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The day I found my Oh la la Writer in Paris Colette O'Connor shares the moment she found her inner French girl with the help of some luscious lingerie! By most accounts, I look okay. My style, such as it is, mainly impresses the world with a mild, she’s nice. Yet I had been in Paris mere weeks when Madame de Glasse, the French neighbor with whom I am friendly, announced some startling news. As we chatted in the launderette we both use on the rue de Passy, Madame eyed a washer’s soggy wad of pajamas, long johns, turtlenecks and sweats I had plopped into a rolling basket. Then she said with some alarm, “Mademoiselle, like many Americans, you are a prude, non?” Moi? I stared at her, shocked. True, Madame’s wash was a jambalaya of plunging necklines, peek-a-boo intimates and colors the heart-racing hues of passion. There were lace bits and sheer slips and things that looked short and clingy. But who would have thought that what passes for hot where I come from – a whole sack of comfy stuff snapped up for a song at an outlet – would be seen by Madame de Glasse (if not all of France) as symptomatic of a horrible American malady: dowdiness. And I had it! Was my frumpiness so far gone that nothing could be done? I squeaked, meekly. Suddenly, I was insecure in my one-size-hides-all hoodie. Madame swept a sorrowful look over the laundry I loaded into the dryer – a hefty cotton jogbra and the shame of some unraveling granny panties stood out – and rendered her opinion. I held my breath. “It is grave, very grave,” said Madame de Glasse, gravely.
I had no idea. Yet my wardrobe of saggyass sweats and what’s-become-of-me tops certainly contrasted with the outfits fresh from the dryer that Madame de Glasse was folding. Among them: a tiny lime-green thong, a demi-brassiere of transparent lace, and a sweet, sexy skirt no bigger than a wisp. Was it true I had no clue? That the art of feminine fabulousness French women take for granted had shut me out? There I was, roving around Paris in my take on cute – relaxed-fit jeans and U.S. Army tee, while other women, frump-free women, were gracing sidewalk cafés in revealing décolleté, clicking down streets in chic kitten heels, or flaunting their flirty figures in tight-fitting everything. Meanwhile, whatever womanly allure I might possess, Madame de Glasse pointed out, was obscured by my prude-wear. My vavavoom was repressed by my unisex dress; my pizzazz, she said, was hidden far, far beneath the sorry fact I did not, it seems, act French. “What makes French girls as serenely selfsatisfied as purring cats…and catnip to the men who admire them?" asked Debra Ollivier, author of Entre Nous – A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl. “The stereotypical French girl,” she said, “is often insolently thin, casually chic, and fashionable despite a simple wardrobe. With or without makeup she is always put together and utterly self-confident, imbued with natural elegance and an elusive distance that is particularly, maddeningly French.” I guessed such a woman would not be caught in a jogbra. Especially dead. “Chérie? Chérie?” It was Madame de Glasse, interrupting my reverie in a chirpy tone altogether more cheerful than that she used over my giant, white panties. “To change the subject,” she said, “have you been to that new gym at Beaubourg?” She meant Espace Vit’Halles at the Pompidou Center. “It is trés flash,” she said. “Make a visit and tell me of your adventure.” “Yes, yes, I will; au revoir Madame de Glasse.” I scuttled my uptight self out of the launderette as fast as my heavy duffle of now shameful frump’s-clothes allowed. The French girl understands that sexy is a state of mind, maintained Ollivier. Sexy is a state of mind…sexy is a state of mind…. Back at my apartment, I pondered this pearl and dressed for bed in the tee-shirt, tights and full-body nightie the frigid night demanded. Surely Madame de Glasse, in my place, would not don her tiny lime-green thong and a babydoll peignoir! Then again, maybe she would. After all, such a get-up would guarantee she’d have a Frenchman keeping her far warmer than floor-length flannel ever could. If this wasn’t reason enough to find my inner French girl, I didn’t know what was. “One is not born a woman,” said author/ philosopher Simone de Beauvoir; “rather, one becomes a woman.” Simone had a leg up, of course: she was, already, French. But still: her words gave me hope. If I were not born a woman who is catnip, perhaps I could become a sort of cat’s meow – a woman so Frenchly serene and purring with self-approval that my laundry would tell of a total transformation. Hide my thighs? Disguise my derriere? Tent my tummy? Ha! No longer. My new dare-to-bare wardrobe of trim, tiny things would be as peek-a-boo as what have you. They would declare to Madame de Glasse, for one, that American shame has no place in my life now that my inner French girl is driving. Then again, what would it take to achieve such body confidence? Such feminine selfacceptance? If only I could feel, as the French say, “bien dans sa peau” – good in one’s skin..
Bonjour! Welcome to the winter issu
contents Features 8 A tale of two c
P 88 88 give aways Win a row of gor
The Medieval City of Carcassonne Th
The inside track The Medieval city
Left: Le Parc Franck Putelat restau
astide saint-louis Back in the midd
The weekly market (Tuesday, Thursda
information Getting to Carcassone:
When Louis XIV visited Orange, he s
The theatre at Orange continues to
The inside track The centre of Oran