Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aging attitudes

(French actresses Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Devenue)

One thing I particularly admire about the French is their unapologetic attitude to female aging. Yes. They still have a lot of models ages 18-24. And, they still glorify the youthful female form. But what's different than in the States, as I have learned, is that they also hold the older sexy woman up as something to be praised. She isn't hiding in the shadows with a "Mom" haircut. She isn't called a "cougar" (I think a very insulting term) just because she may like a younger man here and there. She is sexy in her own right to the French, and her wisdom, courage, intellect, and grace are acknowledged. She isn't invisible.
All too often, the more I read about the good parts about being French and living in France, the more the bad parts of the U.S. are highlighted to me. Of course, there are great things about the country I live in, but there are also bad things. We are bombarded on a day to day basis with young and nubile early 20 somethings and yes, late 20-somethings and early 30-somethings. Yes, it is natural, especially for men, to glorify these girls. They are after all, in their most fertile years. So, it goes along with reproduction and nature. However, if this were the only excuse to totally ignore older women or simply call them "cougars" then France would be doing the same thing. I think, here in America, people could learn a thing or two from the French when it comes to how we treat our women.
The French, although, some American women may see the men as pushy, LOVE women. There is such a love of women, in all her forms, a woman, Marianne, is the symbol of France! It seems, that although there are the bad sides to the fashion industry--not just in France but in every country, the overall good side to the representation of women in France is there is more acceptance of all ages.
Living in such an ageist culture as the U.S. (yes, I know I am only 26) can be daunting for a woman. It is refreshing to know, that any reasonably attractive woman of any age, with something interesting to say, is valued in France. Living French, in this way, many in the States would do well to do. Perhaps, that would help more women to truly realize their life has not ended past the age of 35. It's only half way there!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Confidence in your decisions

Symbol of France Marianne

One thing I have noticed in my readings about French women is they are so confident. They are in their ability to look good and still natural, say what they think, walk away from a situation they don't like--whether it be at work or in a relationship, and they make no apologies for it! In some aspects of my life, this is easy. In others...not so much.
I always find myself second guessing when it comes to friends or romantic relationships. Could I have done better? What is it that I could do better? Rather than also look equally or more at the other person, I always rethink, requestion, reanalyze the situation. Lately, with Buddhist inspiration, and adding French flair, I've been trying not to do this. However, being a certain way almost 27 years of my life has made old habits hard to break. Why is that, according to these books I read, French women can demand what they want and just walk away more easily from difficult relationships than most American women can? Where do they get this unapologetic attitude? I want that. I want that strength. Don't get me wrong, when a man on the street comes at me with a tone or a woman tries to walk all over me, I stand up and declare my refusal to put up with it. I'm not talking about those things. I'm talking about those personal relationships that you've been in for a while--that get uncomfortable, hurtful, even painful, and when the time comes, for some reason it's hard to let go.
Of course, I am majorly generalizing here, as American women can be strong and unapologetic, and French women can be indecisive and worried. However, as whole, there seems to be more French women in the first category. I'm hoping to understand this by reading more and trying to emulate this behavior through meditation.
What's their secret? Why do they do this? How do they do this? How can I do this in my own life and not look back so much? These are the questions I am trying to answer. These are the things I need to do not just to learn to let go but to really see what it's like to live on my terms. My rules. It's my life after all. Shouldn't I be making them?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taking each day as it comes

