“French women,generally speaking, know who they are. In fact, their sense of self-possession slices the air with such enviable sharpness that they often don’t seem to give a damn what we think of them. News flash: they don’t.” Debra Ollivier
Debra Ollivier’s book What French Women Know revealed how differently the French woman is from the Canadian and American woman. She has no concept of why you would want to be popular with everyone since if you are liked by everyone, wouldn’t that suggest you are somehow bland? Generally, we American women don’t even begin to care less about what others think until we approach our fifties. And even then, many of us chastise ourselves for our new outspokenness since we know that there is a tendency for older people to become less tolerant and flexible and more grumpy and complaining.
Just the other day, my husband commented that he was concerned he had been rude to a fellow when this fellow had not done all that he had told him he was going to do. Greg asked me to watch for any signs that he is turning into a complaining old man! Last week, Greg took me out for lunch after we saw one of my doctors and I was disappointed by my sandwich since the bread was quite dry. When the waitress asked how our lunches were, I almost told her about the bread in my sandwich but I remembered the conversation I had had earlier with my husband. I stopped myself fearing that this young woman would immediately think, “Right, here’s another older person who is always bitching about something.” We have been taught to be polite even when someone is being rude to you or gives you bad service! Sine the French are always outspoken and yes from our point of view, rude, at least their forthrightness is not associated with age!
I think how often I try to cover up all my health problems when I see others and therefore, I give them very mixed messages about my chronic illness. Am I afraid that these people will find me boring and complaining if I actually reveal how sick I am really feeling? When I saw the oncologist yesterday, I learned that the pain I have been experiencing is pain from the damage that occurred when I had the tumour last year and pain from the radiation I had. Therefore, I received good news about my CT Scan. And yet I felt compelled to apologize for complaining the last time I saw him about this pain. He immediately reassured me and said, “But that’s what I am here for and that is why we will test you every four months.” Did I need to ensure that he didn’t see me as an overly anxious, somewhat crazed woman? Am I still trying to be popular? That is truly pathetic!
Perhaps, I need to heed more closely to Jeanne Moreau”s advice, “One thing you have to give up is attaching importance to what people see in you.” Don’t you think that would be incredibly liberating? And yet, it only works in a country where most people are not attached to any religion and are not influenced by moral issues. As Debra Ollivier reminds her reader, the French do not have those same traditions as Americans and Canadians who have generally inherited some Judaeo-Christian values. Since I profess to be a Christian, my rudeness or forthrightness or anxieties always seem to be a reflection of how poorly my faith is enabling me to be a good person. How many times have you heard people comment about a person’s behaviour and show even greater outrage if she professes to be a Christian!
Apparently, I have no answers to the dilemma of how to develop this French “sense of self-possession” and not care what others think and still try to act reflecting my faith by being a compassionate, loving and forgiving person! Perhaps that is why so many Canadians and Americans have emigrated to France where they can be in an environment where you are expected to be forthright and to not give a damn what others think!