Even before Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France, his relationship with wife Brigitte Macron has been the object of close scrutiny and an exhausting amount of ageism due to the fact that Brigitte is 24 years older than her husband. Although Emmanuel spoke out earlier this year about the double standard that makes his marriage a topic of discussion, as opposed to that of Donald and Melania Trump, who have the exact same age gap between them (but in reverse), Brigitte has stayed largely silent—until now.
In a new interview with French Elle, the French first lady reveals that she was putting her own happiness ahead of the rest of society's opinions when she decided to pursue a relationship with Emmanuel, whom she met while teaching drama at his high school, according to Elle's translation. "There are times in your life where you need to make vital choices," she said. "And for me, that was it. So, what has been said over the 20 years, it's insignificant. Of course, we have breakfast together—me and my wrinkles, him with his youth—but it's like that."
The 64-year-old added: "If I did not make that choice, I would have missed out on my life. I had a lot of happiness with my children and, at the same time, felt I had to live 'this love,' as Prévert used to say, to be fully happy." Of the increased speculation her 10-year marriage received throughout this year's election, Brigitte said, "I ended by telling myself, OK, I do not take it well, but I have to deal with it. After, it will pass."
Shortly after his election victory, Emmanuel, 39, spoke out against the misogyny he and Brigitte have endured, as well as the "rampant homophobia" inherent in speculation that he's gay and his marriage is a sham. "If I had been 20 years older than my wife, nobody would have thought for a single second that I couldn't be [an intimate partner]," he told Le Parisien. "It's because she is 20 years older than me that lots of people say, 'This relationship can't be tenable.'"
Unfortunately, this isn't the only sexist incident Brigitte Macron has had to deal with since entering the public eye alongside her husband. Earlier this summer, when the Trumps met up with the Macrons in France, President Trump interrupted his own conversation with Emmanuel to turn to Brigitte and offer his totally unsolicited opinions about her appearance, saying, "You're in such good shape," and then adding, "Beautiful."
And just last week, Brigitte's attempts to take a more active role in her husband's administration were shot down when the French government decided not to give her an official political title, budget, or salary. Although some argued that elevating the first lady position from an honorary to an official one smelled a lot like nepotism, others believed that refusing to give Brigitte official powers was a misogynistic attempt to keep her in a subordinate role to her husband.
Related: Former French First Lady Carla Bruni on Her New Album, Brigitte Macron's Figure, and Living In a Politics-Free Bubble
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