Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to be French

My most ridiculous hobby, or shameful secret, is a passion for any book that tells a North American how to be French.

Happily for me this genre is ever-green, and just as there will be a book or so a year on Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedy's and hockey, at least annually there will be a book or two describing why French women don't get fat, or how to raise a child a la Francaise, or how to be chic, or how to unleash your inner French girl. You would think with all this love and desire I would at least speak the language but this is where my French fails me -- I can say, in French, "all our lines are busy now, please be patient" and then I don't know the rest. This is not terribly handy information unless on hold.

I am panting, in an elegant French way, for Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott, who spent a year in France bouncing between Madame Chic and someone else more bohemian.

Is this hobby a little unseemly at my age? Oh probably, but I am not sure if watching adult men play games with balls on fields is all that grown up either, if you think about it, and loads of folks do that.

In reading the NYT review of her book (read it here:,  Ms Scott had me at "she would look more polished if she threw out “70 percent” of the vast supply of disposable clothing she had amassed since her teens and winnowed her core wardrobe to 10 good-quality items each season." As a packrat who does believe the grass is greener if only I had it, too, I have had a contradictory desire all my life to pare down to just ten things. Ten perfect things. If my math is right, Ms Scott will show me the way toward 20 perfect things, if we think of summer and winter as seasons -- if we include pre-fall and resort, well.....I'm getting ahead of myself here and will consult the book closely on this.

I wrote yesterday about being in the job market at this age, and confronting ageism I pondered to my old self if really we just don't put enough effort into the presentation. The "personal brand" if you want to be all North American about it, and really what I longed to say was, "a French woman would never show up for an interview like that." In fact it is most likely a French woman wouldn't do the vacuuming looking like that. I think at a certain age, it behooves us to put a little effort into it. This is not an affront, though it may seem so to those of us on this continent -- it is a way of life for generations of very elegant people who probably have family homes older than our country. Their point of view is a valid one.

I would write and exude more love for all things French here but really, I have to get dressed up and race, elegantly, to the bookstore on the corner to grab, courteously, this fab new book. I advise you to do the same.

Check out Jennifer's blog:

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