Diane de Poitiers, the adored and pampered mistress of King Henry II. He was 16 and she 35 when he became besotted with her beauty and joie de vivre.
For many years my preoccupation, bordering on obsession I admit, has been: Why do French women d’un certain age look better than the rest of us?
Let me hasten to clarify: They don’t necessarily look younger than we do, but for the most part they do look better and definitely present themselves in a chicer, soigne, more polished package. Plus, they seem to pull this off with the greatest of ease.
I needed to understand this phenomenon. After all, knowledge is power, n’est-ce-pas?
What do they know that we don’t? What do they do that we don’t? And can someone please tell me why everyone who has retained 25 words of French cannot refrain from using the ubiquitous phrase un-je-ne-sais-quoi, “that little inexplicable something,” for lack of a better translation to explain why Frenchwomen are so clever at looking stunning? Merci for nothing.
In no inexplicable terms I am going to tell you what, why and how they do what they do so well. I can assure you un-je-ne-sais-quoi has nothing to do with it. I know this not only because I’ve been observing them for the last 25 years, but also because I’ve asked them what they do and how they do it.
I’ve studied them like an anthropologist; interrogated them like a documentalist. To bolster my research I interviewed experts for their quantifiable scientific input and grilled observers for their highly subjective opinions.
Not merely trusting my studious observations or listening passively to explanations from scores of interviews, I’ve actually done just about everything les femmes francaises d’un certain age do — every day, all the time, awake and asleep — in order to scrutinize and absorb the effects and report back on the new me.
I am, if you will, my own science project. Starting with the hypothesis, “they look better than we do;” followed by the research, “why’s that;” supported by extensive experimentation, in this case “imprinting” (a scientific term meaning copying their strong behavioral patterns) and finally the results.
The study has shown the subject (moi) has experienced remarkable improvement though all findings are not, and may never be conclusive.
Even French women admit looking good is not a piece of cake. It’s a continually evolving process. And as a fledgling work-in-progress I’m applying myself with the ardor of the newly converted.