Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday, Monday - French Style, Part Deux

Happy Monday all!  Yesterday was great and I will do a longer post on it tomorrow.  Between the day-long workshop and then the graduation party for son's girlfriend, am just getting to my post now!

Many thanks for the advice yesterday!!!

This month's issue of Vanity Fair (yes, the one with Channing Tatum looking over his shoulder at YOU) has a great article called Liberté, Fraternité, Supériorité by that scamp James Walcott.  He discusses the whole genre of books that have cropped up since French Women Don't Get Fat was published and the North American woman's obsession with them.

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I admit to owning a few of these books.  Their content can be boiled down to the following maxims:

1) French women have more self-control than anyone else when it comes to a) eating b) drinking c) shopping

2) French women are inherently chic and do not chase fashion trends like their non-french counterparts

3) French women are more discreet

4) French women need less clothing because they know what to do with the clothing they have

5) French women cook better than the rest of us and they don't overeat

Walcott argues that everyone else's obsession with the the French Woman is due to a desire to return to a time where people dressed up, knew how to cook and had MANNERS.  His only lament is that there is not a similar series of best selling books for non-French men.

There IS certainly something to this argument.  I have also heard arguments that the rise of these kinds of books, along with the rise of shows and blogs showing us how to have style, or whole networks designed to teach us how to cook are someone's idea to get us consume more.

The thing is, these things are hits because WE made them hits.  The last thirty years of casual-ness, a natural by-product of the sixties' desire to throw off the shackles of anything that smacked of their parents, of feminists' desire to not be shackled to the house or kitchen, but no one else really stepped in to do it, has led to an almost ennui in society and has, I think, led to a general confusion about how to live, look and eat well.

 Because regardless of the fact that you might be a feminist (which I consider myself) or a hipster or whatever, we all kind of want to eat healthy food, live in reasonably nice places and look nice.  And we have cut our school home economics courses and our arts courses, and have substituted these things with convenient food and clothes and told ourselves that it's okay if our houses and wardrobes look like everyone else's and come from big boxes.

In the main, the French have not forgotten some of these things.  

Every culture is different.  But every culture has, as its birthright, the right to live in beauty.  Because living in beauty and culture and the arts feeds the soul in a way that no trip to Costco ever can (no disrespect to Costco shoppers - I have a membership myself) and eating whole healthy foods makes you feel wonderful.

Wouldn't it be nice if non-French women (and men!) embraced niceties in the same way, eschewing brand names on butts for clothes that speak to them in a lovely way and for a kind, gentle (to themselves) way of living?  Wouldn't it be nice if French Women wanted to copy us?
But I leave a treat!  Speaking of Channing Tatum, catch the recent music video he just did with Jamie Foxx - it is a riff on a song they sang on Jimmie Kimmel in Jimmie's after the oscars show.  Hysterical and cheeky!

http://www.buzzfeed.com/lyapalater/heres-the-official-music-video-for-channing-on-my-tatum

You can always count on Jimmie Kimmel to find ways to get celebrities to do the funniest things!

Have a great Monday and Stay Safe out There!

52 comments:

  1. I like French culture, fashion and food but I find them as good as any other. Personally, I find women from Milan to be the most stylish (they can make those black and neutral clothes look wonderful). Actors do not normally make my heart aflutter but when they do, I usually go for the mature actor types like Daniel Day Lewis. But yes, Channing Tatum has stirred my latent cougar instincts.

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    1. I laughed when I read "cougar instincts"! your point is excellent - why do we not hear more about Italian women? Look at our own Ema who is gorgeous!

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    2. Marie - I'm with you on Italian woman, especially Rome, Milan etc.

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    3. Agree as well. Italian women dress beautifully, and also SMILE and laugh.

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    4. Agree, but I am genetically biased ;-)

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  2. Well said WMM! You've nailed all the reasons why people read these books!

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  4. CULTURE VULTURES Like Marie, I tend to be more admiring of La Dolce Vita then La Belle Vie. Good thing the Italian (Americans) don't seem to write so many self-help, just mainly cookery books.

    Very true WMM, I think we all aspire in at least some way to really richer, more lovely, fulfilling, singular lives. But I am pretty sure the changes involved in making our routine different aren't really to be found in these pages. Another pop culture quick fix cash-in. And so much of that so-called ooh-la-la lifestyle is so stereotypical as well.

    Don't really get the whole Channing Tatum moment. But do think it's great that someone who has dyslexia, tough childhood, rebel first career has made such a breakthrough, seems so delighted to have a new baby etc. It's re-freshingly un-Hollywood ikywim. Hope he keeps that along with his washboard.

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    1. Am glad you do not have a completely clinical view of our Channing! And you are right - people are not passing these things along to their children now, which is such a problem!

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    2. It is amazing that these books do sell and I agree, GF, the answer is probably not within the pages. That said, there does seem to be a Form that is French life-- we do this and not that, eat this and not that, never appear like this.

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    3. I could use some form. I am a little scatterbrained and wish I would pay attention to SOME rules insteadof creating my own!

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    4. Ahh...that's just it. By creating your own rules, you're defining your signature style. And it's wonderful. Really authentic.

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  5. Aw, poor Matt Damon...it's tough being replaced. I am a bit enamored with Channing also. Magic Mike was stupid as all get out, but I find myself watching it on HBO now that it's in rotation. Not much to say on the French. I know we in the US are just a tad too obsessed with looks, anti aging, dieting, etc. that we aren't enjoying our lives. Whatever God made is beautiful, including ourselves (ok...ticks maybe not).

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    1. Kind of with you on the ticks! Still haven't seen Magic Mike! I did like Channing in 21 Jump Street - but when i have caught him on chat shows, thought he was sweet!

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    2. This is definitely a mother/daughter movie. You will have such fun. I promised Em when she turned 21 I would take her to an all male review (Thunder form Down Under) after we watched this movie. Why the hell not!

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  6. Madame Chic was written by a woman who as a teenager on a school exchange lived with two Parisian families. From this experience she touts everything that is superior about Parisian women. I found it to be a boring rehash of the idea that all you need in your wardrobe is one skirt, one blouse, one sweater and red lipstick to be stylish and "French" and able to go anywhere and be the most stylish women in the room. This is an absurd concept for most modern women who's lives span so many different aspects and wardrobe needs. In one normal day I will wear an outfit to walk my dog, another to pedal my exercise bike or work out at the club, an outfit for work or doing errands or an outfit for working around the house or in the yard, possibly an outfit to go out to dinner or to a movie, etc. I can't do all those things in a black skirt and blouse and flats as this book suggests. I reject the entire French women are better and more stylish idea. It's a broad sweeping stereotype that I know doesn't reflect all French women. And yah....give me a grown up man please....Daniel Day Lewis or Jeremy Irons would do nicely.

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    1. Stray Cat! Love this!!!

      Love DDL! Jeremy Irons - when we did the Westminster Abbey tour he was the voice in the little machine you wear. We said that Jeremy should take everyone through every historical place in the world - he was divine!

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    2. If it were possible, Jeremy would be narrating my inner dialog. Hee!

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  7. It's a myth driven by the US, French women don't eat al day and live on coffee and cigarettes, their husbands are notorious womanisers, they live in a terribly sexist society and are all a hair's breadth from killing each other!

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    1. Oh you two are KILLING me!!! I am laughing so hard I have tears!

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    2. Tabitha forgot to mention cranky. US driven myth is right.

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  8. I don't want to be French, however, think I want the fantasy French life ... with all that Impressionist art around, a walk along the Seine, lunch at the outdoor cafe, a glass of wine or a piece of pastry just because ... I recall a girlfriend who had a boyfriend in Paris, does't that sound romantic even without further details?

    I rather be Audrey Hepburn. Amen to a return to a time where people dressed up, knew how to cook and had MANNERS.

    Who is Channing Tatum?

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    1. channing is current IT boy in Hollywood and has a new movie coming out with Jamie Foxx. Did I mention he used to be a stripper....

      I want the fantasy french life too!

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  9. I've been reading a book called, 'Overdressed: The Shocking High Price of Cheap Fashion' it basically talks about how F21, Target, H&M, etc can sell clothing for super cheap prices...This may explain why we do look so similiar in terms of dress. Americans have so much disposable clothing that a few dollars for an item that is worn less than a handful of times is totally ok. It also speaks of the environmental effects fabric making is causing globally. Anyway, this book is pretty good. Though I'm only half way through, I do recommend it.

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    1. thanks Wendy - I am going to go look it up!

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  10. Yes the French myth is so strong and I want to speak to their PR company...I used to live in France during my gap year and I learned a lot from them. But they have a whole different psyche. What Tabitha says is rather sadly true. They love a bit of amour fou so they like complications and self sabotage and create drama. They don't trust anybody, not even their husbands with justified reason. There is no sorority. They also don't bake as everyone thinks they do hence the amount of patisseries around the country. They buy dessert instead of making it. In fact they think it odd making desserts at home. But all this makes for such a nice parallel contrast and fun to compare and talk about! I also agree that in fact Italian women are superbly turned out.

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    1. We have to get Ema to write the BOOK!

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    2. Delete this immediately before someone sees this, that's a GREAT idea! Must think of a catching title. Italian women cook, get fat and are overall happier than thin French women?

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    3. Love it, Ema, I hope you write it.

      I'd love to hear more of your perspective on this, even in a blog post.

      I'm adjusting more to life in Europe and noticing more of the rules & norms in different cultures. It would be so interesting to hear what you have to say

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    4. Ema - you must do it!!!

