Some things are simply universal. Chocolate is one of them. I prefer mine dark, and I like to dip it in my coffee. That said, I love milk and white chocolate too. And in case of an emotional emergency (you know what I am talking about, right?), I swear by a spoonful of Nutella. It usually does the trick. And I don’t think I am the only one. Friends of mine even have had the whole pot, but that’s a tad too much for me. But hey, who am I to judge? We all have different ways of coping.
This morning I went for a run in Battersea Park. To cut a long story short, I have stepped up my running (I will write about it in the near future. Watch this space). London was sunny and in full bloom, and I had a great time. Me being me, I posted a picture on Twitter and Instagram. A couple of minutes later, I had a comment from a follower saying ‘Great day for running in heels…’. Of course it was a joke, and it was light-hearted, but there it was: the good old-fashioned myth that we French women are always perfectly groomed and run in heels. In fact, I rarely wear heels. I only wear them when I have a formal outing, which doesn’t happen very often as I am becoming more and more asocial. So tell me, what happens when beliefs are based on misinformation? How can we change them?
Don’t get me wrong, this was anodyne compared to all the comments I had to endure over the last ten years (In no particular order: we French women don’t care when our husbands are unfaithful, we don’t get fat and remain glamorous in all circumstances, we are sex goddesses with a busy love life -as if…-).
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.
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: