OUR library is looking very French. And I don’t mean Albert Camus or Simone de Beauvoir. We have shelves of books that are helping us look good, stay thin, sleep with someone and raise our children and most of these books begin by telling us what French women don’t do.
French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, French Children Don’t Throw Food, A Woman’s Guide to Finding her Inner French Girl, What French Women Know and the latest Gallic how-to book is French Women Don’t Get Facelifts.
Ooh la la, who could have guessed that French women were the guardians of such wisdom? They must have been hiding their light under a bushel since de Beauvoir held court at Cafe de Flore and declared “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”.
Whether this French-iness is in the air or just in the bookshops, every woman in the world wants to be French and, it seems, every French woman wants to write a book about being French and fabulous. But what, one may ask, are French men doing? If it’s OK to stereotype Gallic women, why don’t we do the same to their men?
On sleeping alone
Ooh, non, non, c’est impossible. The only time a French man sleeps alone is when his wife discovers his mistress and she orders him to sleep in the lounge room, and it is too late at night to call the mistress to pick him up. That should never happen so make sure you have a key to the mistress’s apartment.
On eating and drinking
The important thing to remember is always to drink wine with your meals. If you have food left but no wine, then order more wine and if you have wine left but no food, then order fromage. When you have cafe au lait, order a macaron (only American tourists eat croissant); when you have steak, order les pommes frites so you can pick one up and wave it around as you make a political point and when you are ordering anything, never snap your fingers unless your wife is being especially tardy.
On raising children
We have lovely children. There is Yohan and Charlotte and, umm, the little one. They are all doing well or, at least, that is what the nanny told me last night when we had a quiet moment together. We are strict with our children.
They must learn grammar, they must learn English so they can get a job abroad when they grow up and they must never up-chuck on
daddy’s collar when he has just got dressed for the day.
On looking good
Frenchmen don’t worry about looking good. We are meant to look mauvais so our women will look magnifique standing beside us. Just ask Gerard Depardieu; he makes every French actress look like a rose. (By the way, we don’t like him any more. He eats too much. We let the Russians have him). So we wear the shoe without the socks, we wear the jean (same size as when we were 18) and we wear the sports shirt so when it gets cold we can turn up the collar.
We have no problem with romance, except
perhaps that we have too much of it. Our women don’t eat, they don’t get facelifts, they never let les enfants talk back and they know they must never sleep alone — they wrote the book on it. Alors, we need to do nothing here.
It is more important to be avant garde or socialist than to be happy. Happy people are too often stupid and they have no appreciation of how good melancholy looks when you are sitting at a cafe. We have joie de vivre, which is not happiness, just ask Lacan or Zola. When we feel bleak, we lift the collar of our sports shirt.
On writing a book for men
Non, non, c’est unnecessary. Our women write our books, so they can tell all the women of the world how they should be. Why should we write the books, unless you believe the rumours that all those popular books were written by French men. We all enjoy satire, non?