American women are slightly obsessed with the way that Frenchwomen navigate their lives. There are the best selling books French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Children Don’t Throw Food. There are iconic French sex kittens like Brigitte Bardot and iconic French women of style like Coco Chanel. The former first lady of France, Carla Bruni, was a supermodel but is now a popular singer. Her sultry voice languishes deftly in each song as if she is confiding in you after smoking a pack of cigarettes and drinking a bottle of Bordeaux. She is not a role model in the way American First Ladies tend to be, but boy, I’m sure she could teach me a thing or two about life.
French women just “get it”, whatever it is, in a way that we buttoned up yet loud American gals can’t do so easily. So, after spending time in France and discussing this topic with a few of my French friends I feel I can provide some tips that certainly helped me – and might help you – draw out that inner French lady lurking inside.
- Learn how to tie a scarf properly. This is obvious – perhaps the most obvious. It is amazing what French women (FW for short) can do with a piece of cloth. There are many websites online with video tutorials. It’s not as if we can’t tie a scarf, but they do it with an effortlessness that deserves to be emulated.
- On the sartorial front, FW do not wear their PJs or sweatpants outside. Non! The French have lifted their ban on jeans, thank God, but you wouldn’t catch a FW walking out the door in something she would sleep in. Why? because she finds it offensive to present herself to the world in this way. Rude. And despite what people think of the French, they are not rude.
- Yes, FW are thinner than you. I know this seems impossible because they have such insanely good pastries, they all seem to smoke and drink and I don’t think I have ever seen a gym in France. There are three reasons for this. 1) They eat better, with smaller portions and their food has a quarter of the sugar added that ours do. 2) Everything in moderation. They have their vices, but those vices are accepted as being okay in small doses. This means that they don’t do something bad and then guiltily binge in a shame spiral afterwards. 3) They know how to wear clothes that are slimming and would not try to get into an outfit that would show off the dreaded muffin top because it’s “trendy”.
- FW expect that a man will compliment them and tell them they look beautiful and sexy. They do not think this is sexual harassment. They do not think the man is necessarily trying to get into their pants. They do not say, “No, I don’t!” or “Really? I don’t feel like I look all that great.” They simply smile demurely and nod their heads because they know that French men appreciate a well put-together woman.
- FW do not think it’s cute or quirky to be neurotic. You will not find them talking about how afraid they are to be dumped yet again or how they were teased about whatever as children. FW will make themselves vulnerable in other ways, but they do not self-deprecate.
- FW make an effort to learn about what is going on in the world. FW enjoy a healthy debate. Celebrity culture is acknowledged in the way that one acknowledges a child trying to get an adult’s attention, but it is rarely the foundation of a dinner party conversation.
- FW hold back. They don’t give up their life’s story as an offering of goodwill upon first meeting. Like a flower, the FW eventually unfurls her personality like petals one by one, over time and shared experience.
- I’ve met FW who were lied to, betrayed and cheated on. Universally, their response was to scream holy hell at the offender – tell him exactly what she thinks of him and then cut him out of her life. The FW does not stalk. She does not show up somewhere hoping he will be there. The FW does not cry or beg. She is not willing to do anything to get him back. He is now not worth what she scrapes off the bottom of her shoe and she treats him accordingly.
- Fidelity, however, is a much different notion in France than it is in America. Perhaps monogamy is a better word. A young FW will not share her boyfriend. An older FW, after 20 or 30 years of marriage, understands that her husband will most likely have a mistress. This seems to only be an issue if the FW suffers a shift in her lifestyle because of it. The French man can play around, but he cannot take things away from his wife to give to another woman. That is unacceptable.
- FW do not do drama. They have better things to do, like hang out with their friends, go to cafes, shop in markets, travel. FW do not wallow. FW do no pick apart every action a person does and look for a hidden motive. If anything, this type of behaviour seems to bore them.
- Because of the aforementioned point, the FW (or at least the ones that I’ve spent time with) does not talk s**t behind someone’s back. She states quite clearly, exactly what she thinks of them or an issue she has with them in a very frank manner and then moves on.
- A FW is generally not afraid of aging. In point of fact, most FW actually look their age. They would rather use the arsenal available at their local drugstore (which, by the way, is ASTOUNDING) than a plastic surgeon. They seem not only unafraid but proud to let the years they’ve lived and the laughs they’ve had show on their faces.
- Most importantly, do not be intimidated by the FW. If you have the opportunity to meet one, put yourself out there and introduce yourself. The FW is social and enjoys meeting new people – it is part of her culture. If you are in France, it is common courtesy to try and speak to her in French (as it is in any country, by the way – it is profoundly ignorant on our parts to assume everyone speaks English). Learn a few phrases and she will respond warmly.
We’ll be talking about the FW this week on the podcast at the Heatley Cliff, do join us.
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