VA-VA-VOOM, France!

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on April 28, 2017

BLink_HTE Eps 117

Muriel is over at my humble abode, for a morning chat ‘n’ chai. She’s been here for a half-an-hour when Bins returns from his morning ramble. “Well, hellooooo, Monsieur Le Bins!” says Muriel, in a coquettish voice. Then she and I both burst into giggles.

Bins looks accusingly at me. Whatever the matter is, he assumes I must be the source of it. But I shrug and point at the radio. “It’s a news item,” I say. “We’ve just discovered that French men are even more exceptional than we always knew them to be.” Bins blushes modestly. “Ohh, it is nothing ...” he says, before adding, reflexively, “Of course, as you know, I am only French in my body. In my heart and my head, I am Indian, yes?”

“Oh we’re not picky!” says Muriel, still grinning broadly, “ALL Frenchmen have been gilded by the same brush!” She explains, finally: “we’ve only just heard that Emmanuel Macron, one of the two presidential candidates in this year’s election in France is a 39-year-old man married to a 64-year-old woman!” Bins raises his untidy grey eyebrows in surprise. “Yes, of course. Why not? There is something unusual?” This response sets the two of us off on a fresh fit of giggles. It takes another round of tea before we can get to the heart of this interesting matter.

“Look, Bins,” I say, “all over the world, the industry-standard for powerful males is that they’re only interested in younger women.” Muriel cuts in, “ — not just powerful men! ALL men. It’s a grand general theme.” Bins is nodding. Of course he gets it. “Yes, yes — but so what? Just because everyone thinks something does not make it the truth.” He trots out his favourite example. “The flat Earth. Remember that? Everyone used to believe the Earth is flat! And everyone was wrong. So: French men — and women too, by the way — the French PEOPLE maybe I should say, we have independent minds, we have independent ideas. What WE think, what WE feel, that’s what we care about.”

“Still,” I say to him, “surely you will agree that it’s unusual? We live in a world of deep sexual divisions and inequalities. Women have routinely been dismissed and devalued on the basis of our age. Now along comes a guy who falls in love with his school teacher when he’s 15 — okay, not unusual — then goes on to remain faithful for the next 20 years! They marry after her own three children are grown up and she has seven grandchildren!” In my opinion, a guy like that has to be, at minimum, an exemplary human being: mentally stable, loving, trustworthy.

“Yes, yes,” says Bins, wanting to be contrary, “— but does that make him a good ruler? Maybe in today’s world we need cruel, hate-filled tapeworms — like the ones who are in power!” We chuckle, shrug and talk of other things. But after Muriel leaves, Bins turns to me and says, “One thing is for sure about that lady, Madame Macron.” I look a question in his direction. “Even now, she has a va-va-voom figure,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “That kind of thing leaves an eternal impact, you know? Especially on 15-year-old boys!”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on April 28, 2017
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