I am having a lot of fun reading my eclectic assortment of books about France, French culture and French women! I’m used to choosing my reading material quite carefully – noticing what awards they may have won, or whether they have made it on any bestseller list, or whether they have been written by a favorite author. However, with this latest reading project, I have typed in the obvious titles either on amazon.com or the library site and I have been clicking “purchase” or “reserve”. That is how my husband ended up picking up the following book for me at the library: French Women Don’t Sleep Alone! The author Jamie Cat Callan writes, “After writing this book, I have come to believe it is possible for any American girl or woman to rediscover her own French self- that version of herself that is elegant and discreet, sexy, mysterious, intriguing, charismatic and charming.”
Well, I couldn’t always relate to a lot of the content since there was an emphasis on how American women need to adopt more French women’s ways to meet men. However, there were two French expressions that I thought were very applicable. As I get older and don’t always recognize the person being reflected in my mirror, I need to remember the following French expression: “Etre bien dans sa peau”. The author offers her reader this exhortation and explains, “Literally, it means to feel good in your own skin. .. This expression encompasses the unique way a woman presents herself to the world. She holds an image of herself, a persona, if you will. This image, this self knowledge, is revealed in everything she does – in the way she speaks, her gestures, her clothes . . in her wardrobe, her accessories, and especially in her posture.” As I read this, I immediately want to argue that it isn’t easy to feel good in your own skin when you don’t always recognize all the changes in your skin!
Therefore, I especially appreciated the French expression “jolie-laide”. The author writes, “This is the French word for a woman who is not traditionally beautiful. Literally translated, it means ‘pretty/homely,’ but the word means so much more than this. It means interesting and beautiful in a nontraditional way.” Wow!! This expression could depict most of us women who are getting older since our appearance no longer reflects what we have traditionally believed to be beautiful. Yet, with this new definition, the lines around our mouth become visual memories of much laughter and smiles, the wrinkles around our eyes become reflectors of good times and sad times, the looser flesh on our hands become testaments of the many times we have comforted a crying child or adult. Yes, in keeping with the French women, I too use my eye creams, my night creams, and my eye concealers to camouflage some of those “memories”, but I can still exude confidence that comes from “etre bien dans sa peu” – because “Je suis jolie-laide.”
Just as a last unrelated comment, or perhaps it is related since this fact helps to create this lovely persona, I was surprised to read that “French women like to wear eyeglasses. It makes them look smart, but it also makes them look interesting. And yes, mysterious.” Well, I can’t say that wearing progressive lenses has made me feel mysterious – more like another reminder of growing presbyopia as I get older! However, this fact is another good reminder for me to be constantly aware of any negative assumptions that I have developed to interfere with “feeling good about myself.” I can’t wear contact lenses – I have tried many – but I have always resented wearing glasses since my asset used to be my large dark brown eyes. However, that said, reading this book is a good push for me to look for new frames since the French woman – or at least this idealized version of the French woman – would make sure she wears a trendy pair of eyeglasses!