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  11. I have no first hand experience with this, just visits to Paris, so I get most of my cultural impressions from Diane Johnson ( "Le Divorce")

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    1. Oh she gives interesting impressions, doesn't she??? Loved the book and didn't care for the movie at all!

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  12. I've expressed myself elsewhere on the subject of les françaises, so I will limit myself to saying Tabs is right.
    Oh, and someone insisted on lending me Madame Chic. ugh, I concluded the author had been raised by some not very nice wolves. She was even surprised that the family she stayed with had furniture. Cheez Louise.

    I love the history of France, i love the cities and the countryside, I love the language, I love the way you can play word games in it and turn it into different kinds of argots with their own rules, and it really lends itself to evocative poetry, to my thinking even more so than Arabic although many will disagree... But just a few days ago. I observed that hamburger bars -- trendy ones with wine and music, not chains, coffee bars à l'américain, A LOBSTER ROLL BAR FOR GAAHHD'S SAKE, manicure bars à l'américaine, are popping up like mushrooms all over Paris. And steak houses.

    Soon we will be telling them to wear white shirts.

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    1. Fred - that is awesome - oooh - I hate the sounds of that - lobster roll bars!!! Yikes!

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  13. Well if we all really wanted to dress like French women we could certainly do that, there is no shortage of navy and neutrals available for sale in North America. Part of the beauty of France is the perfect light. It makes everything seem more lovely and I am not just saying that, it's totally true.

    My mother's ancestry is Swiss/Italian and boy are there a lot of rules on what we do/don't wear, do/don't say and do/don't do. Her influence is why I eschew fast fashion and have been flogging myself for all the disposable J.Crew I bought over the years and recently donated. My mother is not here to remind me that she told me that label was only going to serve me so long but I hear the echo ringing in my ears. I've jumped ship and I'm loving it.

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    1. HI xoxo - you are so right about the perfect light! As for the flogging - well in the end, it all works out and you have found such a great style for you - it is wonderful!

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  14. I've been very busy as my daughter finally had her baby! So, I'm going to sum up the various posts I've missed. Love the white dress and boots - great buy. Love the navy sweater and so-so on the aqua. Your family room looks fantastic, and congratulations on your son's graduation. Also love the red ballet flats on you.

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    1. Kathy - CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are now a grandma! That is so wonderful!!! Have you decided what you want to be called? One of my grandmother's just wanted me to call her by her first name - so that's what we did! Hope all is well with your daughter and she is adjusting to this next grand adventure! thanks for the feedback and the great wishes!

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    2. Congratulations, Kathy!

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    3. Congratulations Kathy!!! How exciting! I hope your daughter and the baby are well.

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    4. Thanks everyone - my daughter had her baby at home, we were there to see her born, and they're all doing incredibly well. It was all quite peaceful.

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    5. That is so wonderful!!! Little girl or boy? I bet you will be the coolest and loveliest grandmother ever!

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  15. I agree that this French woman that these books try to sell must be an American product or ideal because I don't remember a similar besottment with the French woman in Italy, unless it is a very recent phenomenon. Italian women are typically confident in their sex appeal and have a good relationship with their body (no matter their size) therefore they couldn't care less of what French women do.

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    1. Ema - that does not surprise me at all!!

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  16. Great post!!! (Some of the comments here are cracking me up!!) I haven't read the French Women Don't Get Fat books, so can't comment... but I have a friend who grew up in Canada, and moved to Paris several years ago after meeting her fiancé (now husband). The last couple times I have met up with her, she has told me that she is dying to return to Canada. She said that Paris may be beautiful but that it is not so much fun to live there - the rigidity of French society and customs grated on her nerves. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

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    1. Louise - I think you are right. I could not be prim and proper and contained all the time!!

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  17. Interesting post and comments thread. I think you're right that we have a cultural malaise and could use some structure, and all of these books speak to that void we're feeling. On the other hand, European cultural structure can feel pretty oppressive and hearing comments every time you do anything mildly non-normative gets really old.

    I think the idea that French women are all angry smoking grouches with adulterous husbands is as ridiculous a stereotype as the one that they are all perfectly stylish and self-assured. Of course, we all trade in stereotypes and the reality is much less black and white.

    I have been bothered lately by the weight policing that goes on between couples I know here - not just French, although mostly - both the man and the woman monitor one another's weight and eating. They don't seem to bothered by it, so I try to not be, but I really don't like it. That surely has something to do with "French women [not getting] fat."

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    1. Interesting Abby! I would hate it if Barry was monitoring my weight!

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    2. Yes, Wendy, that would be a total no-go in my household too! But I can see how if it seems normal to you, because you grew up with it, etc., it might not feel as emotionally loaded as it does to us.

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