I picked up Ooh La La!: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day, by Jamie Cat Callan, another of the many books out there that promise to unlock the mysteries of Gallic savoir vivre. In her third book in praise of the French way of life, Callan went searching for what she termed “Ooh La La” with the help of a series of French women or women who have lived in France for a long time. While the book was often trite and silly, still there were some ideas worth tucking away.
The one that I liked best was near the end of the book (see, it was worth persisting through all the fluff). Just before she was due to fly home, Callan suffered a truly ugly broken ankle. One of the nurses who cared for her deftly took blood from Callan’s tricky veins. When Callan complimented her saying, “Vous êtes un expert,” the nurse corrected her with, “Non, je suis une artiste” (noh, zjuh sweez oon arteest), “No, I am an artist.”
Here, I thought, Callan had really gotten to the heart of the French mystique. Whether setting a table, tying a scarf, or selecting the perfect peach at the market, the French tend to do even the most mundane or trivial task artfully, thoughtfully, and mindfully. Best of all, no matter what our citizenship, we can too. Now, I shall artfully take the garbage out. I might even wear lipstick.