Living French, so far to me, means most of all living one day at a time. I no longer try to accelerate the pace of my life with worry, doubt, and frustration. I no longer look back at the past as much. I generally, now, try to enjoy every passing moment in this day that I can.
Of course, I am not perfect. I still do these bad things, but not as much. Perhaps, it is the French books I have been reading. Perhaps, it is just knowing I will turn 27 in September, so a sense of maturity lingers in me with the knowledge that 30 will be soon. Perhaps, it's also that I don't have the perfect job, the husband, the kids, that I just "knew" I'd have as a beaming 21 year old. With life, comes the unexpected and the unplanned. Living French, it seems, is to enjoy those aspects.
The French, in general, from what I have learned, feel less of a pressure to marry and do not place such a high emphasis on career that Americans do. Unfortunately, this is something I do feel pressure to do every day; and unlike a French girl who is truly French, I am living in America. Marriage and children and great jobs with high salaries are the "have it all" that many American women feel the pressure to have, in a bad or good economy, whether they like it or not.
Learning to be French, helps me to escape these pressures--to remember what it is to really understand what life is about. Having good friends, a good lover boyfriend or husband (or a few), enjoying the sights I see, the food I eat, and having something intelligent and passionate to say about life. I have all of these things, but every so often I feel a sense of insecurity or that typical American feeling of never having enough.
Then I think, maybe I am not just living French, but I am really trying to live Buddhist. After all, I have been reading books about Buddhism like "The energy of Prayer" and "Peace is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh, who ironically has a sanctuary in Southern France. Perhaps, this is something I have been truly striving for in my journey to be more French, simplicity, in the Buddhist kind of way. Each day is a new day to be aware of and accept, no matter what. To take it as it comes. To enjoy it. To let it pass. Then to see the next day and the next...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

French things: the expenses

Finding French things can be a bit much on the pocket. As an American, living a French lifestyle can be rather expensive. For instance, getting things like apertif and digestif and fresh ingredients would be affordable in France. However, in America, the land of excess and high calorie food with little nutrition, buying fresh is an expensive luxury, and drinking before and after a meal for other purposes is almost unheard of.
As a result, it is costly. So, I suppose I'll have to improvise, since my budget is tight and find ways to live French with an American girl's budget. I suppose that's the point though, enjoying a simple life where I relax, eat and enjoy my food, rest, and take life as it comes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A very good little film

Mr. Hulot in Mr. Hulot's Holiday
Mr. Bean in Mr. Bean's Holiday

The movie I watched the other night, Mr. Hulot's Holiday, was very entertaining. All in black and white, with very little dialog, it was hilarious. I have to say, I really enjoyed myself. Not only that, but it reminded me a bit of Mr. Bean or more accurately, Mr. Bean's Holiday. Mr. Bean, being an English show/movie franchise, about a bumbling but harmless fool who disaster always follows seems to have been taking from this old French film. Ah, the rivalry of the English and French--even with fictional characters! There is always a little competition between the two, because everyone knows, the French and the English have a love/hate kind of relationship.
I actually prefer Mr. Hulot to Mr. Bean, although, I do like Mr. Bean. With less dialog in Mr. Hulot, and the time period (which was around the 1940s in the movie) the mishaps he has and accidents he causes are actually more humorous than when these same things are set in modern times. Overall, a nice little movie.
I also would like to watch Coco Avant Chanel. I absolutely respect her for what she contributed to women as far as making us feel that we can be more comfortable and wear what we like--not always what pleases the men. (Hence, Ms. Chanel's contribution to helping make the corset go out of style). This is a film that I think I will order from On Demand on my t.v. this week.
As for living more French, other than watching French films, I have to refresh myself a bit and get more ideas. I was walking everywhere yesterday, everywhere, because I had a day off. My thoughts alluded me and I kept thinking of what I can do next that's French. Then, I realized that my act of obsessing and planning was very un-French. I was not being relaxed enough.
So, I'm going to get some new ideas and try them out. Then, of course, I'll write about how they went.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Cooking, Seeing a movie etc...

