The truth is out: Parisiennes aren’t privy to a secret “skinny” gene, they aren’t always easy to be with, and aren’t all perfect mothers. In fact, they are very imperfect, vague, unreliable, and full of paradoxes. But they can also be funny, attentive, curious, and ironic, and they know how to enjoy life.
We are four Parisian women who have been friends for ages. We are very different in many ways but always agree about the important things. We’ve spent countless long nights laughing with each other and sharing that typically French enthusiasm for transforming life into fiction. As you’ll discover, Parisian women spend an inordinate amount of energy trying to spin every episode of their existence into a very good story.
Our aim here is to give you an insight into the quintessentially Parisian art of being a woman. We’re methodical and yet shambolic, proud and yet self-deprecating, loyal and yet unfaithful. We’ll point out our attitude, nonchalance, our low-key style, what we are like in love, and how we choose to spend our days and nights. We hope that the following pages will dispel the mystery.
GET THE BASICS
To be read out loud every night before going to bed. Even when inebriated:
Don’t be afraid of aging. As the saying goes, don’t be afraid of anything but fear itself. Find “your” perfume before you turn thirty. Wear it for the next thirty years. No one should ever see your gums when you talk or laugh. If you own only one sweater, make sure it’s cashmere. Wear a black bra under your white blouse, like two notes on a sheet of music. One must live with the opposite sex, not against them. Except when making love. Be unfaithful: cheat on your perfume, but only on cold days. Go to the theater, to museums, and to concerts as often as possible: it gives you a healthy glow. Be aware of your qualities and your faults. Cultivate them in private but don’t obsess. Make it look easy. Everything you do should seem effortless and graceful. Not too much makeup, too many colors, too many accessories … Take a deep breath and keep it simple. Your look should always have one thing left undone—the devil is in the details. Be your own knight in shining armor. Cut your own hair or ask your sister to do it for you. Of course you know celebrity hairdressers, but only as friends. Always be fuckable: when standing in line at the bakery on a Sunday morning, buying champagne in the middle of the night, or even picking the kids up from school. You never know. Either go all gray or no gray hair. Salt and pepper is for the table. Fashion rules the world and Parisians rule fashion. Fine, it may not be true. But the world still needs fairy tales.
The Parisienne as Seen by a Parisian Man
Who could I ask for the perfect definition of the Parisienne?
I’d asked myself that question countless times, until I had an epiphany.
Of course: ask him. That guy in the kitchen who happens to share my life.
He was surprised by my question, and muttered a few words to himself.
I watched him, exasperated.
Doesn’t he have anything original to say, something beyond the usual clichés about our incredible style and iconic perfume?
“Wait, you’re being serious? We’re really talking about this?” he asked, before leaning against the sink. And then he started, and didn’t stop. As though reciting a prayer learned by heart, one he knew with his eyes closed.
First off, he says, the Parisienne is never satisfied. Here’s proof: I’m telling you how gorgeous you are and it’s never enough.
The Parisienne thinks she’s a role model. She can fill blogs and books with life advice. In fact, she loves being asked what she thinks. And of course that makes sense because she’s already done everything. Seen everything. She knows it all.
For example, the Parisienne will always refer you to her doctor—he’s a genius. Her dentist—he’s an artist, his work is like a fine jeweler’s. And her gynecologist—well, of course, Catherine Deneuve goes to him, too. The Parisienne, shamelessly snobbish, issuch a snob that she’s perfectly comfortable letting everyone know it. What’s wrong with that? The Parisienne is arrogant.
Her thing is art, culture, and politics. She cultivates herself the same way she cares for her radishes growing on the balcony—that is, with love. Watering can in hand, she’ll tell you how the last film to win the Palme d’Or is rotten tomatoes. But she probably hasn’t even seen it. The Parisienne already knows what she must think: the opposite of what you think, no matter what.
The Parisienne is always late. Unlike you, she has important things to do, she’s a busy woman. She’ll never wear makeup on a date. Naturally, her inner beauty needs no artifice. On the other hand, she won’t hesitate to wear lipstick to the bakery on Sunday morning, because what if she runs into someone she knows?
Her paranoia verges on megalomania. If her unquenchable thirst for subjects of dismay were used to solve equations, she’d get the Nobel Prize in mathematics every year.
Watch out if she says your new boyfriend is “so original.” For her, “original” is not a compliment.
She never crosses the street where she’s supposed to; she claims it’s her rebellious side. People who wait in lines stress her out.
She doesn’t always say thank you, doesn’t always say hi, but will complain about the rudeness of Parisian waiters.
She’s outspoken and can swear like a sailor. She’s horrified when people politely say “Bon appétit!” Poor taste is worse than poor diplomacy.
She always wears her sunglasses, even when it rains. But she despises movie stars who hide behind them.
In a nutshell (and, trust me, I know her well), I’d say the Parisienne is completelycuckoo!
WHAT YOU WON’T FIND IN HER CLOSET
Three-inch heels. Why live life halfway?
Logos. You are not a billboard.
Nylon, polyester, viscose, and vinyl will make you sweaty, smelly, and shiny.
Sweatpants. No man should ever see you in those. Except your gym teacher—and even then. Leggings are tolerated.
Blingy jeans with embroidery and holes in them. They belong to Bollywood.
UGG boots. Enough said.
A skimpy top. Because you’re not fifteen anymore.
A fake designer bag. Like fake breasts, you can’t fix your insecurities through forgery.
Truth be told, if the Parisienne could wear just a Burberry trench and nothing underneath, she would be in heaven.