Mme. That is my title. “Mme.” is the abbreviation, rather. My title is actually “Madame”. “Mrs.” in the US where I was born and currently live but Madame in my household because I am married to a Frenchman. My marital status doesn’t define me certainly – I hope that I am much more than merely my husband’s wife (although that would be enough most days). However, I do feel that the two new titles that I gained on March 29, 2012 inform so much more than the sum of my hours. On September 17, 2012, I earned a new title, maman. And that, too, informs so much.
Why did I choose Mme. as the title of my blog? I just thought it encompassed everything – everything I am supposed to be, everything I hope to be, everything I am working on being. Plus, this weird article by a Mme. Samantha Brick got me thinking… It was written a while ago and I don’t even remember what I was looking for when I stumbled upon it but the author goes through a relatively brief list of a French wife’s great expectations. This list isn’t particularly helpful (as we’ve more recently been gifted with entire “self-help” books on how to Frenchie-dress, how to Frenchie-feed our children, how to Frenchie-discipline our off-spring and how to stay Frenchie-skinny) but it was interesting to see how many things are NOT true for moi. My husband grew up outside of France and spent his formative summers in Ibiza so perhaps I am getting an easy break from some of these which is great for me because right now, I’m still trying to learn the language. Here goes:
Rule #1: Your husband will always have an opinion about your weight.
Honestly, how is this exclusive to French women? Moving on.
Rule #2: It’s interdit to eat between meals.
OK talk about baptism by fire! When I spent a July and August in Normandy to meet my then-future in-laws and extended French family, not only was it FREAKING WINTER (another story for another day – but just know, it FREAKING SNOWED! My husband denies this but either we had flurries one morning or that was a very vivid dream) but I also had to adapt to the land of no-snacks! You can buy all manner of food-type treats but nobody is seen eating them until after the cheese course. And then, you barely have room for it because, these non-snackers eat pretty huge meals. I daresay, this is the reason French women don’t get fat (I never once saw a pot of leek soup when I was there). But it was really hard: I couldn’t eat the amounts I needed to to stay satiated between meals in one sitting (curse you, tiny American stomach!) and I couldn’t get my hands on any nosh between meals in my in-laws’ French home. So basically, forget interdit and try impossible!
Rule #3: Exercise, exercise, exercise
I don’t know what goes on in other people’s home but I was blessed with a high metabolism – so, not for me. At least, not yet.
Rule #4: Privacy for your beauty rituals
I wish. My husband, baby and I live in a junior-1-bedroom in the West Village of New York City. Just try to have some mystery. We’ll see what happens when we move to France.
Rule #5: Never, ever get drunk
Never say never. Although, for me, it currently feels like never because it really doesn’t mesh well with nursing a growth-spurting, teething 7-month old. I have grown to really love nursing and soon enough, my little baby won’t want it anymore, so I am not wasting a moment. But back to the French aspect, let’s just say, the Normandes aren’t as “stylish” as Mme. Brick.
Rule #6: Expect other women to go after your husband
Sigh. Admittedly, I was plagued by nightmares that my husband was being targetted by a distant cousin of his (or rather, her mother). They did seem to be a good match, he is a chef and she is heiress to an oyster pond. Thankfully, my suspicions were the mere ramblings of a jet-lagged, culture-shocked mind. That didn’t stop me from going on the offensive at a dinner party and now, I eat oysters, something I never would have tried had I not felt pressure to keep my man!
Rule #7: The family is everything
I should hope this is not just a French thing. That said, my husband’s family is everything to him – and it’s a beautiful (and sometimes, frustrating, thing). However, Mme. Brick’s take on this is more about the responsibilities of a French maman. I can tell you this, Ma, Maman, Mommy, Mama, Madre, Mum…. whatever you want to call it, the expectations are likely the same all over the world.
Rule #8: Displays of the flesh are a no-no!
I’m too old for that shit anyway.
Rule #9: Know that people will just drop in
This is my nightmare! And it quite frequently comes true whenever my kitchen is looking particularly swampy. That said, we always have wine in the house. As far as snacks go, we have the granola that I purchased in an effort to promote healthier eating and it’s not going anywhere. Can one even buy granola in France? Oh, yes, it’s called muesli. I wonder how many eyebrows would be raised if I set it out with the kirs.
Rule #10: Always be able to throw a 3-course meal together with an hours notice
OK as mentioned previously, my husband’s a chef so I would let him do the the multi-course mealing. That said, I do have this urge to take a dedicated French cooking class, if only to impress my mother in law.
So there we have it. Everything you need to know to to be a proper Mme. Seems pretty easy, no?