I have to confess, I have a major “girl crush” on my new French colleagues. They are in their mid-forties, smart, statuesque, thin and have great style. At a reasonable 5 ft 5 in, I feel like a munchkin compared to them. They appear so sensual, womanly and edgy at the same time. Oh yeah, they make is all seem SO effortless. If I could just bottle all that class and beauty, I’d make a killing!
I’m certainly not the first person to wax poetic about the particular beauty of the French. I mean, how many of you haven’t read French Women Don’t Get Fat? Recently Jessica Simpson investigated French women for one of her episodes of The Price of Beauty (a pretty good show by the way). We’re raised to see them as the icons of beauty and style. If you look at historical sources on beauty, you’ll see that American women looked to Paris for fashion and beauty trends even back in the 1700’s and 1800’s.
I don’t pretend to know their secrets. Yes, you can dissect their wardrobe, beauty regimen, diet and bone structure and extract some good tips. But what I’ve seen that’s most inspiring is their attitude. Forget the cliché of French snobishness. That’s not what I mean. And, honestly, I’ve only experienced warmth and collaboration from the French women I’ve encountered. What I’m referring to is a general ease with themselves. Their overall lack of pretense and comfort with their own individual beauty and their overall selves is palpable. I read a blog post about a year ago on the difference between French and American women and it spoke of how French women “think of themselves as bodies in motion….the average well-dressed Frenchwoman produces an impression of much more elegance in person than can really be captured in a static photograph.” American women, in contrast, “assemble themselves in front of a mirror and construct a very static image of beauty.” (Pandalous) The French approach is so much more natural because the human experience is one of motion not of stasis. When I refer to natural I don’t mean that they are devoid of make-up and grooming. Au contraire! I mean they are true to themselves and don’t try to be anyone else. They are loose, human and full of authentic emotion and energy. In posts from France I saw even more ammo for this. In a French blog called: Au Secoures, j’amie la mode!, a young women writes: (translated from French) “We just need to be natural and not to feel insecure with ourselves. Charm makes all the beauty of a person.”
As trite as this may sound, I don’t think we all truly believe it. So many of us are insecure and we feel we need to be more poised, or more eloquent, or more sophisticated. Certainly I’ve felt this many times. Following their example requires us to relearn a lot. It means loosening up a little and not guarding our emotions, thoughts and energy so much. If we do that I really think we could start capturing some of that amazing French “je ne sais quoi.”
Now, if I could only learn how to tie my scarves just so…