Sunday, April 03, 2005

Falling Forward: Longer Days

The air smells like Spring. I'm not forcing this idea on myself. The crocuses in the miniscule yards on Sixth Avenue near Flatbush are proof enough that Spring is finally arriving. Six years ago while living in Paris, I knew it was Spring when I could finally wear my favorite floral-on-black sundress and men's heads turned. Arms. A neck. An ankle. Things not seen for the past 5 months or more. The presence of skin made their eyes linger as my girlfriends and I walked along the perimeter of Jardin du Luxembourg. That Spring I learned how to flirt, consciously. Previously, I had no idea what was charming and what wasn't. Maybe it was a question of being at the right place at the right time given my women's college education, but it took the attention of the French to teach me that I, too, could flirt.

Even old women still vyed for, what I learned was, le regard. These women, well into their 60s and beyond, would doll up in a nice dress, scarf and full make-up for a saunter down to the epicerie. Some might say the French are very formal. Yet this was about more than Miss Manners' Guide to Proper Attire for the Grocery. This was about catching someone's eye, even if it was a 20 year old study-abroad student. It's ridiculous to think that one eventually loses the need to be desired. Sometimes it's a matter of self pride or wanting to just look one's best. Other times it has to do with a quick ego boost or some kind of power in knowing that you can make a man walk into a lamp post because of your legs.

It came as a depressing shock to me when I returned to the United States that many people don't care how they look as individuals. Rather it's more important to commit to an ideal of beauty that is often impossible because of height, genetics, etc. So they throw their hands up instead of working with what they've got so to speak. This is also a very American trait when it comes to ambition. Young people in their mid-twenties shaking their heads in dismay because they aren't a lawyer, doctor, editor, banker, you name it at the age of X. It's an all or nothing world for us. It's also a world where a little shameless flirting is frowned upon.

Lately, I've been flirting with the idea of ressurecting my fractured French and moping on how such a task would be impossible. (Note the hyperbole) But over dinner with an old friend, reminiscing about our six months in Paris, even memories brought back the language to me. Discussing the idea of French opened the door that I shut by regarding my French as lost forever. Lost like the metabolism I had at twenty, like the trip to Spain I never made.

It's been a while since I've deliberately used my charm and tried to catch someone's regard . Now I am trying to catch le regard des autres choses. I feel like the weather has been a wretched lover this year. Always bitter and cruel, rarely tender. But I was willing to lose an hour of sleep last night (a much needed hour of sleep as T wore my pink feather boa home back from a party) just for the benefit of more sunshine.

In Paris, daytime lasted past 9 pm in the summertime. I'm eager to feel that unique feeling of the sun on my arms as I walk down the street. I'll even endure the catcalls just for sunshine. I'm not going to worry about whether or not I'm completely in shape. Just like I won't worry about going to my five year reunion without a job that offers benefits. Life's too short to complain when the days are longer.

2 Comments:

Blogger R J Keefe said...

You have captured the most important - and regrettable - difference between the Americans and the French. Americans tend to have "sex in the head," habitually rating experience against an ideal standard. This makes for much unhappiness all round - for is it not true that unattractive people in France are quite uncommon?

Sun Apr 03, 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ms. NOLA said...

Why yes, like all places, there are more than a fair share of unattractive folks in France; however, people seem to care less or know what to do about it... I could be totally off on that, but I just feel like Americans have this mindset of "well, if i'm not perfect, then i don't need to change..." or if by announcing, "i'm in a rut," they don't need to change at all.

Sun Apr 03, 05:16:00 PM  

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