Parisians are like coconuts. Tough on the outside but deeply interesting when you get through the shell. They seem to understand the art of life and beauty, yet they don’t advertise it. It’s their thing! But then came Caroline de Maigret and her squad of very Parisian friends: successful, perfectly flawed and funny women who decided to speak up. In two bestseller books, “How to be Parisian, wherever you are” and “Older but better, but older” they share Parisian life secrets that work for people in and outside of Paris. As both books have taught me a great deal about Parisians and life in general, I’d like to share 10 tips that I believe should be life commandments.
How to be Parisian versus Older but Better
I must admit I prefer How to be Parisian over Older but Better. It’s only logical, as Older but Better was written for women who want to age gracefully. It’s not that I don’t want to age gracefully; it’s just that I’m 32 and don’t relate to children leaving the house and sleep wrinkles that get stuck on my face. Having said that, I did enjoy reading the book. There’s a lot of wisdom in there that people in their twenties and thirties should know but often don’t. How we can be less serious, for example, how our future selves will long for the body we have now, how it’s okay to go home when you want to leave, that kind of thing. So, I decided to base the 10 life lessons on both books, which I hope makes it timeless and helpful to all women (and the men putting up with them). Speaking of timeless: so is the Parisienne. Instead of fearing decay, she values ageing and turns it into a lifestyle. Damn, how they have an answer to everything!
Life lessons from “How to be Parisian wherever you are”
1. Keep it simple
Perfection isn’t proof that you made it; it tells the people around you that you spent more time on your appearance than on life itself. Parisians do pay attention to hair, make-up and clothes, yet in a way that it could’ve taken them 5 minutes (it was actually 50). This is thanks to simple rules of thumb like “When leaving the house, always leave one thing undone”, “Don’t blow dry your hair”, and “Never match your bag with your outfit”. In fact, don’t carry a bag; buy a newspaper and actually read it.
2. Cultivate your flaws
As it turns out, true Parisians don’t work out. They make plans to go to the gym, but they never really go. And if they ever exercise, they go to a pretty park (but never in sweatpants). Instead of obsessing over their flaws, they create a situation that works for them. Got very “present” thighs? Tuck a white shirt into a wide pair of jeans (very stylish). Got a weird tooth? Show it with pride. In Paris, it’s not about the perfect girl, but about the one that knows how to pull things off.
ps. want to know more about the Parisian wardrobe? Learn from Bastiaan van Schaik here.
3. You don’t have to be Parisian to be Parisian (!)
Did you grow up in the suburbs or are you from some small town in the Netherlands that no one has ever heard of (Wijk bij Duurstede, for example)? Not to worry. Jane Birkin, Marie Antoinette and Pablo Picasso are all foreigners that became Parisians. No one really knows where they came from; they moved to Paris and that’s what’s important. I’m not saying you should forget where you came from (Wijk bij Duurstede is said to be quite lovely); what I mean is that you can actually take on a Parisian mindset wherever you are. Or better: take on the mindset and move to Paris too. Because, well, you can never be too sure.
4. Don’t pout when you’re in an argument
It’s true: doesn’t work.
“The Parisian is her authentic self, by ignoring the people that bore her and by giving men the finger when they’re short-cutting her on the highway”
5. You don’t have to always be nice
This was the biggest epiphany for me. The Parisian is a snob, she’s horribly arrogant and sometimes just mean. And the truth is that she’s no exception to the rule. We’re all bitchy from time to time but we’re taught to keep it in. The Parisian doesn’t care and is her authentic self, by ignoring the people that bore her and by giving men the finger when they’re short-cutting her on the highway (if you’re offended by reading this you’re probably a man and you should’ve just watched the Irishman). It would be so much better if we stopped playing by the rules and added a little honesty and bitchiness to our mix of friendly smiles and hidden frustrations.
Life lessons from “Older but Better, but Older”
6. Leave when you want to leave
It already says this in the first book, but in Better but Older there’s no way around it: you don’t have to stay up late! You can go home when you’re bored, tired or simply want to have a good night’s rest because you have plans the day after. This life lesson should actually be a commandment, as I went to clubs and stayed up late from the day I turned 15 (ok 13,5) and I never got used to it. I like to have drinks with friends, as long as I can leave when I want to. And lucky for me: there’s nothing more Parisian than leaving early. Parisians sometimes even skip New Year’s Eve because they already threw the party of the year. That’s an attitude I can only appreciate.
7. Love your butt
In Better but Older, there’s a suspiciously large number of pages that’s devoted to the butt. There’s even a poem! As it turns out, you’ll regret not loving your butt when you were in your twenties, as it’s probably the best version you’ll ever have. Same goes for your thighs and face. Have you gotten older and do you find it hard to accept your defeat? Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas have listed all pros and cons of plastic surgery. After all, it’s your choice.
“Adulthood is tomorrow’s problem”
8. Adulting doesn’t come with age
Ha, you all thought you had grown up. You could be right on track by the time you’re 35, with kids, a house and everything, but you can’t know how your life will turn out. Or you feel lost and alone at 38, and then suddenly, everything falls into place. You can’t know! So let it go. Adulthood is tomorrow’s problem.
9. Don’t go on Tinder
…Then do decide to go on Tinder, get disappointed, delete the app, move on with your life and install it again because you were “bored”.
10. Break the rules
If you think the commandments listed above are contradicting: they are. According to Caroline de Maigret and co, that’s the secret to becoming a true Parisian. It’s a huge misunderstanding that people should find a certain path and stick with it. That’s what makes life boring and disappointing. Instead, pick the rules that work for you and ignore all the rest. For the same reasons, don’t wear shoes that hurt you. Blisters slow you down!
To the male readers that are still here (your persuasion is admirable): screw you for turning into grey foxes as you grow older. And thanks for tolerating us.