the fo­rum

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Deirdre Macken macken.deirdre@gmail.com

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.

On ro­mance

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.

On hap­pi­ness

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?

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