(Eiffel tower apron)

I have been on a bit of a vacation from this blog for a while. Well, it was more of a sick vacation, as I didn't feel well the last week I didn't write. However, now finally back to feeling better, I have been back to cooking--something I have always loved. However, I now more than ever, cook everything from scratch and from the best ingredients I can afford.
I do not always make French dishes. On the contrary, I make French dishes, but also Italian, Asian, Indian, American etc. What I do differently while "living French" is I make sure to use butter not vegetable oil (which by the way I have never used--it used to be the healthier version, canola oil). I always always make sure to have a balanced meal. I also take more time to make a nice place setting to eat together, as I want to really enjoy my food. According to the book Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl, this is a very French thing to do. Sitting down to eat, enjoying the food. And, not to insult anyone who may read or who has written a book about a French woman's diet, I want to make it clear I am not eating this way in hope that I'll lose a few. I am a healthy size 6/8 and proud of it. If I lose weight, that's life. If I don't, that's life. C'est la vie. I don't aspire to be stick thin, as the only time I was stick thin (between 21 and 23) was because I was literally starving myself in the dorm I lived in my college, since the food was so bad. I love food! I just couldn't find anything edible in my college, nor did I have the money to buy things to cook. So, naturally, I gained a little bit of weight cooking all my own things when I lived on my own and had a job to buy good food. I actually ate healthier, but I ate more, so I gained a bit of weight. I'm still small, but curvy and I like it that way. So, to make a long story short, paying attention to the quality in my ingredients even more than I have been doing is a benefit because I think it's healthy, but I don't care if I lose weight or not, as long as my clothes fit and I maintain my current weight. I am happy with the way I look now. And isn't that supposed to be a French saying, too? Joie de vivre? Enjoying life in this moment, just the way things are, just the way I am. I'm finding the joy in life, and how can someone find any joy in life if they don't enjoy food?
I also cut my bangs! I love them so much, and now going back to something more like my natural color, bringing my bangs back, and being more natural with my look, I actually feel more like myself! I don't walk around thinking I'm French. Although, I am now seeing this is the point. French women want to look and therefore, feel more like a great version of themselves. And although I got many compliments on my previous long red hair, I feel more confident and comfortable in my natural brown hair and even more so with my bangs back.
(poster for French film "Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot")

Aside from cooking and bangs, I plan to see an old French film tomorrow with one of my friends, mes amies. We are going to an historic theater that often plays independent and classic films. The movie is called "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" (Les Vancances de Monsieur Hulot) . It's supposed to be a comedy about a bachelor who stays in a resort and causes a series of events to occur. It's a comedy, so hopefully, it will be good. I love comedies and I'm a fan of old movies, so this one should be good. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. I'll write about the movie and do a mini review. Until then, I also plan to take photographs of some of the clothing I have been wearing. Although, I normally dress well, lately, I have been paying attention to make my style a bit more like that of the pictures of Parisians I see on various French fashion blogs I am a fan of. This will be a later blog I will write. Before then, I'll be writing about other things.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Some bangs maybe and ordering books

(Zooey Deschanel)
I know. Zooey isn't French, but by looking at pictures on the Satorialist, Easy fashion, and garancedore.fr she has a very similar hairstyle to many French women I see pictures of. Since I dyed my hair back to my natural brown (like hers) and am in need of a newer and fresher style for spring, I thought why not? I guess since I have been sick these past few days and haven't been blogging or doing anything else lately, I had a chance to think about doing this in my boredom. I had a similar style to hers for a couple of years before I went red, and I did love it. Although, the bangs are a bit high maintenance, they're worth it, and as a French-esq woman, I need to be completely okay with putting more and more time into the way I look than I did before.
(Jessica Simpson in Paris posing with her two best friends, Cacee Cobb and Ken Paves)
Watching reruns of Jessica Simpson's The Price of Beauty, I caught the epsiode on Paris and got some insider French beauty tips from the model that they were talking with. She reiterated the fact that French women are very careful and painstaking when it comes to coming across looking natural. They will always have a budget for fashion and beauty and would rather cut something else out of their spending than not spend on looking good. Reaffirming what I have already read, I think it's safe to say I'm getting the French woman's philosophy on beauty, down pat.
Aside from looks, I have got to get that French lifestyle thing down, and I'm doing it little by little--trying to listen more and talk less, eat my meals slowly and in French themed food groups, flirting a little--not for a date but just because I'm a woman, walking with my head held high. These little things I have been able to employ in my every day life so far, and though they are small, they have made me feel like a new woman!
So, in order to make this transformation complete, I'm going to need some more help--more books will be my guide. I'm also ordering some tonight on Amazon. I already have Entre Nous: A woman's guide to finding her inner french girl, which I ordered about a year ago. Although it's a fun read, I think it's a bit outdated, so I need more! The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women, and Fatale : How French Women Do It , I'm ordering them tonight. Hope they're as good as they sound! If anyone has any good French-themed book suggestions, please give me the titles in your comments. Until next time, Bonsoir, tout le monde!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A wonderful day outside and music

