The Good Life France Magazine

The Good Life France Magazine brings you the best of France - inspirational and exclusive features, fabulous photos, mouth-watering recipes, tips, guides, ideas and much more...

Published by the award winning team at The Good Life France

1 year ago

Issue No. 17

Packed with fabulous features: Carcassonne, Nimes, Orange in Provence, Nice Carnival, Paris at Christmas, Laval in Mayenne, absinthe, the fashion district of Paris, recipes, guides and more. Our secret ingredient is passion!

“Bonjour, Mesdames,”

“Bonjour, Mesdames,” he announced. “Pardonnez-moi.” He begged everyone’s pardon for the disturbance, but he was the plumber, he said, come to the ladies’ changing room to solve the problem of the leaky sink. Beside him laden with tools and balancing a ladder stood his apprentice son; he looked about 21. The changing ladies in the buff, or in some version thereof did not shriek or run or faint or cover-up? “Bonjour Messieurs,” they said, entirely nonplussed. The plumber and his son passed through the friendly throng, clattering wrenches and whatnot. As they went they muttered pardon, Madame, pardon. And the Frenchwomen stepped out of panties and shucked brassieres; they shimmied into shape-wear and stripped out of slips. Plumbers? Any one of them might have said. So? Clad only in my new slinky pinks, I heard a “Pardon, Madame” so close it had to be directed to me. I froze. Moi? I turned to stare at the hovering plumber, in shock. Yes, he meant me. I was blocking the way to the sink, which stood directly ahead in my corner. Leaking. The plumber’s son scooched by with his ladder and tipped his hat, “Bonjour, Madame.” Then the two, clattering, set-up shop on the bench closest to mine. The most miserable of moments arrived. I wondered: Did Edith Wharton ever have a fear of her naked self? If so, what protocol did she suggest for the presence of French plumbers when one has stripped down to intimates – silk bits that are the next thing to go? “First of all,” she once said, “the Frenchwoman is, in nearly all respects, as different as possible from the average American woman…The Frenchwoman is grown-up. Compared with the women of France, the American woman is still in the kindergarten.” What Wharton would say: Oh grow-up. If I didn’t remove my slinky pink things without an ounce of shame, I would never make it to first grade. Really, what were the plumber and his son to me, except perhaps plumbers? In that flash of nudity between underwear off and workout-wear on, what harm could they cause in the midst of the changing room’s entire colony of nonplussed nudes? On the count of…three: There I went. I squeezed my eyes closed and off with the ruffles, out of all bows. But I didn’t even have to peek to know. My raw glory garnered less interest than a drip. The men, both bent over the sink and fiddling with a wrench, looked up at me and back at the leak like, her? Her who? “There is in France a kind of collective, cultural shrug about nakedness,” Ollivier said, said. Edith Wharton agreed: “The French,” she said, “are accustomed to relating openly and unapologetically the anecdotes that Anglo-Saxons snicker over privately and with apologies.” I’m sorry, but the plumbers’ total disinterest in my body bare left me giggly with a secret, newfound freedom. Just think! Frump or no, I could flaunt my feminine fixtures and ask for nothing in the way of drama. Then, the plumber’s son looked up, caught my eye, and winked. Oh. Day 4. When I arrived to attend class in Pilates, the ever-friendly monsieur said the usual Bonjour, Madame and directed me to the ladies’ changing room – on the first floor. “But Monsieur!” I cried, by now perturbed. “Why does the ladies’ changing room keep changing?” Second floor, first floor; first floor, second. “I don’t get it.” “It’s the hot tub, Madame. The men’s changing room does not have one, so it’s only juste that the men are given the

opportunity to use to use the ladies’ tub from the time to time, non? It made perfect sense. “Merci, Monsieur,” I said. Today the ladies would change in the man-cave, so I found the first-floor door marked “Femmes” and entered. Empty. I claimed a sweet spot on the most spacious bench, flipped open a locker and proceeded to undress. Proud, yes proud I was to strip to my second shopping score – a brand-new sheer-lace brassiere and panties frilled in fancy fringe. Both were so pretty they should have been strolling the Champs Elysees. Too bad no one’s around to appreciate them. Nevertheless, off they went so I could shimmy into the tight body stocking I wore for Pilates. Just then, the door. Too late to run, too late to hide; I thought for sure I was about to die. In they came, like kids let out for recess – a rambunctious bunch of buddies with gym bags over their shoulders. I stood stark naked, front and center, as the men bounded in and saw me. How could they not? Tied to the stake of shame, I burned to a shade of true prude pink and felt my inner American frump demand a good explanation. Didn’t these men see the door marked “Femmes”? Didn’t Monsieur at the desk think to direct them? The herd dispersed around me, the men claiming lockers and dropping their gym bags on benches. “Bonjour, Madame.” It was the one whose bag landed closest to mine, and whose hunky, handsome self took a seat not three feet distant. “Bonjour, Madame.” It was the next, who scooted past to stake his spot before the télé turned to a game of soccer. “Bonjour, Madame.” “Bonjour, Madame.” “Bonjour, Madame.” Too nude to speak, I could only nod my Bonjour Messieurs in reply. If only I had dabbed on a drop of Chanel No. 5! As the legendary Coco herself once said: “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” Then again, it hardly mattered if I had been scented by irresistibility itself. To the stripping Frenchmen, who soon had the place bustling with their good-natured fun, I was simply the naked woman among them who didn’t get the message. Désolé said the front desk monsieur later, begging my pardon for his oversight. The ladies’ changing room was on the second floor and he didn’t think to switch the doorsigns until after I had arrived. Meanwhile, in the midst of men as blasé as the plumbers, I felt a queer thing – not fear – come to life. Could it be? Ah, oui. My inner French girl. Since the people of Paris paid it no mind, why did I try so hard to hide it? Bring on the satin contraptions, France. I’m coming out. “Pardon? Madame?” The Frenchman sharing my bench brought my attention to the fancy-fringed panties that lay on the floor between us like an unspoken question. I had flung them into the locker but missed. Who would pick them up? Oh my God! I lunged and swooped them into my bag. I may have been wrong, but was that the smallest flicker of a wicked smile? “Très belle,” he said. I dared to believe he meant not the panties but me. At the launderette on the rue de Passy, Madame de Glasse stood with me at the folding table and eyed my neat stacks of items surely even Chanel had in mind. “A girl should be two things,” she said: “classy and fabulous.” Then Madame said with some surprise, “Mademoiselle,” she said, “like many Americans who come to Paris, you have gotten over your problem, non?” Yes. Now I’ve got my oh-la-la. And, oh, how even the plumbers of Paris would be proud.