Sunday, May 08, 2011

Feeling Like a Woman in Paris

I was fortunate enough to spend the last week in Paris.  I have been there a number of times, but this trip was a little bit different.
I rented a studio with the most beautiful view of the Eiffel Tour and I had time to enjoy being with a close friend who lives in Paris.
Although I grew up traveling to France throughout my childhood, there seems to be an additional feeling of comfort I get when I am there.  Something makes me completely peaceful.  It’s not just being on vacation.  I have “vacationed” many places.
On this trip, I had more time to get to know Paris and myself.  I think I finally realized what it is that brings me so much peace when I am there.
Now, this may or may not be an experience you can relate to, but I will share my thoughts with you.
As a woman living in the United States, I have always felt the need to be strong and independent and to prove to men, in particular, that I can take care of myself.  Being an attorney was part of that plan.  It is not to say I don’t feel like a woman or that I want to act like a man, but I have felt that in order to gain a certain amount of respect or credibility, I need to be strong.  Many times that means not showing my softer side. 
In Paris, I was totally drawn to the amazing beauty, the food, the make up, the perfume, the clothes, and the lingerie.  Though I love those things at home, I am more “comfortably” drawn to them in Paris.  
It’s as if being a woman is not just OK, but it’s natural and respected there.  I realized that the reason I feel so at peace in Paris is because I don’t feel any need to prove how strong I am.  I watch the Parisian women and although they are a diverse group, they have a way of being extremely feminine and yet completely confident as women and as people.
It’s as if I can take a breath and relax knowing that being less “strong” and being "softer" is much more natural for me.
I asked a male friend of mine there who is French how he views women in business in France.  He felt they are very much respected, but he noted that French women are much more feminine than American women.
I wasn’t offended by that comment.  I think he is probably right overall.  There is a difference between dressing, acting, and feeling sensual and dressing, acting, and feeling sexy.  I think many of our younger generation have not completely understood the distinction.  It’s not about distracting men with a sexy outfit or look.  It’s about being comfortable with your own sexuality.  
Three years ago, I wrote a piece on how what you wear underneath your clothes is just as important as what you wear on the outside (see below if you are interested).
Now, I think I understand more fully what I was feeling when I wrote that piece.
I do love Paris, and Europe in general, but I think what I love most is feeling comfortable enjoying being a whole person, a complete woman, and not needing to be anything other than that.  It’s letting all my defenses down and allowing myself to be completely at ease with being a woman.

Garbage Bras
April 2008
After I posted the Elle Magazine email which featured the models with
less emphasis on makeup, it made me think about something I
experienced on my trip to France last Spring. Years ago, I ran a
parenting network at a middle school. At one point, I invited a new
parent to attend. She was French and she and her husband had brought
their family here for a few years (work related). Anyway, I met her
through that network and we became very close friends. She calls
herself my French soul sister. I know she is right.
Last year, I spent time with her in Paris. We wandered around shops
(where I never buy anything but croissants because I can afford
those). She suggested going into a lingerie shop where she buys her
bras. I said, " not for me, I have a very practical bra and I don't
really have a reason to wear one of those pretty ones". Now, I am
not talking about Victoria Secrets. These bras were beautiful and
comfortable. They were sexy, but in a sensual way, not a slutty way.
I went in to the store because my friend insisted. I told her I have
been "happy" wearing the same brand/style bra since my 19 year old
son was born. For goodness sake, why would I switch now? She said in
a very kind way, "that's a garbage should only wear that
for doing the dishes and for gardening." I told her I don't have
a reason to wear a "pretty" bra. She said, "We (French women) don't need 
a reason to wear beautiful bras. You wear them because they make
you feel beautiful. It's for you. It's how it makes you feel."
I acquiesced. I bought two bras, one gorgeous black one and a flesh
colored beauty. I can't even tell you how wonderful they make me
feel. I know what she means now. It's not about being beautiful or
trying to be beautiful for someone else. It's about feeling
beautiful underneath and having that permeate your existence. I
don't care how old I am or how non-perky my breasts are, they are so
damn happy in those bras...and so am I.
My French girlfriend kids me now when we talk on the phone, "What
bra do you have on?" I kid her back. "I like these bras so much
that I do the dishes in them." I still have garbage bras, but I only
wear them when I want to feel like garbage...which, thank goodness,
isn't very often.