Apparently one third of all French people are overweight.
I read that in the newspaper recently, and my immediate reaction was to ask where all these people are when I am standing at the checkout in a clothes shop trying to look slim.
A book came out recently which reckoned to tell us all how to be as thin as a Frenchwoman. Well, there you are – I am as thin as a Frenchwoman already. So are you. She may not be the one you are looking at in the street, the one who, when she turns side on, vanishes; but she is the one you have a reasonable chance of resembling.
The only way to be as thin as a thin Frenchwoman is to have her genetic make-up. You may as well want to be as short as her, too – because French people in general are not as tall as the average English person; and nobody is as tall as the Dutch. Do the Dutch also want to be as thin as a Mademoiselle?
Apart from the fact that being hooked on trying to be thin is pointless for most of us – look to your parents, and think about it – why should we want to look like someone who in all respects looks nothing like us?
When we first came on holiday to France, playing tourist, we were amazed when, on entering some attraction like an Abbey or a museum, the hostess behind the till would, without us speaking a single syllable, promptly hand us the English guidebook. We had not been in the habit of thinking of ourselves as typically anything, really.
So we asked the owner of our gîte what it was that made us so obviously English. The answer was simple: “You are tall, you have red hair, and you come from a country where the sun doesn’t shine.”
Red, in this context, means fair; and furthermore, she said, “You have freckles.” Well, there it was: the unavoidable Englishness of it all. The blue eyes are another giveaway.
Since those early days, my hair has given in to its platinum tendencies. Oh alright, I have gone silver, and I don’t use hair colour. The French find it fascinating. I turn heads in the street. Women of a certain age, all sporting this year’s mahogany, will actually stare at me. They think I am being either very bold, or stupid, but whatever the reason, they find a perfectly ordinary head of perfectly ordinary hair to be a thing of wonder and puzzlement.
So maybe the next book to come out, in French, will be “How to look like a Middle Aged English Woman – the Essential Guide.” Because, as much as we want to look like them, maybe they would like to look like us? They are already hooked on Marks and Sparks, and the modern version of Carnaby Street décor, complete with Union Jacks on their cushions and red phone boxes on the wallpaper. Why not long for silver hair and blue eyes whilst they are at it?
We are never satisfied, you see. We all want to look different, whilst being terrified of not looking the same as the next person. We just don’t want to look like us.
Well, I for one am going to stand tall (though not as tall as a Dutch woman) and hold my silver head up, and set a challenge: I am the Next Big Thing.
I wonder if I will catch on?