Much to my chagrin, I recently concluded I would not make a very good Parisian. Ignore the fact I live halfway across the globe from the City of Love. What I mean to say, is that a Paris lady I will not be. Forget the Yoda speak, I mean I’m not chic.
Last week I met a French National. An actual Parisian. A stylish attractive woman with a non-French accent who married a French guy, learnt the language, and made Paris her home many years ago. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to check a few things I had been tossing around in my subconscious. It might put an end to those niggling doubts. You see, like many women, I wish to be as chic and as mysterious as a Parisian.
Last year I read How to be a Parisian Everywhere and Madame Chic. For my birthday, I was given a gorgeously illustrated biography of Coco Chanel. I thought I was well on my way! How wrong can one be?
Apparently, there are unspoken rules to live by in Paris.
Rule Number 1: No snacking!
It’s true, there’s absolutely no snacking to be done in Paris unless you’re a tourist. Parisians don’t snack. No sneaky wedges of cheese. No generous slices of carrot cake when meeting friends for coffee. Oh yes, coffee. Coffee is well, coffee. Just that. No little pastry or chocolate or tiny teddy on the side. Not a wee mouthful of shortbread. Coffee is coffee although you’ll be happy to know that two cups are perfectly acceptable. Note: coffee should be short, dark and sugar-less. Oh, my word. It should definitely not resemble my gigantic skinny latte with three sugars.
Rule number 2: One glass only!
At girly lunches after perusing the wine menu, a gentle nod decides it all. Yes, a bottle of SBS please. We always buy a bottle. It’s a question of economics. We get more for our money. In Paris, one glass only. Repeat, one glass. Champagne is ok at any time of the day (it has fewer calories and let’s face it, there can never be rules about champagne). Note: Ladies who live in Paris do not get blotto, ever. Not even when everything has turned to shit.
Rule number 3: Cooking
This upsets me so much I can barely type the words. Three courses are required for luncheon and the evening meal every day. Yes, you heard me correctly. Three courses. I guess the sandwiches I prepare a few times a week for my family’s evening meal won’t cut the mustard in Paris. This is depressing. I’m the kind of person who was excited when Jamie Oliver published his Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals. I guess that’s why Parisians need not snack – they eat proper, nutritiously balanced meals. I’m happy with a hard-boiled egg for dinner and a big slice of apple pie, hang on, does that count for two courses? I guess with a cup of tea, I could claim three courses. Maybe there is hope for me yet.
Rule number 4: Accessorise
And this is where I know I am completely and utterly doomed. I can’t do accessories. I can barely drag myself from my laptop most mornings to get dressed. When I do, it’s something in lycra for exercise or jeans/shorts with a shirt, depending on the season. I admit to owning a few frocks but the whole fashion thing is bewildering. Never mind accessorising. Parisians stylishly accessorise. A pashmina, a beautiful piece of jewellery, a cashmere sweater or a silk scarf are all placed to finish the Parisian look and add a dash of flair. And definitely no cheap handbags or shoes. Outfits should be stylishly classical, of good quality and in discrete colours. No loud gaudy patterns please.
Rule number 5: Flirt
Flirting is allowed. Encouraged even. I’m not sure how to take this news. It’s true, I love to flirt, but it’s a bit hard to get away with in Australian culture. In my experience, flirting is almost always frowned upon unless you’ve drunk more than one glass. Sober ladies don’t do it. Flirting is expected in Paris. It is a certain look, a touch of the arm but only that. I don’t think I’ve had enough experience in flirting to pull this off convincingly.
I’m resigned to being a Sandgroper. A Parisian I will not, I cannot be. So as I fling my sparkly feather boa over one shoulder, I strut away from this laptop towards my chef’s kitchen to prepare tuna and salad sandwiches for my family’s dinner.
`A la prochaine (until next time).