All the president's wobbly bits

2012-05-25 14:42

If Jacob Zuma were president of France, it wouldn’t be his relationships with women or his “spear” that would get the media going, it would be his weight.

Think of the two biggest F-words in the English language. Right. French presidents can F-word all they like without causing much comment. But they can’t be Fat.

At the start of the recent presidential race candidate Nicholas Sarkozy gave up the cheese platter in his typically French multi-course dinner to drop a few pounds for the cameras. Slinky ex-supermodel wife, Carla, also made him give up chocolate.

In the opposite corner, the socialist candidate Francois Hollande went on a crash diet and lost 12kgs “cutting down” on cheese, chocolate and wine.

Would Hollande, the man once dubbed “Flanby” (the brand name of a wobbly dessert) by the French media, have made it to the Elysee Palace if he’d still been, um, wobbly?

Possibly. But not without strong measures being taken to keep his dignity intact.

For example, when Sarkozy was first voted into office in 2007, the popular weekly mag Paris Match admitted to airbrushing a cover photo of the new prez – taken on holiday with his shirt off - to make him look slimmer.

On the other hand, when the same magazine published a cover photo of Sarkozy’s then wife, Cecilia, with her extra-marital lover, Sarkozy complained and the editor was fired.

The French are different. Almost all is fair in love and consensual sex.

We all know now that late French president Francois Mitterand had a mistress and a love child. But nobody, including the media, would have dreamed of breaking silence in his lifetime. It was widely considered his right to have a private private life.

Hollande has never been married. But he has fathered four children with Segolene Royal, a former French presidential candidate.

The TV debate between Sarkozy and Hollande in the run up to last month’s election was, astonishingly, chaired by one of Sarkozy’s ex-lovers, a stunning blonde anchor whose tight white dress probably made up for the fact that she was totally at sea during the debate.

Strict privacy laws here have made what one commentator calls a “cult of privacy” and a different take on what is in good and bad taste.

Being fat is in bad taste.

When Jacob Zuma became president, the French media were briefly titillated by his polygamy. Wedding photos of him and his wives, dancing in revealing traditional Zulu garb, appeared. It was all very exotique, but in the end it was not so much Zuma’s multiple marriages that raised French eyebrows as all that booty shaking, undulating flesh on proud display.

In the unforgettable words of one left-leaning news mag, Jacob Zuma’s wives were “built like Hummers”.

I had to sympathise with Zuma’s wives. I know what it’s like to be “Flanby” in a country where, to paraphrase the famous cookbook, French women don’t get fat.

For a start they’re generally quite short and small-boned, so they don’t have a lot of leeway. They eat and drink a little of everything, but only a little. If they put on a couple of kilos – say, after having a baby – they swallow diet pills until they deflate. Lingerie reps peddle lacy scraps of underwear in hospital maternity wards to scare new mothers back into thongs.

President Zuma can thank his stars he’s is the leader of a country where man boobs do not spell political death-by-chocolate and where the wobbly bits are only in the eye of the artist.

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