I have been reading “The Men in your Life”, by Geneviève Antoine Dariaux, published in 1968. It was given to me by a friend as I have recently had a long relationship with a Frenchman. It makes for fascinating reading, divided as it is into alphabetical subjects, covering all aspects of relationships with advice for both men and women. It speaks of earlier days and often different morals and values to those we consider normal today and is of course presented from a French perspective. It gave me some laughs, and some reasons for deeper thought.
Madame Dariaux remains firmly of the opinion that women should nurture their men – fathers, husbands, lovers, sons – in order to hang on to some semblance of order and control in their lives. And she believes that infidelity should be viewed on a case by case basis.
So…here are a few extracts, taken directly from the book…
Adultery: Madame…it is far more serious a matter for you to be unfaithful to your husband than it is for him to be unfaithful to you, since it is very rare for you to attach as little importance to it as he does. So before you fall into the muscular embrace of your ski instructor, it is essential that you be modern enough to be able to do so without the slightest romantic notion in the back of your head. Can you?
If he is having a liaison which he openly flaunts, there should be a discussion. Futile questions, such as “What does she have that I haven’t got?" (probably twenty years less) will not bring you any closer to a solution. If you show him calmly that he is certainly going to lose his job, or two million votes in the next election, that in any case you intend to keep the house, the children, the dog and most of his salary which your lawyer is sure to obtain for you, but that if he immediately drops the girl you will never mention the episode again – there is still a very good chance that he will think it over.
Breasts: I have always wondered whether the adoration men display for bountiful breasts is not merely due to a subconscious recollection of being well fed. Has anyone ever thought of making a survey to find out if the majority of homosexuals were not bottle-fed babies?
Caresses: Sentimentally speaking, caresses are of value only when they are spontaneous and not performed like a well-learned lesson. But it would be deliberately closing one’s eyes to certain aspects of the masculine nature not to admit that many women hold on to their husbands and lovers primarily by means of artful caresses. As for women, the more deeply we’re in love, the less we feel the need for skilled caresses.
Courage: A woman’s role is to help the men in her life discover in themselves a courage they perhaps never knew they had, and you can be sure that in the shadow of every courageous man there has been a mother, a sister, a wife or a daughter who encouraged him at one time or another.
|Shark Bay, WA, March 2009|
Divorce: “To err is human”- and the idea of indissoluble marriage is rather intimidating….But then crash! One fine day, nothing in the world exists for him except some tall, raven haired beauty or some mousy little blond. He is ready to abandon everything for her and he begs you for a divorce. Is it better to be patient or to give him his freedom in a gesture of magnanimity? I must confess that personally I would probably not behave very elegantly and would hang on to him in the hope of an eventual change of heart…avoid a definite rupture in the hope that your husband’s great love will vanish as suddenly as it appeared and that you are really doing him a service by preventing him from marrying a woman for whom his apparent passion may be merely a passing fancy. But if after those same ten or twenty years you no longer have anything in common, if you live together like two more or less courteous strangers…it is certainly more honest to ratify this moral separation by getting a legal divorce.
Fidelity: There are many kinds of fidelity, for more of less valid reasons. Feminine fidelity may be due to love, education, a sense of duty, lack of opportunity or simply force of habit. Masculine fidelity is based on love for a brief moment and most often on lack of time. But neither men nor women can understand the true meaning of fidelity until they have grown old together.
Fifty: How often we hear of the “dangerous fifties” and the demon that inflames middle-aged men with juvenile desire! There is little one can do to combat this impulse, apart from engaging a good lawyer who will make it ruinously expensive for the husband to get a divorce. But if he hasn’t the faintest idea of divorcing and simply wishes to prove to himself that he is still attractive, you have every interest in giving him a free rein, for he will only be too happy to come home again in order to find peace and perhaps to recover his health, which will probably have been somewhat undermined by the excesses that are really too much for a man of his age.
Pays Basque, 2007 (photo the author)
Frenchmen There still exists throughout the world a prejudice in favour of the French that often surprises me. You are undoubtedly expecting me to describe that Don Juan, that charmer, that great wit, that deep thinker, that light humourist, that inventive genius, all of whom are incorporated in every Frenchman. Yes, this used to be true, but at the present time certain less attractive aspects of his personality are in the process of submerging the qualities that were responsible for his reputation and his glory. It has been said that the typical Frenchman is a man…who is chauvinistic but courageous, unfaithful but charming, stingy but resourceful, obsessed by unimportant details but full of good common sense, rather inhospitable but gallant, endowed with a logical mind and a love of justice. All this is true, but unfortunately the first adjectives may make you forget the value of the second and if you top them all off with incredible self-satisfaction, and pride inflated to bursting point….its not surprising that our popularity is on the wane. But he still talks of love better than anybody else, with less ardour than his closest relative, the Italian, but with greater sincerity.
