“Trust firmly in your luck, cling to your happiness and dare to take risks. They will see you and learn to accept you.”
-Rene Char, The Dawn Breakers
A few months ago I bought How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits by Parisians and life-long best friends Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas. I bought the book on a whim and I decided I’d place it on the table next to me on the couch and read it if I ever got bored. I didn’t think much of it, I bought it mainly for the aphorisms…
But recently, I read the whole book cover to cover.
How to Be Parisian revealed that I am in some ways actually pretty Parisienne:
- I never wear make-up anymore, even to work, which I am pretty proud of,
- I’ll never admit (that sometimes I wear powder and a little rouge) when I’ve fibbed a little,
- I never blow-dry my hair or color it,
- I am always hiding behind a pair of oversized sunglasses,
- I don’t have a TV in my bedroom,
- And I wear a lot of black basics, because, after all:
“Women who wear black live colourful lives.”
A lot of this sounds like the habits of a very lazy girl. But not necessarily. In my mind these are the habits of a girl that has her priorities straight and knows who she is. In a nutshell, this is the driving force behind How to Be Parisian, which begins on page 3 with a series of Parisienne APHORISMS. Here is a selection of my favorites:
“Find ‘your’ perfume before you turn thirty…one must live with the opposite sex, not against them…wear a black bra under your white blouse…go to the theater, to museums, and to concerts as often as possible: it gives you a healthy glow…be your own knight in shining armor…fashion rules the world….always be fuckable….your look should always have one thing undone…”
The ladies also include an ongoing list of beauty tips. Rinse your hair with white wine vinegar to make it shinier and keep a pumice stone in the shower. Rub a juiced lemon across your nails to make them stronger and brush your teeth with baking soda once a week to whiten them. We’ll see if these work…
But all in all the Parisenne is not so different from us. She has her inglorious moments. Her tights rip on the way to important job interview and she gets pimples. Try to find a woman in the world whose tights haven’t run at a crucial moment in her life. After all, the Parisinne is no superhuman no matter what she may think.
For the record there are some bits of this book that are as as self-indulgent as other bits are genuine. Take it all with a grain of salt. While THE 6:00 P.M. DEBATE: THE GYM section is authentically funny and relatable, HOW TO DESTABILIZE A MAN is just plain absurd. But like the Parisienne, we must take the book’s flaws along with its perfections.
The ladies of How to Be Parisian advise that we know our faults and display them as a unique part of ourselves. Therein lies our beauty. Taken in its entirety How to Be Parisian is a love letter to womanhood.
But what’s really inspired me is the literature they discuss throughout the book. How to Be a Parisian authors place an emphasis on the importance of being a well-read woman, as inwardly svelte as she is on the outside.
Here is an excerpt from pg. 104, section WHEN YOU CAN HAVE ANYTHING:
“She doesn’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.”
So in the spirit of How to Be a Parisian I’ve set myself a challenge for 2017. I will read every book they mention throughout the book, if I can find it in print in English, starting with the list on page 97, section AND THEN THERE ARE THE BOOKS YOU HAVE READ, LOVED, AND WHICH ARE A PART OF YOUR IDENTITY:
The Stranger by Albert Camus
The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq
Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Foam of the Daze by Boris Vian
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinance Celine
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Other books mentioned:
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (March)
Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre by Simone de Beauvoirs
The Jewels by Charles Baudelaire
The Dawn Breakers by Rene Char
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
And remember ladies:
“The only beautiful eyes are those that look at you with tenderness.”