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  1. Wealth
March 11, 2010

A Gallic Shrug

By Spear's

The Brits are riveted by the scandal. Of course they are all agog, simply because they’re always impressed that anyone has sex.

“How does one express a shrug of the shoulders in text?” I asked. What exactly is the emoticon for “je m’en fous”?

I was referring to the annual art fair at the 66th Street Armory, but I might as well have been referring to the Carla Bruni – Nicolas Sarkozy adultery rumours. 

According to the internet gossip mill, Carla Bruni is having a flaming love affair, and even sharing a love nest, with fellow French musician Benjamin Biolay, six years her junior, while her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is allegedly seeking solace in the arms of his Ecology Minister Chantal Jouanno, who is also a karate champion. 

You’ll forgive me if the “story” leaves me cold. 

When my editor asked me to comment on this “typical French sex scandal,” he expected me to have some special insight on the Bruni affair, since in a previous life both Carla and I dated the same man, though several years apart. But I don’t. My French boyfriend, who is a very old friend of Carla’s, has the typical French response: “It’s not true, and even if it were, Eh!” he says with a typical Gallic shrug. To my editor’s request I replied: “The French do sex, they just don’t do sex scandals.”

Case in point: François Miterrand. Not only did he have many extramarital affairs when he was head of state, in one of these liaisons he conceived a daughter of whose existence the French press was well aware, but had the decency not to reveal until shortly before his death — and the daughter then attended the state funeral for her father. Very civilized.

In France it is both a matter of law and tradition that the sex lives of public figures are a private matter and only of interest to the public if they are part of corruption or some other political malfeasance. A recent example is the former Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy, Cecilia Sarkozy. When she was photographed romping around New York with her lover while she was still married to Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then a minister, the French newspapers were not allowed to run the photographs and the editor of the one that did, got fired, never to be hired again by any other French publication. 

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So it’s no surprise the French newspapers haven’t exactly run with the story, and left it to the tabloid-obsessed and sexually-repressed Brits to get carried away, quoting “mainstream French media” — namely, a blog (that has since been deleted) on Le Journal du Dimanche, which in turn quoted tweets. Only someone who knows nothing about France would call ljdd, as its commonly known, “mainstream.”

Regardless, the Brits are riveted by the scandal. Of course they are all agog, simply because they’re always impressed that anyone has sex, and have an inferiority complex vis-à-vis legendary French sexual prowess. 

Meanwhile, Stateside, the story has barely registered: not a single American has mentioned it to me and only Bruni’s denial of the affair got the tiniest paragraph on Page Six.

If anything, the French press have been complaining this week that Carla and Nicolas are too lovey-dovey and spend too much time together: they were together at her home in the South of France rather at a farming fair that is typically opened by French presidents. Who could blame him?

I know from my own marriage it’s impossible for any outsider to know the truth of  what really goes on within a marriage; sometimes it’s hard enough to know for the spouses to fully understand their own dynamic. And yet, outside fascination persists. 

Why? Well, the combination of beauty, money, power and glamour can make many lesser beings jealous, so it’s no surprise they are chomping at the bit to have a chance to shout: “We knew it was too good to be true! We knew it was a sham!”  I’m afraid that what we’re witnessing is more a comment on the Brits than on French sexual mores: British jealousy at its best.

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