Thursday, November 18, 2010
30 Chic Days – Day Eighteen
Day 18: Make notes
A few days ago I met a real live French person. She was tiny, with a petite bust and a pixie haircut light-brownish-red in colour. Having just moved to New Zealand she was moving into a new place with her husband and children, and at that moment buying shoes for her children.
You can bet I took lots of notice of how she spoke, what she said and how she presented herself. What did she wear you ask? A pair of lightweight dark-indigo straight-leg jeans with black flats and a soft cotton blouse in a similar indigo-blue colour.
Her earrings were like little silver starfish and I think she wore only her wedding rings, no other jewellery except perhaps a watch. Her makeup was very natural to the point that I wonder if she had any on.
It was so charming listening to her and her children talking to each other in French. I even picked up a few words. I noticed her children were very well-behaved in a nice, friendly way, grown up as in normal, not being silly and making fools of themselves.
Did I mention this woman was tiny? I’m not sure if French women are just naturally petite (slight shoulders, dainty wrists) or if it’s food-loving people like me who feel like a giant next to them.
There is a fantastic chapter about halfway through Lunch in Paris, which I am reading at the moment, where the author describes the women in the French family she is marrying into. ‘They don’t diet’, she observes, ‘they just don’t eat’. At last, the secret.
The most interesting thing I found about our brief conversations in the shop was hearing why her and her family decided to leave France to travel a long, long way to settle in New Zealand. She told me when she was growing up her family travelled a lot and she had lived all over the world. When she went back to France she said she didn’t feel French anymore, as they were all so insular and thought France was the best at everything.
There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your country of course, but she said not being open to other ways of doing things got to her. And of the books I’ve read I would add that there are prescribed ways of doing things in France.
Also in Lunch in Paris, the American author’s French fiancee told her he always wanted to be a film director but when he went to a guidance counsellor he was told ‘you won’t make any money from that and it’s hard to get in’, and was given a list of alternative careers to pursue instead. They lived for a bit in New York City where he was encouraged by his fiancee to send out demos, which got great feedback and some good leads. This showed him how different America was to France.
So what am I trying to tell you here with my real French person sighting? a) my ears are always peeled for any hint of a French accent, b) observe everything about the person when you do detect one and c) living in France is not the be all and end all (oh, but imagine those cobbled streets and wooden front doors on Parisian side streets...)
Do as I do and take what you like best about France and the French, and adapt bits and pieces to make your own life, exactly where you are right now, as chic as you like.