'French Women Don't Get Facelifts': Who needs modification when you have attitude?

Jan. 23, 2014 at 11:59 AM ET

Mireille Guiliano, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of "French Women Don't Get Fat," returns with another salvo of francophillic savvy with "French Women Don't Get Facelifts." Here's an excerpt.

Assessing Gravity

'French Women Don't Get Facelifts'
Grand Central Publishing

My husband has had a blond mustache his entire adult life. Except one day not too long ago he came to me and said, “You know, my mustache is all white.” It is, and was, prob‑ ably for about three years before he noticed.

I don’t know what a fly thinks—if it thinks at all—when it sees itself in the mirror. But I know if we are going to man‑ age our aging, when we grow older and look in the mirror we need to see ourselves as we truly are on the inside and the out‑ side. A lot of us are kidding ourselves. We are not seeing the now us. We often are seeing who we were. Or we are blinded by who we want to be or who we think we are.

Truly knowing thyself is integral to aging well, being comfortable in your skin, and possessing a healthy, non-delusional, and uplifting attitude toward your own aging.

An essential element in aging with attitude is taking periodic hard looks at yourself in the mirror.

What should you look for? You cannot pick up a book or magazine or watch or listen to a program about aging without recognizing topics containing the “usual suspects”: health, appearance, exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, medical miracles (a subcategory of which is supposedly cosmetic surgery), and relationships.

To which I want to add as a general category for self‑assessment and eventually some self‑modification:

                                      ■   attitude

Some of the specific questions you might ask yourself when looking in the mirror will come later. However, let’s recognize from the start the power of attitude. It is a magic pill. And people have searched for magic anti‑aging potions probably as long as there have been people.

                                      French Women’s Attitude

Gravity works just the same in France as in the rest of the world, especially when you hit your sixties and seventies, if not sooner. But French women approach aging with a different mind‑set than women from most cultures. With respect to growing old, the biggest difference between French women and most others is not grooming or clothing or nutrition or face and skin care; it is attitude. For starters, French women have a different definition of what constitutes being old. In a recent multinational survey, the French proved to be the least concerned about aging, and a cool third believed “old” starts after eighty.

Certainly in France, a woman in her forties and fifties is still alluring and seen as an object of desire and acts the part. She feels it and acts it, but doesn’t pretend she is ageless. She is comfortable in herself. She takes care of herself and for the most part watches her weight and external presence, but she doesn’t attempt to look like her twenty‑year‑old self. America and many other cultures are youth cultures. France is not. Name the top French actresses who come to mind. They probably all emote an air of grace and alluring beauty that is not picture‑perfect or reflective of them in their teens or twenties. Juliette Binoche? Born in 1964. The still‑iconic Catherine Deneuve? Born 1943. Even those in their late thir‑ ties, like Marion Cotillard, come across as “mature,” exuding an alluring package of wholeness and experience.

There are a lot of young women in French films, but they are not endless Charlie’s Angels, either. Consider good‑ hearted, flat‑chested Amélie (Audrey Tautou). Women in their fifties and beyond are often shown as likely as not to have a lover, sometimes younger. While French women in movies and life may be petty bureaucrats in the office (a characteristic of the French) or objects of discrete desires, in their personal lives outside the silver screen, they revere being “intellectuals,” both little and big. French women are able to quote the Rousseau and Descartes from their high school days and are ready to discuss and debate anything and everything, from the food on their plates to the merits of the latest political scandal. Being an adult is being grown up. And being grown up means losing some of life’s insecurities, like worrying too much about gravity. There is much living in the moment for French women of a certain age, defiantly so.

You’ve heard the one that age fifty is the new forty. I have written that fifty‑nine is sometimes the new sixty. Alas, there was a cartoon in the New Yorker that suggested, “Seventy‑five isn’t the new anything.” I hope not, but it does suggest not holding back in your seventies . . . for what? Or even in your sixties and fifties à la française. Carpe diem.

Excerpted from French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, copyright © 2013 by Mireille Guiliano. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing, all rights reserved.