Loosely classified as a coffee table book with a bit more sage that your average, How to be Parisian Wherever You Are is probably not the type of book that I would usually get excited about. But hey, I love a grainy image of rain on a window pane as much as the next visually greedy beast. And god knows I love a decorative stack of books to gaze at.
How to be Parisian reads like a rolodex of treasured momentos that have been pulled together to make sense of the culture that both invented and epitomises the saying je ne sais quoi, but what makes it so endearing is that it exudes a very strong essence of ‘I don’t give a fuck’ (what you think, because this is the way I like it). It’s far from heartless because it’s moulded from the type of callous authenticity you wouldn’t find in any other type of cultural exploration. It’s simultaneously thoughtful and haphazard in its execution. It may be tongue in cheek and heavily sensationalized but it’s precisely that which stirs that notorious romanticism we ascribe to the French.
The French live as though they’re in a film, all of the despairing lows and estatic highs of life are naturally swallowed by their love of hyperbole. One moment their dipping into depression and the next, soaring in giddiness; drinking champagne at 10am and buying the morning baguette in winged eyeliner. The drama becomes them and they simply feed it as a method of cultivating frivolity within their lives.
The playful ‘How To:’ destabilises the most traditional of societies agendas swiftly and unapologetically. For some of the rawness that it offers it makes me think: should we all relax a little on our strict status quos and do’s & do nots? The book feels like a cheeky taunt from the French, as if to say, “For a society so poorly dressed, how can we be so uptight and frigid in the way we navigate life?”
My top tips for not giving a fuck, in the most Parisian way
On how to destabilize a man: actually forget to wear a bra in the summer.
On Humour: French humour is prone to joyous despair, likes paradox, and entertains a rather disillusioned idea of life and love (coupled with the certainty that they are both nevertheless worth it).
On Motherhood: The Parisienne does not stop existing the day she has a child. She does not give up her somewhat adolescent lifestyle, her nights out with friends, her parties or her mornings after . Indeed, she doesn’t give up anything because she embraces her role as a mother.
On Jealousy: Jealousy in a complete bore for all involved, regardless of whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of it.
On Love: The Parisienne is in love with the idea of love. To a pathological degree. Her entire life revolves around the flutterings of her heart. She will: “fall for 3 men in the same week, with equal intensity”, and “dream up a life with someone who doesn’t even know her name”
French Faux Pas: Flaunting your money or being a cheapskate.
Paris Snobbisms: Leave a party when it’s in full swing (even your own), Don’t use abbreviations when texting (emoticons should only be used with girlfriends), Wear navy & black together (or red & pink a’la Yves Saint Laurent).
On Dressing: The Parisienne never gives too much away. When it comes to revealing herself, she follows one golden rule: less is definitely more.
The Art of Being: She goes to great lengths for a pedicure, but wears mismatched underwear, She’s capable of moving moutains but needs constant reassurance
On Composure: Always look as if you’re gazing off into the sunset
On the Essentials: The bag, it’s not an accessory it’s your home. It’s an indispensable shambles
N.B Direct quotes are taken from ‘How to be Parisian wherever you are’, written by Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret & Anne Berest