Today is the 126th anniversary of the public opening of the Eiffel Tower. This iconic symbol of Paris wasn’t always beloved by the French, however. Read this:
And did you know that the Eiffel Tower now has its own wind turbines? On our trip to Paris last fall I was so impressed with the steps France has taken to be environmentally friendly and this is just another example of their efforts.
Oh, Paris…how do I begin to share what a glorious time we had? I’ve dreamed of visiting Paris since I was a little girl and David made my dream come true last week. I knew I’d love it but I wasn’t sure about David. He was doing this for me and I knew he’d do his best to make sure I had a good time. However, as an empath, I am keenly aware of his feelings and if he wasn’t enjoying the experience it would be harder for me to do so.
Fortunately he loved it! In fact, he’s already talking about our next trip and of buying the Rosetta Stone language learning program so we can really learn French. That was one of our biggest concerns but it needn’t have been. We started each conversation with a greeting in French and then everyone was more than happy to speak to us in English. And the people couldn’t have been more gracious. Forget everything you’ve heard about the rude French. We didn’t find that to be true in the slightest.
There is so much to tell that I’m going to do so in a series of posts…vignettes of sorts. But that will have to wait. Today I’m driving my mom to the city to pick up my aunt at the airport. I’m really looking forward to visiting with her over the next several days. So for now I’ll just say, à bientôt mes amis.
Neutrals – French women tend to gravitate toward neutrals for the basis of their wardrobe. Black, navy, gray, brown…these form the the bulk of the Frenchwoman’s clothing purchases, particularly those quality pieces she will wear for many years. This also allows her to have a smaller wardrobe. No one is likely to notice if she wears the same black slacks 2 or 3 times a week.
Adding color – Just because she favors neutrals doesn’t mean the Frenchwoman totally eschews color in her closet. It’s just that color is added judiciously, making sure it complements the neutral base of her wardrobe. A beautiful, emerald green cashmere sweater can add a stunning pop of color in a mostly black and gray clothing collection, for instance. But she is likely to limit colorful pieces to perhaps 15-20%.
Fit – This is the element I think many American women could use help with. The typical Frenchwoman’s clothes fit beautifully and are selected to flatter her feminine curves. Perhaps it’s because fashion is such a huge deal in France and women are surrounded with good examples, but they seem to do a much better job in this regard.
“Aeration is part of the French esthetic, another aspect of taking good care of oneself.”
One thing the French seem to do better than Americans is simply including more movement in their day-to-day life. The government gets in on the act, too. Along with messages about teaching your children not to snack between meals, the word “Bouger!” (Move!) is periodically flashed on the bottom of the television screen. It would seem that the French, as a culture, take health seriously and aren’t offended by government efforts to encourage healthy eating and exercise. If only that were true in America.
- Minimal snacking. The French as a whole discourage indiscriminate snacking between meals. Even children are generally expected to follow a three-meal-a-day eating routine, with perhaps a small, planned afternoon snack (le goûter).
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables. Healthy eating is important and by filling up on fruits and veggies, which are generally low in calories, one will consume fewer calories overall.
- Mindful eating. Make deliberate choices, eat sitting down, and truly focus on your meals.
- A first course of salad or soup. This is something I’ve found to be truly helpful. We don’t do it all the time, or even most of the time, but when I serve a salad or something else as a first course, I find that we eat less overall. Tonight, for instance, I’m serving artichokes as an appetizer. Experience has taught me that we will be full on smaller portions of the main course.
- Enjoy your food. This is my absolute favorite tip. Food should be delicious and it should bring true pleasure. Don’t eat just to eat. Prepare delicious meals and then take the time to savor them. And if you decide to indulge in a piece of dark chocolate, don’t feel guilty. Eat it slowly, perhaps with a cup of tea, and enjoy every tiny bite.
I recently ran into someone I had known years ago and didn’t recognize her. At all. She had had so much cosmetic surgery that she truly was unrecognizable…and not in a good way, I’m sorry to say. As I was driving home later I was thinking about the aging process and how we view it here in America.
Perhaps it’s because we are inundated with Hollywood images but as a nation we are obsessed with youth. We are constantly bombarded with images of women (why is it mostly women?) who look a good 10, 15, even 20 years younger than their age. I can’t imagine the pressure most actresses face so I’m in no way judging those who have opted for cosmetic surgery. In fact, I don’t judge “regular women” who make that choice either. We all want to look our best and anything that helps us feel better about ourselves is fine, as far as I’m concerned. I started going gray in my 20s so I’ve been coloring my hair for years. And while I admire my friends who have made peace with their gray hair, I’m not there yet. And I might never be. There’s a good chance that I’ll be that 70 year old lady with her monthly appointment to get her hair colored. Heck, I might even opt for purple highlights once in awhile.
