How to Be Parisian

I am forever trekking through a strange sort of literary labyrinth. I don’t really know how I pick a new book to read once I’ve finished another one. I do have about a hundred books in my ever-growing “to read” pile, and despite my bursting bookshelves, I still can’t resist buying even more books whenever I come across one that piques my interest.

I think I chanced upon How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are on Instagram. Instagram is my favorite social media outlet. It’s my happy place. I pretty much exclusively follow Parisians, food bloggers, and, best of all, Parisian food bloggers. I also follow a handful of New Yorkers and some travel photographers whose shots of jaw-droppingly gorgeous landscapes make me seethe with jealousy and hate my life (okay, I’m exaggerating . . . but only a little).

Anyway, yes, I believe I discovered this book on Instagram and I’m so glad I did. It’s the sort of book that you can finish over the course of a lazy afternoon with nothing but a bottle of rosé and Edith Piaf crooning in the background to keep you company. It’s an easy read and it’s not meant to be taken seriously—unless you’re like me and you truly do wear head-to-toe black, even in the middle of July, and you drink too much red wine and hate working out and you don’t believe that age is a good enough excuse to go to bed early. In that case, behold, your new Bible.

All of that is to say, this book is largely tongue-in-cheek, but it’s nevertheless altogether witty and well-written. The authors are (according to the book’s jacket):

  • Anne Berest is the author of two novels and a biography of Françoise Sagan; she also writes for television, film, and theater.
  • Audrey Diwan became a scriptwriter after studying journalism and political science. She wrote the screenplay for Cédric Jiminez’s La French, with Jean Dujardin (of The Artist fame), and is now directing her first feature film. She is also editor-at-large for the magazine Stylist.
  • Caroline de Maigret studied literature at the Sorbonne before moving to New York to model (natch). She returned to Paris in 2006 to found her music label. De Maigret has been an ambassador for Chanel since 2012 and supports women worldwide through the NGO Care.
  • Sophie Mas was born and raised in Paris. After graduating from Sciences Po and HEC, she started her own film company and now works as a producer in Los Angeles, New York, and São Palo.

ParisSo, yeah, basically these women are amazing and I desperately want them to spirit me away to Paris and adopt me into their fabulous (and yes, a little bit intimidating) circle of friends. As further proof of their inimitability, they even serve as the models for most of the impossibly chic pictures scattered throughout the book.

How to Be Parisian is, as the title suggests, essentially a crash course in effortless Parisian confidence for imperfect American gals like myself. I devoured every word of this delicious tome like a freshly baked pain au chocolat and took nearly all of their words of wisdom to heart—save for the part where they condone infidelity. I’m strictly a one-man kind of woman, so I guess I’ll never be a true Parisienne. And I’m okay with that. But I can certainly aspire toward the goal in every other regard.

If you even remotely consider yourself a Francophile, I urge you to just read this book for yourself. But until you do, here are a few of my favorite snippets:

Wear a black bra under your white blouse, like two notes on a sheet of music.

Always be f**kable: when standing in line at the bakery on Sunday morning, buying champagne in the middle of the night, or even picking the kids up from school. You never know.

She always wears her sunglasses, even when it rains.

. . . laughing at yourself is better for your health than crying (especially in the absence of any other sport).

The Parisienne does not stop existing the day she has a child. She does not give up her somewhat adolescent lifestyle, her nights out with friends, her parties, or her mornings-after feeling worse for wear. Indeed, she doesn’t give up anything . . .

Although the Parisienne does not extend her affection lightly, once offered, it lasts till death do us part, “cross my heart and hope to die.”

It’s her personality that sparkles and nothing else: the signs of intellectual wealth.

If her wardrobe is made up only of black, it’s not because she’s in mourning. Quite the contrary. Black is the color of celebration, the color of nights that never end, of women who pull the blinds to shut out the dawn.

. . . enjoy the face you have today. It’s the one you’ll wish you have ten years from now.

There is no such thing as a French person who doesn’t drink red wine.

I could go on and on singing the praises of this book. It is fun and lighthearted but also thought-provoking at the least expected moments. And above all else, it confirms my suspicions that God (if there is such a being) dropped my clearly Parisian soul into the wrong baby. I don’t know, maybe Mercury was in retrograde or something that day and it threw him off his game. Whatever the case it’s pretty clear to me that I should not have been born an American. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful to be an American. It beats the hell out of being . . . well, I won’t finish that sentence in the interest of not offending anyone from [insert abysmal country where women aren’t allowed to vote and all the cars have three tires like Mr. Bean’s and running water is considered a bourgeois luxury].

But there is most certainly a Gauloises-smoking, red-wine-swilling, black-clad Parisienne lurking just below my American exterior, and this book was the perfect literary indulgence for her decidedly Gallic vices.

Paris Apartment in the Marais