(In desperate need of a light read over the weekend, I tore through 'How to be Parisian Wherever you Are'. A book that has been heralded as " the worst book in the 'French women do it better' genre".
I wouldn't consider myself a francophile by any means. The language is beautiful and whilst I enjoyed our time travelling through France earlier this year, I am not raking myself backwards over a nicoise salad to try and distill that certain je ne sais quoi that French women are rumoured to posses.
None the less, I was intrigued. Having enjoyed the light bites of style advice and etiquette the Parisian chic diary and its daily prompts offered last year, I thought I'd see what this book had to offer.
Personally, I am of the assumption that the entire book is a subtle exercise in satire. This may not be the case, but that is how I decided to approach it; with a touch of humour and cheek. In fact, to treat this book as a holy bible of sorts would embody the Parisian faux pas I identify with the most: don't take yourself too seriously.
Setting aside the chapters dedicated to destabilising men (LOL, wut!?) or getting away with infidelity, there were a few take home points that did resonate with me.
First and foremost, the upfront and unashamed approach to women having sex for pleasure that occurs regularly throughout the book should be celebrated. If this book is to be believed, to be parisian is to be in complete command of your sexuality, without apology. She is sensual without shame. She enjoys sex because it makes her feel good. It does not define her. Whether or not this is indeed embedded in the collective feminine french psyche, it is something I think most women could benefit from experiencing.
The beauty advice peppered throughout the book is plentiful, but this particular tip seemed both attainable, and grounded in truth:
"The Parisian retains her little imperfections, cherishes them even (the gap in her smile or her slightly crooked tooth, her prominent eyebrows or strong nose): those are the signs of a certain strength of character and allow her to feel beautiful without being perfect."
I also particularly enjoyed the chapter on hosting a dinner party, although I suspect I'd be one of few. Apparently a Parisian dinner party kicks off with two things; a bottle of champagne and political debate. Where do I sign up!? I live for unfiltered discussions on things that matter; politics, spirituality, current affairs and morality. I've always been terrible at small talk and able to separate a robust debate from an argument, however Australian culture tends to favour polite conversation. Meaty topics that could be seen to be controversial are generally studiously avoided.
In the same vein, the book encourages intellectual wealth in favour of material wealth. An encouragement of depth, if you will. Whilst I don't believe the two need to be mutually exclusive, I can agree that one is far more important than the other. I will leave you with the most insightful advice the book has to offer;
She doesn't have a ring on each finger, or a big diamond on each ring.
She doesn't wear a gold watch that costs as much as a fancy car.
In fact, she doesn't own a fancy car.
She does't carry an enormous designer bag.
But she might have a newspaper under her arm.
She might mention Sartre or Foucault in a conversation,
It's her personality that sparkles and nothing else: the signs of intellectual wealth.