So here's the thing. There's no shortage of articles dedicated to that certain je ne sais quois of French women. You know, like how they eat more, but weigh less. Shower less, yet get laid more. They have accents, we have Billy Ray Cyrus and though we undoubtedly crush them in dollars spent at department stores (recession be damned!), they undoubtedly look better.
Now, while there's certainly nothing I like better than the grandiosity of a good sweeping statement, it's also, more or less, a bunch of garbage. (See also: a gross generalization.) But that doesn't mean we don't have anything to learn from our Francophilic* counterparts; they have plenty to offer in terms of fromage, fashion, and, most importantly: First Ladies.** If there's one thing the French have going for them, it's the seemingly inimitable Carla Bruni. (Though, let's be clear: this is by no means a criticism of Michelle -- as far as we're concerned, Ms. Obama can do no wrong, other than her eyebrows, that is. In fact, a comparison between the two is downright impossible: it's apples to oranges, pommes à oranges, Brunis to Obamas.)
So, what do we stand to learn from Ms. Bruni? Well, first off, her love of flats. By no means the originator of the trend, she is, by far, one of its greatest champions -- followed closely by our own First Lady, of course. Though she may be the only woman able to pull off a tea-length pencil skirt with flats, that shouldn't stop the rest of us from trying.
I'm a huge advocate of comfort over cosmetics, and so is France's first lady, with her thanks, but no thanks stance on make-up. In an interview in last month's Vogue, Ms. Bruni decreed that "it takes forever and doesn't make you look better after 30." We, of course, wholeheartedly agree.
Which brings us to the laissez-faire attitude of her love life. France's First Femme Fatale has famously declared monogamy "terribly boring" and made no bones about her preference for polygamy and polyandry. It's not, however, her sexual peccadilloes that we find admirable, but rather the justification for her aforementioned liberal decrees. "I am faithful... to myself," she claims and I say: truer words have never been spoken.
Speaking of, well, speaking, I can't get enough of Ms. Bruni's voice.
(And neither can David Letterman -- she had him at "Bon soir...")
A former supermodel with over 250 magazine covers to her name and an heiress in her own right, Carla Bruni also had two best-selling albums and the French equivalent of a Grammy before marrying the President of France, none of which stopped her from releasing a third album and going on a subsequent press tour. How amazing is it that the wife of the President of one of the world's most powerful countries devotes her time to not only his causes but her own career?
And I don't doubt that most other women with her looks and/or heritage would have long succumbed to a life of content consumption, but not this one. "Objects, clothes and jewelry" give her "no pleasure" -- a fact illustrated by her generally ascetic style choices. Clean, crisp lines are her cut of choice and I'm not sure I've ever seen her in a pattern, aside from her runway days, of course. There's something about her understated elegance that makes me green with envy; my clothing choices are as erratic as my eating habits -- another thing to learn from the French, I suppose.
This is a woman who makes coy seem positively cutthroat. (And, yes, that's a good thing!) Though she rarely raises her voice and seems as content out of the limelight as she is within it, there's a feline ferocity to her that I, personally, can only dream of having. I certainly don't doubt her when she claims to have an "austere temperament." The thing is, I have a sneaking suspicion that it all goes back to her mantra of being faithful to herself -- a lesson every woman, whether French or Floridian -- should learn.
* It has been kindly pointed out to me that Francophilic does not mean, as I have used it here, a French person, but instead connotes someone with a strong interest in and/or admiration for French culture. My bad.
** Also, I'm well aware that Carla Bruni is not by birth or nature French -- she is, quite obviously, Italian. She remains, however, regardless of country of birth, the First Lady of France.