight. Go figure. And when I dare say that I don’t really care about it, they reply:
“- But it’s so easy for you, you are French. French women always stay slim.”
I so wish it were true. Seriously, I didn’t know that being French came with mandatory instructions to stay slim, but here we are. And apparently, it is easier for us. But is it really?
So, what is the secret of French women to stay slim? There are books about this. Seriously? Well, here is a newsflash for you: there are fat women in France too.
I thought about this statement long and hard. I came to the conclusion that the main difference between us and our British counterparts is that there is more pressure on we French women to look good. Even if we are older, or just had a baby, we are expected to look after ourselves. This means that we will continue to wear make up and nice clothes, and try not to balloon. It is ingrained in us. My mother bought me a silky red nightie the day of the birth of my first daughter. She said that it was for me to look good on the pictures. I was shattered, and got so ill that I don’t remember much of what happened, just that I needed to look good. So much for being French!
|Galette Des Rois
But I digress. To me, this ‘obligation’ to look after myself means that if I overindulge a bit (which happened recently with the lovely epiphany cakes), I am going to eat less the next day, to compensate a bit. It is common sense, really. As I stuffed my face over the weekend, I tried some juices from CPress yesterday, and today all is back to normal. My point is, if I need to lose weight, I am not going to wait indefinitely to do it. I am going to do it as soon as possible. I am going to take action immediately. It is all about losing a little extra weight now, as opposed to having to lose a lot more later. Again, it is common sense.
I exercise a lot (it doesn’t need to be something big, but I try to do something every day, even if it is just a bit of walking or tidying up the garden). I don’t smoke. Never have. Never will. Not very French, I know. I have heard many times over that French women smoke casually to cut their appetite, but frankly most of my friends don’t smoke.
I try not to have too much sugar. Here is a little trick that I will share with you -It usually stops me from stuffing my face with bread or sugar:- : I always start a meal with proteins. This means that, in a restaurant, if I am hungry, I will not eat all the bread or have all the crisps. I will wait for the prawns, or the fish, or whatever. And the beauty of having proteins is that it makes me feel fuller. No need to stuff my face. And I like real food: no shakes/substitutes or whatever. It is all about quality and not quantity, right? After all, I am not French for nothing.
But the main thing is to do what I like. Because having fun is the best diet of all, right? So next time, I will tell my friends that they need to enjoy their lives more. You can’t get wrong with having more fun! Go try it!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London