Having managed to lose three stone in the past year, I am happy to boast that none of it was done at the behest of one of my male compatriots, writes Anne-Elisabeth Moutet.
Back from their holiday blowouts, the French – by which I mean we Frenchwomen – are eagerly embracing diets, workouts and health plans, in order to lose the pounds accumulated from foie gras, champers and Bûche de Noël.
To the outside observer, our menfolk can seem incredibly supportive in such times. You'll hear them mention their wives' and girlfriends' regimes at restaurants, in stores, and in casual conversation. Should they try to snatch a nibble at a drinks party, fingers will be wagged at the Wags: "C'est mauvais pour ton régime, chérie!"
And yet January is also the moment when one more such nail-on-the-blackboard quip might well lead me to murder. This is because Frenchmen don't want their women to lose weight to help their health, or their self-esteem: all they care about is that their arm candy should make them look good.
In other words, you – the woman – are only an accessory. Gain a couple of kilos, and the gloves will be off: if you don't shed the flab, your man will walk out.
This is no empty threat. As Charles Aznavour sings in his terrifying chart-topper from 1960, Tu te laisses aller ("You're Letting Yourself Go"): "How could you ever please me / How could I ever make love to you / If only you'd make an effort / Lose weight, do a little sport / Look at yourself in the mirror…"
In the run-up to their wedding, the Comte de Chambrun, Countess Raine Spencer's third husband, put her on a diet – when she was over 60. Bernard-Henri Lévy, the philosopher, has just ditched his wife of 18 years for a younger, richer, even slenderer model.
Having managed to lose three stone in the past year, and planning to keep it off, I am happy to boast that none of it was done at the behest of one of my male compatriots. (In fact, they'd have driven me to suicide-by-larder.) And even if you make the effort, your Left-Bank lover, with his Hedi Slimane suits and second-hand quotes from Bernard-Henri, is usually so preoccupied with his own image that you will always come a poor second.
Practically all the men in my life have been either English or American – un Français, jamais.
What do you think happens when French MPs are left to discuss a Bill to make their financial situation more transparent? A touching unanimity on all sides – to kill off any provision that might hold any of them publicly accountable for conflict of interest, misrepresentation of outside income or tax evasion.Just before Christmas, an innocent soul tabled the Bill, which included a proposed two-year jail sentence for corruption. This was reduced to a mere fine by a Gaullist three-line-whip at 3am, just before the holiday break – to not a peep from the Socialist opposition. Similarly, the Committee for Financial Transparency in Political Life, an independent quango of nine respected magistrates, was promptly de-fanged, and will only give "consultative" advice. I know you've had problems with your MPs. But honestly, count yourselves lucky.
When Renault decided to suspend three of its executives for industrial espionage (they worked on its 4 billion euro electric vehicles programme), the consensus was that French technology was at risk from "copycat" developing countries, which needed to steal our R&D to compete in the hi-tech fields. If so, it looks like a case of the biter bit. A diplomatic cable on Wikileaks quotes a German industrialist complaining of France as the "Empire of Evil" in terms of industrial property theft, having cost his country's firms untold billions. No fewer than three former Secret Service chiefs were wheeled out here to refute the claims – not entirely convincingly.
© Copyright Telegraph Media Group & Anne-Elisabeth Moutet 2011