24 January 2020

The Parisienne #2



How many of these are you?
 [Chart: My Little Paris 10/2019]

Clichés are often anchored in truth, and in Paris, the (cliché) Parisienne is alive and well. Like other clichés - the Southern Belle, Valley Girl, Sloane Ranger... - she is a subgroup unto herself. Not every woman in Paris is, or even wants to be, a Parisienne. But many are. Trying to change and redefine her to fit your comfort zone doesn't work. As legendary hair stylist David Mallett put it, "You know her when you see her."

That’s her on a bicycle with flawless skin, scarf in the wind, a baguette under one arm. She's feminine, thin, natural, but mostly, she's "bien dans sa peau" (well in her skin) at any age. Facelifts and botox are not part of her world. She can be chic. Or not. As long as it's on her terms, not yours. And her hair! Sometimes referred to as that "just-rolled-out-of-bed look," it's been like that all of her adventurous life.

Long after she's left you in the dust will it hit you that you were sent off on fausses pistes (translation: holes in her stories). And besides a full head of "French hair" (didn't you know?) she's had that smug expression - some call it a sneer, others a smirk - for as long as she can remember and it usually means, “You are a bore.”
 
You hate her but love to copy her. In your zeal to wrap her in as many shapes and sizes as there are French cheeses, you forget that she is, like all clichés, unaware that she is a cliché. Or cares what you think she is or isn't because, well, she just is.

La Parisienne plays by her own rules. She wants to be politiquement correcte and not judge books by their covers, but will point out that if looks don't matter, why do publishers devote entire departments to book cover design? BPJ

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The No. 1 response to my informal survey of French women about the secret of magical ageing is not gaining weight. Ever. - From French Secrets to Ageing Gracefully - Ann M. Morrison (Lifestyle/Beauty - Sydney Morning Herald 2010)

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Some comments off an article on La Parisienne:

- Believe me when i tell you that NO ONE wants to look like most french women do ! I've lived here for 6 years and for the most part, they shower once a week, don't wear any make up and very rarely even put a comb through the hair! Not to mention about the hairy situation all the time... And the parisians that everyone is talking about are one in a million rich people who can afford to buy Channel and Dior….

- (Paris) is full of people who are not a singular white, thin woman in a messy topknot and Breton-striped shirt. And yet, this is rarely (if ever) included in the many odes to "French style.” How to be Parisian, for example, doesn’t mention the incredible array of hijab fashion you will see on the street every day in Paris. And, while it would be wrong to imply that France (and Paris in particular) is a bastion of diversity — or that French culture has mastered embracing different backgrounds — the reality is that these outdated notions of What Is Parisian only perpetuate the real problems of representation in the country itself.

- Thank you for this article! I couldn't agree more with your points, especially the last one on diversity. As a Francophile, I have been made aware of this obsession with trying to become the French woman since "French Women Don't Get Fat" hit the bookshelves in 2004. To be honest, I've also entertained the notion that they possess a certain je ne sais quoi that was lacking in American culture and that I should try to obtain it. Now, I'm just over it and I roll my eyes each time Vogue, Huffington Post (or Refinery29...) writes an article about this elusive woman. I roll my eyes because I know her and she is just the same as us! Let's be proud of who we are as women on this earth and not women of Paris, of New York, etc.

- You almost convinced me. But then I remembered that the last time I was in Paris, I was struck by the dozens of chic Parisian women, commuting on bicycles, looking fresh faced and moist-lipped, even in blaring traffic. They pedaled in skirts and flat shoes, gamine and athletic no matter their age (...). I love being an American woman, but I love loving the French women.

Adapted from my talks: 

Seduction and the Art of The French Femme

and

Eating French: Why French Women Won't Get Fat 
(a.k.a. A French Paradox: The French Non Diet and The Art of Eating for Pleasure)

 

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