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Postcards from Paris


"And teaching her, above all, that size matters." For doesn't the greatest book of all time, The Da Vinci Code, prove scientifically that if Christ were alive today he would be a young French female aristocrat and that she would be deliciously thin? Carla knows that I was obliged, although it broke my heart, to give up one of my daughters, I believe her name was Aliénor, for adoption when she was only five years old, because she was going to have slightly thickish ankles the rest of her life and the doctor told me that it was inoperable. She also loved gladiolas, the Teletubbies and that garish hellhole they call home and, when we lost a dozen hounds who were kicked to death by the horses while we were hunting at La Paumardiere one October, gave herself up to a revolting display of sentimentality (a girl who says 'poor wittle beagles' over some hounds will marry a man who will say 'poor wittle immigwants,' and they will breed similar weaklings in turn); her fate was sealed.

Nicolas, who is Franco-Hungarian, and Carla, who is of course Italian, agree that they want the new baby to be in the image of the new France, at once modern and mixed, less Franco-French and more European. We all loved the Chiracs, but they were so franco-français that even the official French presidential web site referred to them as "about half a gamete away from Dueling Banjos," and they were certainly anything but modern. The French government wasn't even convinced of the necessity of having computers until a tragic 1998 incident that resulted in President Chirac having to spend two weeks in an ICU after he got his tongue caught in a Rolodex and, panic-stricken, foolishly tried to yodel for help. But Carla and Nicolas are already even thinking about names for the baby that won't be too French-sounding. If it's a boy, Carla told Nicolas that she's always liked Coyolxauhqui and Huitzilopochtli, and for a girl, she thinks Centzonhuitznahuac is really cute, but Nicolas looked at her with what his psychiatrist calls a humorless catatonic grin, and Carla goes "Kevin and Tiffany it is." Carla, who turned 39 in 2002, brings a long-overdue freshness and vivacity to the staid decorum of the presidential palace, even if arch-conservative voices could be heard carping as usual about her flawless style when last Friday, to welcome Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to the Elysée Palace, she appeared at Nicolas’ side wearing only rollerblades and an iPod Nano.

To think that it's been less than a month since the wedding and one week ago today I hosted the baby shower here at 60, rue de Varenne. It was so beautiful to see Carla sitting among the mountains of FuzziBunz onesies and Dr. Cindy's Ritalin Kid's Kakes, and then of course there were the presents for the baby. As black is the new pink, and pastels on babies in this neighborhood would look as hip as Mamie Eisenhower gabbing into Gordon Gekko's cell phone, Carla was thrilled to get the most exquisite little ninja-black cashmere Sonia Rykiel outfits for newborns, including an adorable hoodie and matching booties with 9-inch spiky heelies, and the black playpen sent over by John Galliano with bamboo and oak branches and live, tie-dyed cockatoos and huge condors and a real pirate inside. And Carla's friend Christine Lagarde, Nicolas' minister of finance, came and brought a Diaper Cake, but when she came into the room, all of the other young women gasped and shrieked and were sore afraid because Christine's hair can be just insane. But this angered Christine and now she could only be fed with human blood and so they built a pyramid and sacrificed 20,000 people over a four-day period and Christine stood at the top of the pyramid drinking their blood out of a goblet made from SocGen trader Jerome Kerviel's skull. Then she woke up. Tomorrow there will be a darling double-page colour photo spread in Paris Match showing Carla and Nicolas cutting the Diaper cake and feeding each other mouthfuls of wood pulp and super absorbent polyacrylate.

Former First Lady Cecilia Ciganer-Albéniz was obviously not invited to the shower, but I think you all should know that Cecilia is both a mother, and, like Carla and Nicolas, a practicing Catholic, and that she sent not one but two presents. For the baby, a beautiful bright blue book for the child to be able to read and cherish in years to come: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, with dozens of precisely-described lunatic traits highlighted in pink throughout the book and little arrows pointing neatly to the words Remind you of anyone? (rhymes with smother) in the margins. And for Carla, a giant (six foot-wide!) Indonesian Rafflesia flower, also known by the beautiful names "corpse flower" or "meat flower," because it smells like rotting meat, with which Cecilia included a charming note: "Dearest Carla: This flower is a parasite and has no true roots: use it as a mirror, you filthy bitch. Yours in Christ, Cecilia." I know that Cecilia would be gratified to know that her gifts moved Carla to tears.

