Good Mom, Bad Mom: Vogue's Ugly American vs. The New Yorker's Haughty French

3.30.2012

By Joshua Gardner

An article in April's 'Vogue' has caused an online frenzy about child dieting. Comedic writer Paul Rudnick has a much different take in this week's 'The New Yorker.'

Dara-Lynn Weiss may feel torn between selflessly wanting what’s best for her daughter’s health and wanting to reign totalitarian control over her every dietary selection. And maybe she speaks for a lot of American women in her now-infamous Vogue article.

But she in no way can speak for les femmes françaises. At least not according to The New Yorker’s Paul Rudnick, who penned a short column as “Frenchy” mother extraordinaire Marie-Céline Dundelle.

Compared with Weiss, Dundelle is unrepentant. When her friends put on a few, she tells them they’re looking, “how you say, very Ohio.”

Weiss is the classic American helicopter parent. When she learned her daughter’s Starbuck’s drink contained an inexact number of calories, she became enraged and dumped it in the trash. She once, “reproachfully deprived” her daughter of dinner once she discovered, “her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate.”

Dundelle, on the other hand, wonders why, “the American woman obsesses over every calorie and sit-up, while in France we do not even have a word for fat.” She prefers a hands-off approach. When her daughter was born, she refused to put down her copy of French Vogue, commenting only later that, “I have just had an unusually large bowel movement that will never be as attractive as me.” Zut alors!

While Weiss was using laxatives and trying to score dangerous drugs to keep her own weight down, Dundelle followed the old French secret of only eating “half portions of any food, always arranging it on my plate in the shape of a semicolon.”

Regardless of where Dundelle and Weiss differ, though, they are definitely in agreement (whether Weiss realizes it or not) on one point. And Dundelle puts it best when she says, “Americans are far too concerned with a child’s self-esteem…the French woman knows that to build a child’s inner strength it is best either to completely ignore the child or to belittle him.”

It sounds like Weiss certainly belittled her child—in print of one of America's most read magazines—but, in classic American tradition, it paid-off, with a book deal for Weiss. 

Images courtesy of The New Yorker and Vogue

Tags: Truman Says
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