I've been on a Francophile reading bender the last few weeks, and I have a pile of French-related books so long that I could be busy well into the new year if I don't burn out, so expect to hear more on this subject.
In seventh grade, I read Jane Eyre and wanted desperately to be able to understand the character Adèle's French dialogue. That started me on about seven years of French classes—although I never got to the point of fluency or visited a French-speaking country, sadly.
Several years ago, I used my limited French skills to start researching my ancestry. My grandmother's grandfather was French, and combing through records online that look like this one, from the marriage of my third great-grandparents, I have been lucky enough to find many generations of French ancestors.
Whoops, I'm veering a little off topic here. The point is simply that I'm kind of a Francophile, although I feel like a phony since I've never been there.
In any case, I've been indulging in a bit of armchair travel and psychology the past few weeks. I'm re-reading a few favorite books about French lifestyle and culture, and trying a few new ones (based on what my library had available via ebooks, since I was too lazy to actually get up and go to the library).
I reread the old standbys French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano and Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. And now I'm trying something new, Ooh La La! by Jamie Cat Callan. It's certainly not my usual style of book. The author is attempting to get inside a French woman's head to find out why they're so different from Americans. Ms. Callan sent out a survey to several French women, and one of the questions on the survey asked what they felt most guilty about. Most of the respondents left that question blank. French women simply don't feel guilty. They can enjoy a delectable meal or a pastry in a café, they can go to a spa several times a year, buy expensive body products, have massages, take care of themselves after childbirth—and nary a guilty pang.
How many things do I feel guilty about that I shouldn't? What's wrong with taking a nap when I'm tired, leaving the kids to fend for themselves while their dad and I go out to dinner once a week, or throwing away my ratty t-shirts and buying something nicer? Why does self-care make me feel guilty? Is this just a me thing, or is it an American thing?
I'm starting to wonder if one of the blessings of growing older is dumping the guilt and doing what makes you feel like you. Many older friends whom I admire are refreshingly free from guilt about doing what makes them happy.