I’m on a French kick.
I’m taking French lessons on the Duolingo app. I’m watching lots of YouTube videos of young French women who give beauty tutorials and product reviews…even though I can’t understand a word. I’m following (and closely studying) various French people on Instagram. I also signed up for a new subscription called French Box, which sends popular French beauty, lifestyle, and food goodies each month.
I’m not sure where I fell down the rabbit (le lapin) hole, but I think reading Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott really cemented this latest infatuation for me. The book is an account of the adult Scott’s experience as a California college student studying and living abroad with a wealthy host family in Paris. She closely observed her French host family—especially the matriarch, whom Scott calls Madame Chic—to learn and appreciate the way they live everyday life. It was a short, pleasant read and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
Specifically, I’m charmed by the way that the French:
Own fewer, better things. The French make careful, thoughtful purchases and buy only the best quality items they can afford. This not only applies to clothing and personal items, but also food. French desserts, for example, are small compared to American desserts, but they’re made of higher-quality ingredients and presented like little works of art.
Enjoy daily life to the fullest. The French may only invest in a few key pieces of clothing, but they wear their best clothes in daily life. They also wear their good perfume, eat the good cheese, drink the good wine, and dine with friends…even if it’s only a regular Tuesday. Food isn’t eaten “on the go,” either, or in a car or in front of a screen…or even outside of proper mealtimes. Instead, you’re supposed to sit down, take your time, enjoy the tastes and textures, and relish the break in your day.
Present themselves well every day. Scott wrote about how Madame Chic would wear her best clothing each day, style her hair neatly, apply her (minimal) makeup, and wear her good shoes—even if she didn’t plan to leave the house. This care extended to meal times as well, where the table was fully set for each meal and the food carefully prepared and presented. The French emphasis on good presentation isn’t about impressing others, though, or promoting a false image, or being “high maintenance.” It seems more about respect—respect for yourself and respect for those around you. By investing time in your clothing and grooming, you’re caring for yourself and appreciating your best features. You’re also showing those around you—family members, coworkers, teachers, customers, friends—that you care enough about them to put some special effort into your appearance.
I really admire these habits. They seem so antithetical to the American culture, with our hectic schedules, jam-packed houses, junky food, and disposable everything.
P.S. Jennifer L. Scott blogs at http://dailyconnoisseur.blogspot.com/ and has a new book—At Home with Madame Chic—coming out in early October.