Thursday, October 16, 2014

A French Woman's advice for the rest of us

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, self help, beauty, health, women

Did you ever wonder who is behind the Louis Vuitton brand? The former CEO of the luxury goods corporation, originally with Clicquot, is Mireille Guiliano, who has now taken up writing in what she calls Act 3.5. Her genre is self-help health and beauty for woman, her first book was French Women Don't Get Fat, and now her fourth is French Women Don't Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging With Style & Attitude.

I had no idea what to expect when I began to read, but I figured it would be worth a peek into the author's mind, on the principle of Know Thine Enemy. I am not sure how to characterize the result: if one could say that my wife and I represent different planets (not necessarily Venus and Mars), here we have a voice from another galaxy.

Ms Guiliano deplores the term Aging Gracefully as a cop-out. She prefers her title phrase, Aging With Style and Attitude. Sort of a "Don't back down" or "Don't rain on my parade" approach to the passage of time. After a chapter on gravity, she tackles dress, skin and face care, grooming (both hair and skin), cosmetic use, exercise (she prefers it "invisible", not to break a sweat), and rest and play. Then we find three chapters on food and nutrition; her attitude towards supplements is, if you've been paying attention to this point, your diet needs no supplementation. Three more chapters wrap up matters not otherwise dealt with.

The writing is peppered with examples among her friends and acquaintances, of women not just "of a certain age" (from forty onward), but into their 70's to 90's, who live their lives a mere 60-year-old might envy. I was reminded of my grandmother, the original "Little Old Lady From Pasadena", who might have inspired the song "Go Granny Go", still getting stopped for speeding in her last year on Earth, and usually talking her way out of a ticket. Ms Guiliano closes with an honor roll of remarkable women, from Catherine Deneuve and Sophia Loren to Michelle Obama and Queen Elizabeth II.

I was amazed (perhaps I should not have been) at the list of self-care tasks she brings to a "normal" day or month. A woman following her suggestions needs a remarkable memory. I'd suggest that the first order of business is, "Pick the right parents". As an oil prospector might put it, "It is better to be lucky than good." Thus, my lovely wife uses no cosmetics, and in the last couple of decades, has declined attending the salon at all; she preferred teaching me to cut her hair into the longish bob she likes, which I do about monthly. She does have a couple of creams and moisturizers from Sesha and Nivea on hand, uses sunscreen on bright days, and that is it. She believes the best skin is clean skin. When I compare that with the string of daily tasks in the "Skin and Face" chapter of the book, I wonder when a French woman has time for anything else!

Gentlemen, here is the best beauty tip for the woman in your life, unless she is a rampant feminist (in which case, she probably already divorced you anyway): tell her she is lovely. Do so early and do it often. Uplift her spirits and it will uplift all else. Happiness begets loveliness. Oh, and to make her even happier? Do your share of the housework.

Reading the book didn't unlock the feminine mystique, but left me more mystified. That is OK. God didn't put men and women together to understand one another, but to love one another. Leave the understanding business to Him…and I am not sure He is much into that anyway.

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