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France's First Lady Opens Up

France's First Lady Opens Up

Brigitte Macron on Life, Love and Fashion


Brigitte Macron’s recent interview in French Elle topped the charts in readership – and for good reason. We’re endlessly fascinated with France’s new first lady:  her new role in the Elysée Palace, her personal style, and the 25-year age gap between her and her husband.

Much ado has been made about that latter point, partly because of an enduring double standard: No one bats an eye at an older man with a much younger woman. But an older woman with a younger man? Eyebrows are raised and curiosity sets in.  The story of their meeting has been retold in the press countless times: Brigitte Macron was Emmanuel Macron’s drama teacher in high school in their own town of Amiens. He courted her – heavily – and they were married in 2007. The rest, as we say, is history.

Macron assumes her seniority with trademark elegance and self-possession. "Emmanuel's only fault,” she said, “is that he is younger than me. When I read about us, I always get the impression that I'm reading someone else's story. Our story is so simple … If I hadn't chosen this, I would have missed out on my life."

Macron reminds us that in France grown-ups, not kids, have all the fun.

Like other French first ladies, Macron is a first-class fashionista who prefers French brands: Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, among others. (Macron didn't talk about her lingerie, but we'd bet top dollar it's all French, bien sûr.) Macron’s look and clothes – the tailored power jackets, short hemlines, tight jeans, stiletto heels,  - are the source of constant scrutiny. When asked if this press focus gets on her nerves, Macron demurred: “Why not, if it does some good for the French fashion industry? I’m really into fashion, and there is this fascination the world over around this idea of the French woman.”

Indeed there is. The difference between American and French women has been an enduring source of fascination (for American women) for decades, and one of those differences has to do with the very nature of being a first lady. Macron isn’t keen on this mainstream role. "That’s the translation of an American expression,” she said, “and I don't like anything about it.”

Macron shares this point of view with French women  in general (who tend to flip their middle fingers at social conventions to which Americans are beholden) and first ladies in particular. “I don’t see myself as a First Lady,” Sarkozy’s first wife Cecilia once told the French press.  “That bores me. I am not politically correct.” (Divorcing Sarkozy took care of that little problem.) Echoes here of Anne-Aymone d’Estaign who, when asked what she wanted to do as France’s First Lady, replied, “To no longer be one.”

When it comes to the fascination that Macron cites, there’s nothing like a stylish, self-possessed older French woman to enthrall us all. 
September 20, 2017