Today I didn't end up going to the museum, although I plan to tomorrow after I finish work at 3:00. I did however search all around the outdoor shopping center for some spices I needed to cook tonight. I also stopped by the bookstore to read some more tips about being French. The weather was gorgeous--in the 80s, and I got to wear one of my favorite outfits. (Most of my favorite clothes, are of course, for the warm weather).
I also, before leaving, pampered myself with lotion and some face treatments, and curled my hair loosely to give a fresh but sexy and natural look. I didn't want to do too much, as I have read time and time again this is very unFrench.
On my playlist while getting ready for my day walking outside in search of my ingredients and to the bookstore, I played "Moi je joue" by Brigitte Bardot and also "Sensualite" by Axelle Red, a Belgium Singer. Also, I listened to Adele "Chasing Pavements" Michael Buble "Feeling good" and one of my favorite songs of all time "You're so vain" by Carly Simon. Although, not all French songs, I love the classical sound of jazz artists and classic songs, in general. They put me in a cheerful and relaxed mood as I sing to them and get ready for the day ahead.
Overall, it was a rather uneventful but very enjoyable day in and out of the sun. Tomorrow, I am definitely taking a trip to the museum and perhaps, ordering some French books I have been searching online to further study for my experiment. Until next time, here is some of the music I was listening to.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dinner and a day off

(Steak au poivre in image is not actual steak I made)
Steak Au Poivre with red wine sauce and mushrooms in butter is for dinner tonight. I have made this dish before, as I am a fan of trying out all different foods--from India, Thailand, Italy, and of course, France. It came out extremely well, and I am excited to have it again tonight.
Since I bought a good quality wine, I think after I use a cup of it to cook the steak, I'll drink some with my food, as well. Apéritif and digestif are also two things I need to add to my meals, as I have been reading many French people enjoy these drinks before and after meals.
Tomorrow, I have a day off. I'm going to wear my effortlessly stylish clothes I already own (not to flatter myself but before this experiment, I had this style down already) take a nice walk, and maybe read something outside. I also have been dying to go to the museum, as well, not necessarily because I want to act French, which consequently will go along with my experiment, but because I have been really wanting to for some time, and as a painter, it's important to keep familiar with the work of others.
I also want to set aside some time for myself to also cleanse my body (of course do this by showering). But I really want to pay extra attention to the details. Make everything pristine and completely well groomed, as I have read many times French women are very rigorous with. Of course, as a woman who loves feminine things, I do this, but I want to pay extra attention tomorrow and take my time. Perhaps, some overall exfoliation, nice music while I take my time, face masks etc... Who knows? I need to let the day guide me in the moment.
This is not just something that is French, but also very Buddhist--allowing the moment to take place. Yes. There are many plans I can make for what to do tomorrow with my day off, but living in the moment then and this moment right now as I am typing is the true joy of life. Even if it is just finishing this blog. Typing one more sentence and one more word. The fact that I am conscious of that, is true mindfulness. Now, that's what Buddhism (which I have recently also begun to study) has taught me, and being French, it seems affirms that idea.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New sunglasses and learning what it means to be mysterious

I found my new sunglasses today. I got some chic knock offs like the ones Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Although, a very American movie, I figure you can't go wrong with Audrey style--which I have tried to emulate over the years. From looking at different websites and pictures of French people, it seems, the French have very similar taste. Simple cuts, basic black and white, flats--all very Audrey Hepburn.