Gentlemen: It is difficult to turn an ordinary man into a gentleman. While most self-made men are rich in other qualities, few of them are authentic gentlemen, for this requires a certain nonchalance and a habit of command that are acquired only by the second generation at the very soonest.
Heart: I wonder why this rather unappetising organ should symbolise love, kindness, courage and the very essence of matter? To tell the truth, one encounters more hearts carved in tree trunks and portrayed on playing cards than in the course of everyday life.
Homosexuals: In our age, when husbands are too overworked to assume all the roles we would like them to fill, a well organised woman should always have several good homosexual friends as confidants and dancing partners, in addition to her couturier and her hairdresser.
Illusions: In many cases women are much more realistic than men, and if they are ugly they try all sorts of artifices in order to make themselves more attractive. Whereas men tend to believe that all they have to do is to pay in order to possess us body and soul.
Jealousy: Jealousy perturbs more marriages than does actual infidelity because it can be completely groundless;it is a malady. Sometimes a couple never experience jealousy until the day when one of them realises that the other has always lied; and nobody can be sure that he will never know this acid, this tumour, this monstrous emotion that drives people to the most terrible deeds
Knowledge: It sometimes requires a heroic effort to remain silent when a man discourses in your presence on a subject you know better than he does – and yet it is the only possible line of conduct if you want him to like you.
Lies: In order to differentiate between truths and lies one must first have a very clear idea as to what exactly is the truth. At what point does it become a sin to tell a lie? When it is slanderous, or when the lie is told with the intention of causing harm?
Love: Love can mean so many things…a feeling of omnipotence, of fulfilment, of bliss which finally dispels the oppressive sensitive of solitude that everybody feels in a crowd. But love, when you have lost it, can also be complete and hopeless despair.
Lovers: Technically, a lover is a gentleman who enjoys the favours of a lady who is not his wife. The true lover belongs to a race that is fast becoming extinct, for in order to exercise his talents he must have time as well as imagination. A lover worthy of the name will not start by taking your breath away as he presses you tightly to his breast while dancing, but he will make you laugh by telling you amusing stories. He doesn’t have to make you drink in order to make you lose your head, because the little spark in his eyes will intoxicate you much faster. The ideal lover is a person whom you help to create something, whom you inspire, who immortalises you on canvas or in a book.
Manners: Good manners should be placed right after love as the best recipe for an enduring, happy marriage.
Marriage: For many women marriage means social position and in order to acquire this façade they are willing the pay the price in private. A successful marriage is…neither a mating or a partnership but nevertheless a little of both, because everyone knows that a marriage can be really successful only when there exists a moral as well as a physical harmony between the two partners.
Mistress: Despite our more liberal morals there is still only a very tiny minority of women who do not prefer the title of “Mrs” to that of mistress, even an “official” one. And a married man who takes a mistress must have a very special character in order to enjoy being caught in the middle between two jealous women!
New: It’s a woman’s reason for buying clothes. It’s a man’s reason for falling in love.
Nudity: Don’t reveal too much if it isn’t absolutely flawless; thus, when he discovers imperfections it will already be too late.
Passing Fancy: Nobody has yet invented anything better than a passing fancy for passing the time.
Pipe: A pipe is a photogenic and reassuring accessory…many men are making a mistake in failing to exploit its advantages. A pipe gives a man a masculine air and the various rites he has to perform in order to make it work give him time to think.
Home Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands 2007 (photo the author)
Questions: There are certain questions that we regret ever having posed and with age we realise that certain facts are better left unlearned.
Regrets: Sooner or later in life we all have to make a choice between remorse for having done too much and regret for not having done enough; the most painful regrets are those you feel on realising that you have let an opportunity escape; and the most unbearable remorse results from hurting somebody you love.
Sex: If Frenchmen enjoy a flattering reputation as lovers throughout the world I do not think it is because they have greater endurance in bed than other men but because they have always known how to surround the act itself…with embellishments of wit, imagination and tender phrases, all of which are far more effective than mere technique. So instead of rushing to buy all those handbooks (of techniques) that can only result in disappointment, women would do better to content themselves with the men whom they have chosen…and to make them happier by letting them discover little by little all that they are capable of giving them.
Tenderness: The tenderness one feels for another person is a marvellous sentiment that warms the soul. It is very close to love but much less demanding and more understanding; in fact it is often the final stage of a great passion and it is more comforting in old age…Perhaps there is nothing in the world more touching than the sight of a very tender elderly couple.
Vanity: All men, even those who seem most modest, indulge in some form of vanity. It is sufficient to discover the object of a person’s vanity and then to flatter him about it in order to make a friend of him. It is preferable to praise a very handsome man for his wit and a genius for his beautiful eyes.
The Frenchman, Bretagne, October 2011 (photo the author)
The book was insightful if at times, as viewed in the 21st century, a little old-fashioned in its advice. My friends have asked if I would enter a relationship with a Frenchman again.
Peut-être! But not without consulting Madame Dariaux first…
Peut-être! But not without consulting Madame Dariaux first…