• Opinion: The Age-defying Diary of Brigitte Trogneux

    If she wears a high-collared dress, it will be to hide her turkey neck. No laughter lines? Botox. Fuller lips? Fillers. Gloved hands? Hiding prominent veins. Cheerful lipstick? Desperation. And so on. Why is Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Trogneux relationship being put to a public test? Why is it so difficult being cougar? If Brigitte indeed becomes the first lady, she will be under a microscope, and ruthless inspection. In this brilliant opinion piece on the unorthodox relationship, Archana Pai Kulkarni asks if a glorious sex life is a prerequisite to good governance?

    Thirty-nine-year-old Emmanuel Macron may become the next President of France. So, have his views on Brexit and taxation, or his political organisation, a mix of both the right and the left, and his ‘more Europe’ stand fired the imagination of observers? Certainly. But, what is of deeper interest and unabashed scrutiny is the woman standing by his side, her hand firmly entrenched in his, fingers intertwined, clearly a lady comfortable in her skin. Brigitte Trogneux, 64, is the legally wedded wife of the presidential forerunner and possibly, the future First Lady of France. The couple has been married for 10 years, and in a relationship for 25.

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    They met when he was a bright young thing in school. She was so attracted to his brilliance that she braved social censure, defied convention, fought his parents’ warnings and probably grappled with her own sense of the forbidden, to acknowledge her feelings. After all, if convention and propriety are the yardsticks, this is a relationship scandals are made of, books written about and the subject of universal condemnation. He was, then, a 15-year-old, vulnerable teenager. She was the ‘cougar’, the cradle-snatcher, the 39-year-old mature mother of three kids, one of them his classmate. She was his drama teacher to boot.

    Macron and Brigitte were student-teacher, mentor-mentee once upon a time. Today, they are husband-wife, lovers, and equals in every sense, where neither seems conscious of their age disparity.

    Teachers are entrusted with the responsibility of educating their wards in prescribed academic subjects, and any deviation from it, especially of the amorous or sexual kind, amounts to a breach of that trust, and the height of inappropriateness. It’s a sure invitation to collective shock and castigation, even in a nation, where philandering heads of state are commonplace. It is not clear what alarmed people more – a teacher overstepping her line of duty or an older woman ‘ensnaring’ or ‘manipulating’ a greenhorn in the affairs of the heart. What is probably even more perplexing is how the relationship could have lasted for 25 years, when ‘equal’ partners break up at the drop of a hat.

    As if, a glorious sex life is a prerequisite to good governance.

    If Brigitte indeed becomes the first lady, she will be under a microscope, and ruthless inspection. As is the general perception about ‘senior’ women, Brigitte is menopausal, and has outlived her time to be seen as a desirable, attractive sexual object capable of sensual or intellectual stimulation. The truth may be quite the opposite but Brigitte’s age is being bandied as the most influential factor affecting Macron’s fortunes and performance. As if, a glorious sex life is a prerequisite to good governance.

    Foreseen are reams of newsprint dedicated to the wile charms of this older woman and what will be seen as her attempts to keep her man, a candidate with a sky-high desirability quotient. If she wears a high-collared dress, it will be to hide her turkey neck. No laughter lines? Botox. Fuller lips? Fillers. Gloved hands? Hiding prominent veins. Cheerful lipstick? Desperation. And so on. Whatever Brigitte says or does, her age and her audacity and ability to keep her man despite it, will be up for analysis.

    Macron and Brigitte were student-teacher, mentor-mentee once upon a time. Today, they are husband-wife, lovers, and equals in every sense, where neither seems conscious of their age disparity. Macron has confessed that Brigitte and her opinions matter. She still directs the intonation of his voice when he speaks in public. To rake up the beginnings of their convention-defying relationship and the subsequent outrage is like trying to get waters of The Seine to recede to the point from where it flows.

    If she wears a high-collared dress, it will be to hide her turkey neck. No laughter lines? Botox. Fuller lips? Fillers. Gloved hands? Hiding prominent veins. Cheerful lipstick? Desperation. And so on.

    The ‘not normal’ happened 25 years ago. It just happened. It did not try to set a precedent. It was not an act of rebellion. It was a force, unfathomable, inexplicable, but electric and magnetic by nature and unstoppable in its power and energy. What’s more, it has endured.

    So, sceptics and misogynists may go blue in the face making premature predictions about the outcome of this unorthodox relationship. But, Macron is clear. If voted to a position of power, Brigitte will have a role and a place. She will redefine the job description and hitherto ambiguous position of the First Lady of France. Élysée Palace may or may not see high drama.

    Most likely, the couple will “shut people up,” as Macron has promised. Time to move on. En Marche!

    Archana Pai Kulkarni is former Executive Editor, New Woman, fiction writer, blogger, and certified yoga teacher with a keen interest in nutrition and natural living. 

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