As some of you may be aware, France’s First Lady — although we’re not supposed to use the words, “First Lady” — was on the cover of last week’s French Elle magazine. The news was majorly covered in the United States and England and perhaps beyond.
We were told, not only on the cover of Elle, but also on every TV news cast and newsy-ish talk show in France that this was her first interview and pretty much “everyone” was not at all pleased about the 10-page spread within the pages . With very few exceptions, we were informed that her Q and A conversation with the magazine was a blatant and shocking display of what the French call “com” or communication. In other words her sole goal, according to the media pundits, was to launch a public relations campaign for her husband, Emmanuel Macron.
I knew the issue would be available at the end of last week so I rushed out to buy it (my subscription has elapsed). While standing in front of the magazine aisle at the grocery store as I was searching for the issue a woman next to me was also perusing the magazines. I turned to her and asked if she was looking for this week’s Elle. “Absolutely not,” she said, “it’s just ‘com’ I’m not interested.”
Whoops, OK then.
The commentators were in a lather because Madame Macron was “contributing to the ‘peoplisation‘ of French politics, which in their minds is a scandal. It’s just so “American” they said. Peoplisation by-the-way is an invented French word that means something like crass celebrity reality exploitation that encourages people to buy magazines. Imagine that.
The French want to keep politicians’ lives private. You know, sort of like when the former president’s photograph was on the cover of another magazine sitting atop a scooter on his way to visit his mistress while his companion (he doesn’t believe in marriage because it’s too bourgeois even though he is the father of several children) was living in the Elysée Palace with him as the then first lady.
But I digress. . . as an American I love the idea of knowing more about the spouse/companion — male or female — of people I find interesting. OK call me a voyeur, but I think it’s quite fascinating to have a glimpse of the other side of a couple. Obviously Brigitte, or any other politician’s wife, is not going to criticize her husband. And, of course, she is going to say wonderful things about him. Wouldn’t we all do the same?
I came away from the interview liking her, as I suspected I would. I know two people who are friends of hers and they say she is direct, kind, cultured, charming, and intelligent and everyone, even critics of her husband, and there are more and more these days, agree that the two are very much a couple and very much in love.
One of my favorite quotes from the article, when she was asked the inevitable question about the difference in their ages — she’s 24 years older — was: “Emmanuel’s only fault is that he is younger than I am. . .of course, when we’re having breakfast together, there’s me with my wrinkles; he with his ‘freshness,’ but that’s the way it is. If I hadn’t made the choice to be with him, I would have been missing out on life.”
She also talked about how much she has always loved fashion and is pleased that she can be an ambassador for French designers.
Perhaps you agree with the purported position of the French press and citizens. There was much more in the article, but I was simply thinking about the cultural differences in regard to learning more about a politician’s spouse. As I said, no politics, just mores.