# Comme les Français # The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris

The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #18 Cultivate an Air of Mystery

Last week my husband babysat while I went and treated myself to my first manicure/ pedicure in a long time. Being somewhat sleep deprived and feeling highly unglamorous, I was very much so looking forward to the experience. I did have a wonderful time (mani, pedi and 10 minute shoulder massage… heaven!) but the experience was hampered slightly by the woman in the chair next to me who was speaking loudly on her cell phone during my entire treatment. She shared lurid details about her date the night before, her status on match.com, the woe begotten details of her dwindling bank account and the fact that she hates her boss. Not only did she share these things with her friend on the other end of the phone, but also to me and an entire salon full of women.

That would never happen in France.

Living in Paris I never saw French women speaking loudly on a cell phone in public about their private life. They prefer to maintain an air of mystery. They might have a few confidants to whom they tell their innermost secrets to but I can assure you that this is not done on their cell phone in the nail salon. (In fact, it would be much more French to rapturously enjoy your manicure, pedicure and massage- not counteract the peaceful experience by stressing yourself out over your cell phone).

While people watching at a café in Paris (one of my favorite activities) I would always observe other French women in the café either alone reading or simply staring into space (probably thinking about the lurid details of their date the night before!), or, if they were sitting with a companion, speaking in hushed tones while drinking espresso. I loved imagining about the lives of these people- what they did for a living, what they were passionate about- what made them tick. Their air of mystery was so appealing.

I now avoid over-sharing about myself to people and if I need to vent to a girlfriend over the phone, I do it while walking the dog (Gatsby doesn’t mind, you know).

Along with not over-sharing cultivating a Mona Lisa smile is quite effective too. I haven’t gotten direct feedback on my quest to maintain an air of mystery but I do get a lot of curious smiles from strangers… maybe it’s working after all…

Won't you stay tuned for #17?

The above picture was taken of me (Mon Dieu I am young here!) in 2001 in the Jardin des Tuileries… It could be that the picture is rather grainy and taken almost ten years ago, but I think I look quite mysterious... non?

My book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris will be published by Simon & Schuster and re-released in the fall of 2012.


hostess of the humble bungalow said...

How nice that you had a manicure and pedicure....pampering is essential!
How totally crass that a loud conversation was allowed to continue in a place which is meant to foster serenity and be relaxing...there is a code of conduct and loud voices, cellphones have no place in a salon or spa.

I like your theme of mystery and a Mona Lisa smile which might take me years of practise could see me through my later years!

Deanna said...

I wish everyone could read this and take it to heart. If you want me to know about your latest exploits, come sit nearby and whisper - that would be so much more fun.

Btw, I adore the name of your dog. We have a feral cat who has finally decided to let me pet him and I've been looking for a name. I think Gatsby would be perfect. Hope you don't mind me stealing it. ;)

Patricia said...

Thank you for a wonderful blog post. I just found your site and will visit often.
I quite agree with the cell phone issue. I don't like it very much either. It's rude. I like my air of mystery very much!

Carolyn said...

Very extremely crass and annoying. Too bad it happens all the time. People seem to be missing a sense of decorum and time and place. I'm glad that you had a chance to get in some pampering, so very important for mamas!!

Plumberry said...

I am loving your list! Thanks for writing.

the gardener's cottage said...

because i work in a spa i could go on for days about rude behavior, but i choose not to right now!

i also have problems in general with cell phones but especially in restaurants.

we have become a rude society.


Rebecca said...

Great advice. Very timely as well. I am loving the list. Thank you!

Merveilleux said...

It is my pet peeve to hear people talking on their cell phones anywhere I go, especially in a salon or spa.
If I get a call while I'm out, I usually let it go to voicemail and return the call as soon as I'm somewhere private.
I really wish more people would do the same.
I love mystery!

Pug1 said...

I'm SOOOOOOO enjoying your list! I'm going to start cultivating an air of mystery......CHEERS! Michele

Rose said...

what a shame your manipedi time was disturbed. I actually think this is very bad manners, treatments should be relaxing and people may be using either their prescious time or prescious money or both and it is bad form to interupt. I think it is okay to take a call but to say you are busy at the moment.

Still I am sure you tried not to let it interfere too much.

Thinkin about it the French are generally less salvishly devoted to their mobiles than we Brits (we are truly terrible). I think the French think cafe life is sacred and turn to enjoy it and do it properly and good for them.

Charlene said...

Cell phones can be so convenient but not when people are so inconsiderate. Unfortunately, that's become so common. I don't know why some people are SO loud. It's almost like they want to make sure we hear those lurid details.
I'm loving your list and working on my mystique. Can't wait for #17! Merci!

BonjourRomance said...

