It’s not exactly sex and the city…

Samantha Brick, my favourite love-to-hate ‘journalist’ of the moment has come up with another corker in the Daily Fail. I know why they’re paying her to write it – it must send their hits beyond sky-high – way out in the stratosphere – and from the looks of the comments, it’s not just me who feels this way.

She says French women are predatory man-hunters who are ‘brazen’, ‘hostile and predatory’ and that she hasn’t any French female friends. They won’t come and drink cocktails with her after work and they won’t go on girlie shopping trips. Now, forgive me, because I think this woman lives in deepest, darkest countryside – and even if she didn’t, she’s not living in Paris or Milan or New York.

It made me laugh because even when I worked in London, and the Government or Pearson kindly put me up overnight, we used to finish our meetings and retire to our rooms. Sometimes we’d go out for something to eat – mainly because other people were paying – but mainly, we went and watched telly. We were tired. We worked hard. Plus, cocktails are damned expensive. And here in rural France? Well, I know Izza would give me a beer. Karine would give me a coffee. Caroline would give me some spring water. Céline would give me a coffee as well. I mean they’re not inhospitable, but either they work hard and don’t drink cocktails after work, or they’ve got families. Or both.

Not only that, there are 14 houses where I live. I know who lives in 8 of them. They’re old people. I’m not being mean. They are. We swap fruit and I try to poison them by giving them sugary things, and they give me confits and know important stuff like who the best vets are. All of them – to a woman – wear nylon pinnies – and if I asked them to come on a girlie shopping trip, why I think they’d think I was insane. In the one house I know with younger people in it, I think the husband is an idiot who should be shot. He lets his beautiful dog run wild in the road and said he’d get another one when I said his dog would get run over. Dogs might be two-a-penny to him, but to me, they’re better than their owners for the most part. So I don’t want to drink cocktails with his wife. If she drinks cocktails at all.

And do you know what? If I wanted to drink cocktails after work, I’d have moved to New York. And I bet it’s not all like Sex and the City there either.

I also laughed when she said the women are ‘beautifully made-up’. Now, I go to local cities. I’ve been to Bordeaux, Angouleme, Poitiers, Limoges… just not seeing the beautifully made-up women. I saw a lot when we went to a college open day – the teachers were chic. Chic enough and numerous enough (seven of them in one place!) for me to remember it. Because most French women I know are… decidedly ordinary. They don’t have fake boobs or bleached hair. They don’t have orange make-up or fake tans. They don’t wear fancy clothes. A friend says she knows some yummy mummies – mainly because she lived in the city – but I don’t. The mummies round here, well, they’re not very yummy. I love them anyway though.

Samantha Brick says her ‘friendly hello’ has been ignored at the school gate. Really? If I pick Jake up, I fend off bisous from ten or so mums. There are only forty children in the school, so having kisses from the parents whose children don’t get the bus – well, it takes a good ten minutes. Kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss. Hello. How are you? How’s the family? Really?! Oh! Next. Kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss. Hello. How are you? etc.

Everybody says hello.

Ms Brick also points out that our new President, M Hollande, has a ‘lover’ – the ‘rottweiler’ journalist Valerie Trierwaller – and that she – how very dare she! – stole! M Hollande from his former lover Segolene Royal. She stole him! Like he’s a prize jewel.

1. Look at him, then look at her. She’s a looker. Him? Not so much. Except for the power/politics thing. He might be a whizz in the bedroom. Who knows?

2. He’s a person with real, live feelings. Are men so unable to fend off women that they get passed pillar to post, buffeted from one woman to another? No. They’re sometimes idiots who think with hormones rather than brains. They’re men who never married their former lovers, mothers of their four children. They’re men who get bored. They’re men who might be insecure about their wife’s political aspirations. But they’re not objects to be stolen.

3. Valerie Trierwaller probably didn’t – though I can’t be sure – find out what new mum Carla Bruni would be wearing just so she could steal her thunder. From the look of Ms. Bruni’s outfit for the outgoing ceremony, she didn’t care much for how she looked – and she looked fine. A bit tired. A bit like a new mum whose husband has been running a presidential race. Valerie looked fab. She’s got great pins. But then she knows all the other rottweilers in the media world are just waiting for her to have a bad hair day so they can trash her. She’s a journalist. She knows how it works. I’m not entirely sure her ‘first item on her agenda’ was to ‘put Carla Bruni firmly in her place’. I’m not sure how this ‘sisterhood’ works that Ms. Brick speaks of, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve surreptitiously finding out what your defeated counterpart will be wearing and then finding something less attractive just so you don’t upstage them.

Is Ms Trierwaller such a bitch that she was more ‘gleeful’ about upstaging La Bruni than she was about being the First Lady?! I know where my priorities would be – firmly on not making myself look like an idiot when the whole world is looking – and not trying to upstage the main event – my husband. We’re not all Liz Hurley in safety-pin dresses next to a shabbily dressed Hugh Grant. Some of us just want to support, not fight for the limelight.

So do French women have sinister machinations? Not the ones I know.

Do they ‘bond’ over coffee? Not much – but then, most ‘coffee shops’ include the bookies, and are male-only domains – a bit like pubs were in England up to the late 80s. Women didn’t go in pubs on their own or do ‘girlie’ stuff – not when they were past a certain age. Not unless they were tramps looking for younger men. Women go in different coffee shops – yes they do! – but we’re not talking about a Starbucks world here. Costa Coffee it ain’t. We’re talking tiny cafés with four or five tables and an assortment of chairs. And women – true – don’t go in them as often as men do. But that’s not because the sisterhood is unimportant, but because the home is. You’re either at work or with a young family. Or at home. Women here still shop as a family, still go out with the family – why would it be any different where coffee shops are concerned?

Have my French friends ridiculed my French? No. They think it’s marvellous I speak more than one language. They don’t.

Do they weigh me at dinner parties? I think you know the answer to that.

Do they tell me to go home? No. Because they know how much I love it here.

Have they reduced me to tears? No. But then that place is reserved for few people. I don’t cry easily. They’d have to be absolutely evil to do that.

Anyway, the Daily Mail would do well to remember that they are setting this woman up with a global audience of people who generally disagree with her and dislike her arrogant tone without remembering she might have any number of insecurities herself. Usually, I find we accuse others of what we are ourselves. We find in them the qualities we don’t perhaps realise we are guilty of ourselves – and usually worse than they are. They should know better than setting up a target at the stocks just for people to throw rotten tomatoes in her direction. It would be better for all if Ms Brick kept her views to herself.

It only takes one person to believe that this is how ‘French women’ are – and the beginning of a seed of hatred and prejudice is sown. Women are women are women, nationality aside. And we’re all human. So I might scorn, or laugh, but ultimately, I don’t want anyone to believe that her view of life is how France is – not even one single person.

2 thoughts on “It’s not exactly sex and the city…

  1. Just found your blog via Twitter. This post is wonderful. Your description of life in rural France completely reflects my own experience of 15 years in this rural corner.

    And thank you for not linking to the Daily Fail and adding to their hits.

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