So what does it mean to age gracefully? How do we learn to accept those inevitable changes as we grow older?…What? Were you expecting an answer from me? I don’t really know but I’ve been thinking about it. I find myself looking at older women I admire to see how they are doing it. I actually have a couple of good examples in my own family. My mom and her sister are both in their 70s yet no one thinks of them as “old”. Neither one colors their gray hair and they both have been sun worshippers all their lives. I do hope I have inherited their good genes because I think they both look beautiful.
While these thoughts were rattling around in my head I happened to see this article:
Let’s take a look at those “6 Things”, shall we?
1) Women of all ages can be the sensual love interests — and not just the matronly grandmothers — in popular movies.
This is something I would LOVE to see more of. I absolutely adore the movie, Something’s Gotta Give for just this reason. (Well, and that gorgeous beach house.) Diane Keaton is actually one of those rare American actresses who serves as a great example of aging gracefully sans cosmetic surgery. She’s writing a book about beauty and aging and I will definitely be reading that one.
2) Less is best when it comes to makeup — but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on skincare.
I’ve always opted for a more natural makeup look and I’ve become more serious about skincare in recent years. Fortunately I’ve never been a smoker and because I sunburn so easily I have avoided tanning beds and excessive sun exposure all my life. There’s one in my favor!
3) Sex should continue to be important.
The article goes on to say that while only 60% of American women over 50 remain sexually active, over 90% of French women do. I don’t know if either of those statistics are accurate (only 60%?) but I certainly know which group I’d rather be in.
4) Having just a handful of clothing items that fit perfectly is a lot better than having a whole closet full of items that aren’t all that great.
This is something I need to work on. I don’t buy a lot of clothes…in fact, David often tells me I should buy more. I’m just not much of a shopper and in all honesty, I keep putting it off “until I lose weight”. But I’ve been saying that for years. Maybe it’s time to invest in a few perfect items.
5) Walking is the best exercise.
Time to get some new batteries for the pedometer and get moving.
6) What you eat — and how much you eat — are of vital importance.
Something David and I have noticed is that when I serve dinner in courses, as the French tend to do, we actually eat less. By slowing down the whole dining experience you allow time for your brain to get the signal that you’ve had enough. I also find that a glass of wine with my meal adds to the enjoyment and again, extends the length of our mealtime. We’ve been doing this on Friday nights but I need to work on making it a nightly practice.
One thing not mentioned in this particular article is the role men play in all this. I’ve heard that French men have an appreciation for older women that isn’t quite as common here in America. Or perhaps they are just more open about it. I’ve never been to France but I will say that in New Orleans I’ve experienced some of that. I’ve even overheard men there talking about how they genuinely prefer women who are no longer ingenues. Maybe it’s the French influence at play there, too. I do know that it’s a lot easier to feel good about getting older when in the company of people who think you still have something to offer.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about aging gracefully. Leave me a comment.
The French are famous for their love and appreciation for fine food so carefully planned meals are part of my French Friday plan. Here is what I ate today:
- Breakfast – Earl Grey tea, small glass of orange juice, small piece of toasted baguette with a bit of butter and some Bonne Maman blackberry preserves
- Lunch – thinly sliced roast beef and cheddar on French bread, fresh cherries, a few chips (yeah, not so French) and a small bottle of Perrier
- Dinner – artichokes as an appetizer, Herb crusted chicken in basil cream sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, wine
FW (French women) do not think it’s cute or quirky to be neurotic. You will not find them talking about how afraid they are to be dumped yet again or how they were teased about whatever as children. FW will make themselves vulnerable in other ways, but they do not self-deprecate.
Another post with ten tips. Here’s one I especially like:
Indulge yourself sometimes, and savour it. Buy a single exquisite chocolate, the best you can afford and eat it slowly, rather than demolishing a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Get the occasional manicure. Buy an Italian Vogue. Whatever floats your boat do it, not every day, not even every week, but every so often. A little decadence goes a long way.
This is something I’ve been working on:
Invite friends over without making a fuss about it. It’s easy to assume that the French entertain quite lavishly, but in my experience, the opposite is true. Most French women entertain as insouciantly (yet dashingly) as they toss a scarf around their necks.
David just made me a cosmo which isn’t French but is tasty. I’m going to read a few more French-themed articles online while I sip my cocktail and then I’m going to crawl between the sheets and read awhile. Bonne nuit, mes amis!
Just a few French-themed items on this Bastille Day…
Vive la France
An amusing little piece from The New Yorker
French Music Blog
Discover some new music.
La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life
A new book which I’ve added to my wish list
And then, there’s this: