How To Be A Little Bit More French
This Thursday is Bastille Day, which I will unreservedly honor. The French Revolution carries none of the rugged glamour that our own does, and the chaos that ensued after the storming of the prison did not end until approximately twenty-six years later with the advent of a small tyrant that the French weirdly adore. In short what began in 1789 was a continual separation of heads from trunks, and bread shortages (which should just never happen in Gaul) and power-hungry powdered wigs who created governments that lasted for weeks and sometimes as briefly as a few days.
The French have been admired, hated, upheld as models of culture and civility, rescued, humiliated, yet somehow they remain and they are still very good at the things they have always been good at and very bad at the things they have always been bad at.
So, in honor of the upcoming holiday, here is how to become a little bit more French:
1. Say ‘NO’. Can I try this on? Can I get a refill? Is there a bathroom nearby? Is this the right train? Is this the way to the Louvre? Do you have any croissants? Does this hotel room have a private bath? Can you stop smoking in my vicinity? Do you speak English? No, no, no, no. The French learned long ago that saying ‘no’ is a form of power that the rest of the world rarely exercises. Why should you help anyone, ever? Why should you suck up to the government? Why shouldn’t you skip work and protest in the streets?
2. Demand more vacation time. My parents were recently telling me that they met a couple, both bankers, who have somehow accumulated ten weeks of paid vacation per year. Ten weeks, also known as a fifth of the year. A fifth of the year the bank pays this couple to do whatever the hell they want. I don’t know about you, but I could definitely get used to that. You could practically take a week off every month. You could work three days a week if you wanted to.
3. Be really into Bill Clinton. WWBCD?
4. Never get drunk in public. If the French get wasted (research has thus far been inconclusive), they definitely don’t do it where people outside of their intimate circle can see them. The bar is a place for intelligent conversation, for the composition of brilliant novels, for the sipping of Perrier, for the watching of sporting events. It is not a place in which to forget yourself.*
5. Keep your windows closed in the summer. There might a draft. Or several drafts. And if that small current of air touches you, your throat will close up and you will die. Or at the very least you’ll be in bed for weeks with some sort of flu. It’s a good thing there’s a pharmacy on every corner. Maybe we should go to the doctor, to see if we can prevent drafts.
6. Wear the same clothes every day. Your shirt is not dirty if you have only worn it once. That’s why we invented perfume. You spill things on your clothes? Then learn how to eat.
7. Be suspicious of everything. Sarkozy? Starbucks? North Africans? The educational system? The bakery you don’t go to? The left? The right? The middle? Americans? People who get drunk in public?
8. Look awesome all the time. White cotton socks, as far as we are concerned, have never existed outside of the gymnasium. Brown and black always go together. There is no shame in carrying a handbag regardless of your gender. Nobody really cares what your hair looks like.
9. Curse attractively. Merde!
10. Be the creator of the Mille-Feuille. In other words, know how to make the only thing on earth that is really worth eating more than once.
* Exceptions: New Year’s Eve, the Festival of Music (June 21).