You are right about maintaining an air of mystery, now everyone shares everything for the whole world to hear. The French are a bit more hush hush thankfully. I was never one to blab about myself, but I did have to adjust my volume somewhat!
Great series full of marvelous advice. Glad you had a chance to relax a bit, sorry you had to listen to all that!
Take care,

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hostess- I love the Mona Lisa smile... try it sometime- maybe tomorrow! People think you have a secret and always take a second glance :) Sadly in Santa Monica there is so much competition amongst the nail salons they tend to let the patrons do whatever they want for fear of losing them as a customer. I'm glad this lady did this though- it gave me inspiration for this post!

Deanna- Gatsby would be honored if you named your new friend after him! I must say it is a very distinguished name and we named him when he was only 3 months old (he's adopted). I wasn't sure if a tiny chihuahua-dachshund from Long Beach would live up to such grandeur- but he does and then some. He's a very dignified little man :)

Patricia- Bonjour and welcome! Thank you for your comment- let me know how your air of mystery comes along...

Carolyn- pampering is so important for mamas- I really took it for granted in the past! I joked to my cousin the other day that I needed a: mani/pedi, haicut-color and Brazilian blow out, eyebrow shaping, massage and facial. Haha. Just kidding- but not really :)

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Plumberry- Thank you very much and I love your screen name!

Janet- I would love to hear some of your stories... I am reading Tim Gunn's new book on etiquette and it is giving me so much food for thought!

Rebecca- Merci! xx

Merveilleux- I couldn't agree more. I would be embarrassed to speak on my cell phone in public like that. The worst is when you're in an elevator- I don't know how these people do it!

Michele- Let me know how it goes! I will revisit this topic again in the future- people seem to really like it xx

Rose- hello! I hate how addicted I am to my blackberry- but I don't think I abuse it like most people. I have a friend that is constantly texting and bbming when we are together and it drives me mad!

Charlene- I think you're right. These people probably want us to hear their stories. They clearly don't get the mystery concept... if only they knew...

Mimi- merci! I think we all need to reevaluate our volume every now and then :) I hope you're well! xx

TryingHard said...

I don't get this sort of crass behavior in public. Why do people think that others are at all interested. I was at a department store looking through a rack and the girl next to me was arguing with her mother and giving her reasons why she couldn't bring a dog to her house when she was visiting. She was so loud but the conversation on her end was so funny I couldn't help but start laughing. She looked at me and said Mom I have to go this woman is listening in on our conversation. Well that made me laugh more because she was so loud everyone was listening in on the conversation. I find if you make it obvious enough that you are listening to them they hang up. I must sympathize because no one needs a confrontation on their first outing apres bebe!

Geordan said...

I stumbled upon your blog from Josephine's site... I love what you are doing with this series! I've been to France several times and am enjoying getting "reacquainted" (sp? - sorry)with it,if only through reminiscence. Any, since I read your post on using the best, I've been spraying my best perfumes whenever I want (when going to bed, for a walk, whatever). Thank you for the wonderful reminder of the joyeux de vivre!

Anonymous said...

You have a dog named Gatsby? My family had a dog named Gatsby when I was growing up; how fabulous you chose the same name! I have only met one person with a Gatsby; nice to not be so common, yes?

BigLittleWolf said...

Yes, yes, yes! (Or should I say oui, oui, oui?

How much we could learn from the French on the points you make. (Especially women - dare I say it?)

Uxille said...

i so agree with u on this one. it happens a lot in the gym, too. it's sort of annoying when u'r having a good time with ur ipod and an elliptical machine and then a stranger starts telling u how she hates her life.

Fiona Ferris said...

Thank you for the 'mystique' reminder Jennifer. I'm loving this series!

I would agree that Gatsby has lived up to his name - in all the photos I've seen of him he seems to be a very dignified little dog. And with an air of mystery, just like the Great Gatsby.

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Hello Jennifer, I think an air of mystery is a wonderful thing. It is so difficult to achieve this balance with all the social networking but I do admire people who can achieve it. xx

beautywoome said...

Having lived in France, Spain, England and the US (where I now am), I can say that American woman overall over-share like mad! And have no problem talking about things like that rash that needed a visit to the doctor over drinks. I blame it on Sex and The City. Women seem to think that's how they need to act now, like that over-sharing, completely un-mysterious lot!

Unknown said...


Again, another wonderful French characteristic we can learn from. As Americans, we tend to put it all out there. When meeting someone, I generally know their name, rank, and serial number within five minutes. Admittedly, I have been guilty of the same. I will definitely endure to obtain and maintain the mystery!

Anonymous said...

"the secret of being a bore is to tell everything." -Voltaire. I really love your book, thank you!