Carla's justified feelings of victimization over the pregnancy have yielded to thinking aloud about its viability as a con game. "The French won't be fooled," she said. "I mean, they're so Cartesian." Nicolas and I agree that the thing we love most about Carla is her touching naïveté.

"Cartesian, my cute little French ass," I shot back. "Over 1,500 people per year ask for exorcisms in the Paris diocese alone. This will be a cinch." I turned to Nicolas and said "Nicolas, tell her that it will be a cinch."

"Oh my God, a cinch!" said Nicolas. "We may market France as Cartesian and liberal, but Scientologists, Tennessee snake handlers and the people buying monkey skulls to place under the pillows of their hallucinating children in Uttar Pradesh are more Cartesian and more liberal than we will ever be! No matter! France can say that a miracle spared her from the Chernobyl cloud and vaunt a 2007 Paris Court of Appeal decision confirming that France officially believes it to be dangerous-listen to me, Carla, I'm not making this up-for children to be bilingual and making it illegal for foreign kids to be enrolled in French bilingual schools, and no one will laugh because we have so many different kinds of cheese!

"Remember when Hermes barred that apparently famous American woman, Oprah something, from entering their flagship store, and how, after having said she thought that there was something maybe sort of racist about the fact that the manager and the two salesmen came out wearing white silk Hermes hoods over their heads and attached her to a burning cross on wheels and sent her caroming down the rue du faubourg St. Honoré, she went right back to America and described it as an isolated incident that bore no trace of racism and gave the CEO of Hermes a hug on national television and forgave France and thanked us for being the land of romance and truth and human whatevers?" asked Nicolas, laughing his Richard Widmark when he pushes the old lady in the wheelchair down the stairs in Kiss of Death laugh. "Carla, no matter what we do or say, the reputation of France is bullet-proof." Carla and I agree that the three things that Nicolas loves most are conniving, in that order.

Carla's eyes were watering up. "Carla, darling, why are you crying?" asked Nicolas.

"Because," she said, "you used some numbers and they make my face hurt."

This was perfectly timed, however, as Nicolas hadn't seen a female cry all morning and it was almost noon, but to make a long story short, Carla agreed to go along with the scam. Carla knows that Nicolas will provide her with the finest reality manipulators money can buy, and that the Sarkozy cabinet has no intellectual equivalent in the rest of the world, with the possible exception of the Gambino family. She told me she actually feels honoured because Nicolas would only have chosen her to take part in an official swindle and cover-up if he considered her to be the equal of modern France's other great female cover uppers from Simone Veil to Rachida Dati.


© 2008 Louise de la Paumardiere



About LOUISE DE LA PAUMARDIERE It would be difficult to imagine anyone more purely French or a better embodiment of France and French values than polyglamorous Louise de la Paumardiere. Loulou's paternal great grandfather Andre Le Troquer, unfairly removed from office as President of the French Senate in 1958 for having run a pedophile network, and her maternal grandfather General Paul Ausseresses, unfairly stripped of his rank and thrown out of the Legion d'Honneur because of his role as a torturer in the Franco-Algerian war, are but two of her many famous ancestors. Author of From Foreign to French: 100 Makeovers in Stories and Pictures (New York and London: PLB Books, 2006), multi-talented and multilingual Loulou de la Paumardiere first came to public attention when several of the high-profile Paris-based foreign women on whom she performed makeovers committed suicide. Her family operates the majority of the uniquely French institutions known as Centres d'aide par le travail, or CATS, factories in which handicapped French citizens are employed at less than minimum wage because, as Loulou puts it with her typical Cartesian clarity, "they are handicapped." Her ancestral home, Château de la Paumardiere in Boilly-sur-Gui, an hour from Paris in Normandy, has hosted every head of state since Louis XIV and was a favorite haunt of Lully the Sodomite. She continues that great tradition of French hospitality on weekends in Boilly and during the week at her luxurious mansion at 60, rue de Varenne in Paris.