(Inspired on the book “How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are”. Caroline de Maigret, Anne Berest, Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan)
Ladies from other latitudes, please don’t feel ofended with the title of this chapter, but something has got into my head after I got married to a French guy.
Meeting my partner has opened the door to a culture who approaches life in a different way. In this culture, I found another type of woman who reacts differently to the challenges of existence, a woman who doesn’t follow all social rules but because of her irreverence, acts with more freedom and lives more intensively.
Finding this book was like finding a treasure. It was the confirmation of a thousand thoughts that started to cross my mind the moment I embraced the French culture. I just needed to open the book and read the first page to know that because of their sagacity and their ‘not so good’ behaviour, they enjoy life in a much better way than we do.
After reading it all in one day, I came to the conclusion that we all must learn some major things from the Parisians. I made the decision to learn those things and apply them as if it were the only thing that could save my life. I think life can become more interesting and unpredictable if these rules are followed:
Beauty and Style:
- ‘Don’t be afraid of ageing. As the saying goes, don’t be afraid of anything but fear itself’. The basic rule for the parisians is moderation. Sure, you can correct your ‘minor’ flows but never before you are 40 and never brag about it. Your beauty is supposed to be natural, a gift from life, and that’s about it!
- ‘Be unfaithful: Cheat on your perfume, but only on cold days’ Parisians choose the perfume they are going to use for their entire life before they turn 30 years old. But this doesn’t mean they don’t cheat on it from time to time. Some things, like perfume, if used too many years, can make you predictable and repetitive. At the end, if something doesn’t make them entirely happy, they just change it. A Parisian will never hesitate to make a change if she needs a fresh start. She won’t even loose more than a couple of days, even hours, in moving on to the next thing!
- ‘Make it look easy. Everything you do should seem effortless and graceful’ Their great style comes from this basic rule. If you see a Parisian on the street you could think that she looks great, and that she only needed five minutes to pull herself together, but that could be a big mistake. You can never minimise the effort, extreme care and years of experience in mixing her best pieces to build beautiful outfits. I did it only to go out dressed too simple or dressed as a clown… or both. Now I know that it is a process that requires time, experience, creativity and talent. For the ones who were not born and raised in France, only practice and patience will get us there. In the meantime, if you want to dress as a French, I strongly recommend you to wake up at 5am, try everything you have, pick up your best outfit and then change part of it for something cooler yet more simple. Good luck!
And same tip for your hair. Wake up early, blow-it, yes blow-it, not blow-dry and then organise it again but leave a little bit of the explosion, as you were meant to say: ‘I woke up like this, what do you want’?
If you think that this adventure of getting the Parisian style will lead you to a bankruptcy don’t worry. Before having a panic attack, always remember that Parisians don’t spend all of their salary on their wardrobe, as they are experts surviving only with one signature item, ‘the one you wear when you need to feel strong’. If the Parisinas get those amazing looks without many designer clothes I truly hope that we can do the same. The important thing is to choose not one item, but ‘the item’ as it will be with you in every major event in life. It was not a hard choice for me, as of course, I don’t have many designer items, but my old-time favourite is my Esteban Cortazar leather jacket, used for everything and with everything! My statement!
Art, Culture & Politics:
The Parisian way of life is not only about beauty and style. Intelligence makes a big part in this charming type of woman, as ‘Her thing is art, culture and politics’. At a first glance, this could sound very intimidating, but the good thing is that the Parisians assure that you don’t have to know it all. All you need to do is to prove how cultivated you are by arguing differently from everyone. The authors of the book provide some quotes that just of reading them drive me crazy: ‘As a matter of fact, we’re witnessing a shift in the class struggle. It’s no longer workers against employers; it’s about immigration. And at the end of the day, it’s the poor against the poor’ or ‘Capitalism has succeeded in its aim of making sure that the workers are no longer battling against those above them, but instead those below them. Marx was right all long’.
As long as you master these type of statements you will be able to move freely in all the political, artistic and economical circles of France and the world.
Parisians also love their families, but their maternal instinct is a little bit spiced by a pinch of selfishness. According to the authors, there is not such a thing as ‘a mater dolorosa, the sacrificed type of woman who cooks Shepherd’s pies for her numerous progeny’. This has enlighten me and finally now I understand why my husband wants me to be a super hero. Being a mother, having a full-time job, practicing one or two sports, playing an instrument, reading several books and having a future project all at the same time is nothing that cannot be handled by a Parisian girl. In the meantime, my head spins at 1000 Kms/h trying to keep up with my energetic baby and the rest of the things I have to do. There is not enough time during the day to finish all the things I would like to finish, something it would take a Parisian just a couple of hours and she will still have time to relax and spend time with her family by the end of the day.
But my favourite tips come from the field of love. The Parisians are masters in this giving me, giving you, but then I take it back, but yes, but no dating little game. They sure know how to make a man go crazy, using simple little tricks like forgetting to use a bra in summer, letting the telephone ring, crying for no reason, saving their sister’s phone number under a guy’s name, cancelling a date at a last time and apologising, but without giving a reason, sending flowers to themselves and paying the bill at the restaurant before he even asks. I don’t know what you think but I personally agree this is great advice. If I were you I would interiorise it, accept it, stop questioning it, and start practicing!
Learning how to be a Parisian wherever you are is a piece of work, a full time job, which I will make even more complicated adding my own advice to all women who are not French:
- Buy a Chanel Classic Flap bag or Boy Bag in black or grey. An investment that could cause you a divorce but cannot go wrong as it will always make you look effortless chic. No need to buy another black bag. Ever!
- Learn to speak French. It will be the only way to understand this sweet, mysterious Parisian woman. Once you start, every new word will be a step forward into their world. Once you’re there, you will discover that despite their initial indifference, they are great friends and care about existence more than they would like to admit. If you are in trouble, they won’t hesitate to run at any time of the day or night to give you a hand.
- If you are having a conversation with a Parisian girl, take advantage of it and ask them about travel, fashion or art. They will surely give you the best advice on what to pack for a lovely holiday or where to get the best croissants in town. As for the food, wine and love? They will know it all! And do yourself a favour. No politics, or you will be in trouble!
And to all the Parisian girls, please keep it the way you are. I, as well of thousands of girls around the world, will look after you.