Editor-at-large of Stylist France, Audrey Diwan reveals the secret to becoming a little more French
In my mind, there is nothing worse than a sadness trapped between four walls, a grief kept behind closed doors. When I’m overwhelmed by a sadness that’s impossible to keep in, I would much rather cry on a Parisian café terrace than in the secret of my bedroom. One childhood friend used to mock this trait of mine. He’d say, “As soon as you have a problem, you sit on the edge of the pavement and start crying.” This boy suspected me of using my actions as a weapon. However, I never once felt like I was abusing some sentimental power, nor manipulating passing good samaritans. On the contrary, I believed that my tears were a discreet proposition, only speaking to those who wanted to be spoken to.
Oh yes, sorry, I forgot to mention: in France, crying on a public bench is all part of the culture – a showy Latin culture. But to be like the French, you can’t express loud sobbing or over-the-top sorrow. It’s not as if there’s been a natural disaster. The tears I speak of are the subtle outlines of falling teardrops, a suggested sadness that escapes on tip-toe. Only those who are sensitive to this kind of communication will notice.
This call of sadness is picked up by those who feel the need to help a stranger and become, for a moment, the hero of an unexpected story. For me, it’s a win-win situation: you get to share your problems, while the other person is strengthened by their altruistic gesture. I’ve always liked the idea that a moment of profound distress can be the starting point for a fortuitous meeting. These moments are fleeting but very beautiful; a time for exchanges that might not have existed otherwise.
The crying game
But as always, you must be wary of taking things to excess. Too many tears can tip even the most attractive woman into ‘cry-baby’ category. You must not become someone who imposes their sadness on the world each morning, demanding sympathy in return, at the risk of finding yourself alone, sniffling to general indifference. Hell, even fate has its limits.
But if you do find yourself in Paris and in need of a good cry, here are my recommendations for the best places to do so. Firstly, in Le Jardin Des Tuileries, on the bench next to Jeu de Paume museum. If your sadness evaporates, you can stroll around the museum. Also, Au Reve in the 18th arrondissement, a neighbourhood bar where the locals love to busy themselves with what’s happening at the next table. And finally, wandering along Rue De Seine, in the midst of the writers’ district, you should statistically have more luck: writers are exactly the sort of people who relish accidental encounters. When it comes to crying in public the French way, it’s all about being on the right wavelength.
Photography: Chris Floyd