So, I have my sunglasses. The mysterious French woman vibe is something I am still trying hard to work on. Telling people details of your life you hardly know at work or in general conversation is so common for Americans--but not for the French! It's interesting each day to catch myself doing this so much and trying not to. The mystery and sexual intrigue of the French woman is one aspect you can't buy like sunglasses--you have to learn it.

Next, with learning feminine mystery is the search for a perfect trench coat and maybe some more flat shoes or sandals. I must say eating things like croissants with hazelnut chocolate every day is very fun and one of my favorite parts of this whole experiment!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Croissants, coffee, and being serious

Since Friday, after reading article after article saying French women eat most of their carbs with coffee for breakfast and rarely smile, I have been succeeding and struggling. I've found it very easy to consume various pastries and coffees in the morning while holding off in the evening--but of course-c'est très délicieux! But, I have found it increasingly hard to keep a straight and serious face. Why? We Americans, as it seems, love to smile! The only time I can and will always keep a straight face (and always have before this) is on the bus rides I take to the town center and to work. Why? I have to do this to avoid the many weirdos that seem to think a smile is an invitation for stalking.
However, getting my coffee, running errands, and coming across nice and normal strangers, I always react, smile, and greet them. It is very American to do this, I am noticing--to smile. I feel like, automatically, when I am not concerned about the few weirdos on the bus, and am off of the bus (which is most of my day) I look bitchy and rude if I don't smile. I feel cold, distant--not very nice. Which brings me to the realization at how nice American women are still pressured to be. Certainly, we should not be outwardly mean and swear and be discourteous to anyone who does not threaten us--which is most people--most people are usually kind and go about their business. However, why do we always feel compelled to smile as Americans--particularly as American women? This is something I think that stems from our naiveté about the world. We are still learning as a country. We are bold with our emotions and in your face. The French, part of an old country, are reserved and learned. You have to get to know them to get a smile.
Hard as it may be, this is something that I will work on and will nevertheless strive to accomplish--not always smiling. More than it being a bad thing--I think it is an essential part to completing my social experiment. After all, when I do get to France this year, I don't want to be mistaken for making come ons to the men (as I have read this is what they take smiling at strangers for--even the nice normal ones). I may as well start now--even it does make be appear to be less friendly in the American sense.
Other than that, I have other goals I have to accomplish. I have to spruce up my wardrobe a bit. Although, might I say, I am not your "typical" American. Based off of what I have researched thus far, I already have a pretty French wardrobe. I have my scarves, my ballet flats, straight legged jeans, my colors are mostly black and white. However, there are a few things I'm going to have to purchase to really get that Parisian look. According to parisescapes.com and allaboutyou.com I need to focus on the essentials. I have already actually been striving to create a wardrobe like this since I was around 24 and I realized the person I wanted to turn into was a sexy and sophisticated woman, no longer a girl.... However, there are my times when I get carried away and constantly purchase a new outfit, although a nice one, for going out each week. This is very unFrench, as I have read. Since, French women like to buy a few essential pieces, and if anything update their accessories more frequently. So, I have narrowed down my necessities to a short list of what I will need for the summer and I'm sticking to it. A trench coat is a must, according to most advice on French style or any classic style for that matter! I also need a pair of sunglasses--which, I might add, I have none at all right now! For every day, I need some slim go everywhere black pants, since I read the French rarely wear shorts. This is fine with me, as I don't either! The last thing I will need are some stylish flat sandals--for walking everywhere. Also, perfect for me, since I do walk quite a bit already! The other essentials, white simple shirts, t-shirts, slim jeans, skirts, and dresses, I already have plenty of. And, keeping in French fashion, I should not get more of, so that I can keep as minimal of a wardrobe as possible. Starting this week, I must find the perfect sunglasses. I'll move on to the other essentials when I get my next check! As most advice articles and books about French style say, it's better to spend time finding one essential at a time, as quality over quantity is the key.
As for beauty rituals, I have been paying more attention to skin care, and wearing less makeup. Letting go of my daily routine the way it used to be has been a bit difficult, but with practice, I will practice making my face more and more natural looking each day.
Until next time, I'll be looking for those sunglasses and trying not to smile, although we'll see if I can actually do this for a whole day!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day one: new hair and research

Marion Cotillard was the inspiration for my new hair.
This was my red hair I had for about a year before dying it back.
This is my new shorter hairstyle dyed back to brown.

