What is it about French women? They eat rich, calorie-laden food, yet are impossibly thin. They are effortlessly stylish, doing more with one scarf than most women do with an entire outfit. They are sophisticated and intellectual, not crass and fatuous. French women just have that, how does it go? Ah, oui, je ne sais quoi.
Yes, I do know I just described French women using a few clichés (great French word, cliché, non?), but sometimes clichés are clichés because they are true. And being a huge Francophile, I couldn’t help but be drawn to Debra Ollivier’s primer Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl.
Ollivier is an all-American girl married to a French man, and she spent a decade living in France. So needless to say, she got pretty familiar with the French way of life, and how French women can inspire us to make our lives richer and more fulfilling.
Ollivier divides her book into several parts. She describes French women and how they view food, family, fashion, work and the home. French women view food as both sustenance and celebration. You probably won’t find French women freaking out over carbs or living on power bars. They eat food that is seasonable, fresh and probably local. Yes, French women love their cheese, bread and wine, but they eat smaller portions and truly savor what they are eating. Plus, most of them do not snack between meals (wait Doritos and Red Bull aren’t a balanced meal?).
French are practically synonymous with fashion. And French women look totally chic. They often do this with a few quality items rather than a bunch of mediocre pieces bought in haste at a huge sale or a store like Wal-Mart. Their clothing is rarely hyper- trendy, but always flatters their figures and their unique style. French women work with what they got, and don’t try to fit into some narrow mold of what they think they should look like. And yes, French women really know their way around a simple scarf. Fortunately, Ollivier adds some scarf tying tips scarves for our perusal.
In the home, French women surrounds themselves with items that give their lives meaning and have an element of history. It’s not rare that a French girl has trinkets in her home that have been handed down from generation to generation. When it comes to careers, French women work to live, not live to work. In their interpersonal relationships, French women open themselves up slowly. They don’t reveal things to quickly whether it’s to a potential lover or a potential best friend. This is quite a difference from some people who have to reveal their life stories right away or are TMI on Facebook.
Sprinkled throughout Entre Nous are factoids about French women like Edith Piaf, Catherine Deneuve and Coco Chanel. Ollivier enthuses over French movies, both the well-known like Chocolat and Jules et Jim, and small gems like 8 Femmes and Contes Des Quatre Saisons. Ollivier also mentions good books that help you delve into the French experience.
Does Ollivier stereotype? Perhaps. There are French women who do get fat. I can walk around my neighborhood and find plenty of stylish people. And many Americans have adopted eating locally-grown produce and quality food over overly-processed junk food and Burger King. Ollivier has embraced the idea of the French woman, but she doesn’t bash her American sisters. She appreciates America’s friendliness, diversity and openness. And guess what? There are plenty of things about America the French like, and not just Jerry Lewis. For instance, the French have embraced our pop culture, especially our music. And I can’t say I blame them. Have you ever heard French pop music? Total merde.
I guess you could say Entre Nous is a self-help book, but most self-help books just lead to more self-loathing. Entre Nous is about loving experiences, good quality in both food and fashion, and appreciating one’s desires and appetites. It’s a fun and inspiring read that you might refer to again and again. Entre Nous is très bien.