Monday, February 07, 2005

French Supremacy

'French Women Don't Get Fat': Like Champagne For Chocolate:

I studied in France, at the University of Strasbourg, for six weeks. On weekdays, my fellow American students and I ate lunch in the school cafeteria and discovered the wonders of braised rabbit and coq au vin, followed always by an apricot tart or napoleon (my first ever!) at the nearby patisserie. On weekends we toured the country by train, fortified by bread and (real!) cheese, along with copious amounts of cheap red wine. Already weight-obsessed, I was sure I'd put on at least 10 pounds. But when I stepped off the plane, the jaws of my waiting parents and my best friend literally dropped. It turns out I'd lost 10 pounds -- I'm not sure I've looked as good since.

Mireille Guiliano had quite a different teenage experience abroad. As an 18-year-old from a small town in eastern France, she spent a year as an exchange student in the well-to-do Boston suburb of Weston, Mass., where she discovered the distinctly American joys of bagels, brownies and chocolate chip cookies and gained 20 pounds. When her own parents met her ocean liner in Le Havre, they were as stunned as mine were, but for a different reason -- her father told her she looked like a sack of potatoes. ''I could not have imagined anything more hurtful,'' she writes. ''And to this day the sting has not been topped.''

Ok, but why?

The reason behind that most enviable difference, says Guiliano, is that ''French women take pleasure in staying thin by eating well, while American women see it as a conflict and obsess over it.'' Put another way, ''French women typically think about good things to eat. American women typically worry about bad things to eat.'' She says she is constantly appalled that American cocktail parties are filled with chatter about diets, a subject that shouldn't be deemed proper conversation. She says eating in America has become ''controversial behavior'' and that our obsession with weight is growing into nothing less than a ''psychosis'' that she believes adds stress ''to our already stressful way of life,'' which is ''fast erasing the simple values of pleasure.''

Ah, because of a differing mindset! Or, more precisely, because Americans have become neurotic about it. This will not go over well. Remember the last time someone attributed, at least partially, American ugliness (though of the moral sort) to a neurosis? American paranoia was the leitmotiv of Bowling For Columbine (do recall the cartoon, especially), and we all know how well that was recieved.

But anyway, I digress. I have little interest in this story beyond the dilemma it puts The World's Shittiest Weblog's Professional -- and wildly inaccurate -- Francophobe in.

You just know he really wants to tear down the story, but does he risk the tactlessness of broaching the subject when K-Lo is the same room? That's a tough one.