So, my first day was a bit successful...a bit. Hey, I still have to learn about all of this being French stuff and improve as I go along! I started (this week actually) simplifying my life in general by dying my hair back to it's natural brown color. I was a redhead for almost a year, and decided both for my career aspirations (as I read it's easier to land one as a brunette) and the low maintenance of it. Although, I am naturally a medium brunette, this shade although a bit darker, is close to the rich brown shade of my natural color. I also decided that as of today, I have to stop wearing quite so much makeup. I have to go for more of natural look--all of the articles I have seen say the French are all about a low-maintenance look that appears to be--with much effort put into keeping it up. So, I focused on my skin. Then applied makeup much more lightly than usual. What exactly did I do to my skin and with my makeup? I can't tell you. That wouldn't be French! I have to keep la mystere.
I also took my daily walk to the bus stop to do errands. I guess I'm already French, since I don't have a car and I walk and take the bus! I took my usual leisurely walk to the outdoor shops that are located all around the outdoor shopping area in the town center. went to the grocery store and bought food for tonight's meal: Roast Chicken, yams, fresh salad, and ice cold water. Healthy yet delicious. The chicken, might I add, is very frenchly basted in butter. I can smell the juices cooking as I type this! It is going to be good! And I'm no
Julia and Julia. No. I am not trying to master French Cuisine 101. Just making dishes that remind me of a French woman's taste. That's all. After all, I have a lot to focus on. I'm not just doing French food this year, I'm doing everything French--or trying at least!

A lot of what I did today was research. If I'm going to become a French girl, I have to know what I'm doing! While doing research, some of the links I came across are as follows:





Some of them are tongue in cheek and written about disdain for the British. Others are more about diet and lifestyle. I feel that there is a consistent theme in all of them: restraint. French women, from what I'm learning, tend to restrain themselves more than their English and American counterparts. They eat less, smile less, wear less (not in that way--in a simplicity kind of way) . The only thing it seems they do more of is smoke--which I will not be doing!

Day two, tomorrow, I have to start restudying my French I have begun to forgotten. I can never truly become a French-esq girl without reading some of my French! Until next time, Au Revoir!


Why I want to live like a French woman

It's curiosity more than anything. I've always seen so many articles and books about them, it makes me wonder if life really is better in the French woman's shoes. Taking French for eight years, I have always been a francophile. Coming from a mostly Irish/Scottish background, my relatives who were French (particularly my great grandmother) were the ones who had the most influence on me, though. Fascinated by French culture and the allure of the French woman, starting today, I am going to do a little experiment. Living totally French: for at least six months of my life leading up to my trip to France. When will this trip take place? Not sure exactly. But I know it will take place this year. I am determined to ingrain myself in everything French before then. Reading up on my language and practicing it. Eating, sleeping, drinking, talking--like a French woman. Not to change myself because I am not satisfied with me, but more out of curiosity to see why there are so many endless books written on the French woman's allure. "Why French Women Don't get Fat, " "Fatale: How French Women Do It," "Entre Nous: A Woman's guide to finding her inner French girl," just to name a few.
What is it about these women with the less is more idea with makeup, the stylish clothes, the lithe figures--that makes we Americans and Brits fall weak at the knees with adoration and envy.
I must say, though, I will be doing everything French. One thing, however, that is stereotypically French, that I will not do is smoke. As a child of a father with emphysema, I do not find smoking glamorous. The French women can keep this one. It may make you thin, but it makes your lungs hideous, and with my size 7 slim but curvy frame, I'm not looking to lose weight, I'm looking to see what it may feel like to be a little French. Besides, there are many more things to being French other than smoking, and I intend to experience them all.
Here's to being French, and living and loving life in a whole new way starting today. Wish me, "Bonne Chance!"