Author: juanitafrances

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: NOT the Basic Bitch’s Guide to Life


I didn’t intend to write a review of How to Be Parisian as I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. I also didn’t intend to write a review because, really, who reviews books where the content is written purely as a pick-me-up, to create laughter amongst sisters or girlfriends on a birthday or long-delayed run-in, or simply to add storytelling to the Francophile’s daydream? I bought this book as a bedtime read that would take me back to the balconies spilling over Rue de Cassette in the 6th. Apparently others purchased the book to serve as a self-help handbook in curing twenty-something (or maybe even thirty, forty, fifty-something) loneliness and wanderlust.

In purchasing this book online for a colleague, I noticed a review on Amazon that ripped it a good one so I clicked on the “1 star” reviews to see what was causing people to be so up in arms. To give you a few colorful reviews: “This is a book on how to be pretentious;” “Vapid and vacuous;” and, my personal favorite, “The book takes the term ‘Basic Bitch’ to a whole new level and is probably the bible for this type of shallow, manipulative, insecure woman. A real woman would NEVER take any of this advice unless she wanted her life to go up in flames.”

I’m not typically someone who rants, but this last comment made me laugh. Sure, call me a “basic bitch,” but no shit that most people aren’t taking it all seriously, and, if your reason for reading this book was to find enlightenment in how to be a woman experiencing growing pains that aren’t in your knees, I suggest you pick up Proust (yes, in English is fine). Albeit not what many readers were apparently seeking as a full-on spiritual enlightenment, this is a book you keep on your nightstand or coffee table to glance at before getting ready for a night out. It’s a book to remind you that you’re not alone when you’re spending a Saturday night in wool socks with your retainer in and Vaseline on your face because you just don’t feel like being social. It’s a book to read on a plane to excite you for adventure– whether you’re actually headed to the land of fromage or to a cultureless pit in northwest Texas to visit your grandfather. It’s a book to remind you (correct me if I’m wrong on the targeted audience here) that you’re a human who’s curious, a human with a sex drive, and that you can be a lover of life’s beauty who often gets lost in yourself.

From cover to cover, I found every bit of How to Be Parisian charming– even the photos of unworldly Caroline De Maigret, whom I loathe for her ability to pull of bed head with trousers and an oversized sweater and not look like a troll. Yes, ladies, we’re all jealous of her sapphic nature and perfect bone structure, but, no, we do not believe that she’s pushing through her late 30’s on cigarettes, champagne, and a spritz of cold water on her tits in the morning. The quips about frivolousness, about being selfish and irrational are about embracing love and life– from the bedroom to a dinner party. It’s about the unnoticed moments between the big moments, and embracing them as yours. Most of all, it’s about making life up as you go along.

I don’t care what you say, but male, female, gay, or straight, we all have a little bit of a romantic (and, more often than we’d like to admit, an egotist) inside. Regardless of our age, we’re either seeking love or lust in our lovers or in ourselves, and, if we’re not, we’re looking for how we can shake out our furrowed brows, loosen our assholes when we get stiff and just, well, live. This book isn’t basic, it’s about embracing the basics. It’s not vain; it’s about building from the ground up– appreciating your friends, your lovers, your stature, your energy, et al. It’s not basic; it’s about embracing the basics and, call me corny, appreciating the beauty of the small things.

At the risk of negating my entire argument, I want to answer the age old question, “Do French girls do it better?” Yes. Why? Pardon my being trite in saying “pardon my French”, but I’d argue that this book confirms that they don’t give a fuck and it seems to be working. They build out a personal foundation and that is their focus. Think of the old world architecture in Paris– it’s stuck around for a reason.

To all you naysayers out there, I suggest you lighten up in your reading and take a tip from the Parisian playbook: be frivolous and buy the pretty skivvies once in a while (or the sweatpants, if that’s your deal); wear lipstick or your glasses when you want to, even if you’re alone; and, most of all, stop searching for yourself in what is someone else’s memoir.


Getting Stiffed: An Open Letter to Rheumatoid Arthritis


To what feels like a rigid death sentence that’s settled into my joints,

Thank you for confirming that I’m 25 going on 90 and making all (yes, all) conversations of the geriatric demographic informative, interesting, and relatable. I feel so mature! However, I still can’t quite figure out how to pitch this engaging bit I just learned about Glucosamine to someone my own age because #DMARDs and #successfultotalhip aren’t really trending on Twitter.

Thank you for teaching me what a three-day hangover and full-body paralysis feel like after a bottle of wine. Startup idea: an adult-sized, sound-proof incubator with the temp at a steady 90 degrees and the barometer at 60. Wait, is that a coffin?

Thank you for alienating me from boyfriends and making them think I have intimacy issues when really I just have some morning stiffness of my own. Telling someone that your cartilage is rapidly eroding with a TMJ-induced side-lisp isn’t exactly pillow talk.

Thank you for teaching me how to put on and take off a bra with only my non-dominant hand. Give me a five-clasper, Victoria’s Secret. Bring it on. Teenage boys have nothing on me.

Thank you for introducing me to senior yoga. God I feel good after those classes. Tight, limber, youthful. I may still be trying to figure out how to derail some persistent, grizzled veterans interested in setting me up with their grandsons, but those classes have taught me what an olympian feels like after winning gold. Victorious.

Thank you for making my father proud, and teaching me how to step towards consciously purchasing shoes. Albeit humbling and humiliating to feel like a summer camp craft time instructor in the office every day, I’m proud to say that I did not buy those gorgeous Rodarte gold heeled booties and just invested in orthotics with arch support. We may have to return to this when sneakers are no longer an acceptable pairing with dresses, but I guess for now we can say that I’m dressing “maturely.”

Thank you for teaching me to lighten up in my attempt to loosen up and giving me the guts to go to a clothing-optional public steam bath. This experience taught me that I can find my inner quiet place and be comfortable enough around bushes more overgrown than Grey Gardens to actually strip down and enjoy the heat. While my wrists may be getting lumpy, I felt like a Brazilian supermodel– something every girl needs to feel once in a while. From this I learned that one actually can be overdressed in a bikini and that a steam bath is actually a “steam bath”…one where no one swipes left.

On another aquatic note, thank you so much for that morning you made me feel like a pedophile at the pool when I had to enter through the kids area to get to the lap lanes. It’s rather awkward to wade through children in water wings and nose plugs with their waspy parents already nervous that their child might drown.

Thank you for reaffirming my fear of needles and making me feel like a psychopath avoiding their lithium at least once a week when it comes time for that spoonful of sugar. You’ve heightened my creativity and ability to make up excuses, one after another, for two hours every Sunday afternoon. Call me neurotic, but I still think that wearing tight denim on DMARD-day could result in a recipe for disaster worse than ebola.

Speaking of skinny jeans, thank you for making me look cool around all of my gluten-free, Vegan, and Paleo friends. Thanks to dietary recommendations for when you come to dinner, I know all of the suggested anti-inflammatory foods and look really hip and knowledgeable about what we “should be eating in 2014.”

Finally, thank you for teaching me some powerful self control to not sell the year’s supply of expired narcotics that I have in store from every doctor giving me an “emergency” supply. Do you know how many pairs of shoes this could fund? I probably should just spec out the IPOs for some of the new drugs they’re coming out with and go all in.

Not sure how long you intend to hang around, but I salute you for your insistence upon keeping this relationship interesting and inflamed.

Can’t wait to see what else you have up your sleeve,
(A sometimes active person whose body you’re currently using as your quay.)