|Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso
I have heard this one so many times over the last ten years that it is starting to wear me off. After so long, I thought that people would actually start to get to know me, and also to understand my values. But nope, it hasn’t happened just yet, and it probably never will because of all the cliches on the French this side of the Channel. So let me make it crystal-clear for you: I don’t know a single French woman who would accept that her husband has a mistress without being upset. None. Yep, you read that well.
If you don’t believe me, just have a look at what Valerie Trierweiler, the ex-French First Lady, has written about how being cheated on made her feel. Suffice to say, she didn’t enjoy it. Quite the opposite, in fact. She wanted to end it all. What happened to the so-called ‘Gallic shrug’ in case of an infidelity? Well, it didn’t exist in the first place. And to make matters even more dramatic, Valerie Trierweiler took her revenge in a very public manner by writing a best seller. It clearly hurt the President, who was already very unpopular, and made her a fortune along the way. Never underestimate a scorned woman, I say.
Despite such a book, I was asked over the weekend for the umpteenth time how I was dealing with the fact that because he was French, my husband must have had mistresses. I quickly answered that he was British now and that, if he was cheating on me, surely it would make a good book, right? I hope that my interlocutor got the joke. I will probably never know.
Don’t get me wrong: I am the first to admit that French politicians seem to be a lot more inclined to marital indiscretions and sexual proclivities.
But are extra-marital affairs more common in France? I don’t think so. We French haven’t invented them. Just look at Prince Charles and his then-mistress Camilla, when he was married to Diana. I actually think that he expected his then-wife not to make a fuss and accept the situation as gracefully as possible, as lots of aristocrat women have probably done in a not-so-distant past. Some things never change, right? Just be reasonable, Darling. How very British! Keep a stiff upper lip, as we British do. Not nice.
And where does this myth that well-educated French are very accepting of marital infidelity come from? Seriously, the French are like people everywhere, apart maybe from some of our senior politicians who behave like the ‘fathers of the nation’ sometimes a bit too literally. You see, as we don’t have a monarch any more, they fill a strong urge to show how powerful they are by having as many conquests as possible. Pathetic.
And no, women don’t have more complacency for cheaters in France. Some stay in the relationship, some leave. Just like everywhere else.
So please give me break now. Enough with silly stereotypes. Stop asking me silly questions.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London