A handsome man … Un bel homme.

Having begun my blogging career on that highly uplifting subject of divorce, I thought I’d better go a little lighter with my second offering.

So, here’s the thing. I live with a very handsome man. A very handsome French man.  And to head any misunderstandings off at the pass, I know that what I just wrote is highly subjective. I know that not everybody thinks François is as wildly gorgeous as I do. I just happen to think he’s better looking than George Clooney, much better educated, and almost certainly a much better lover … ok I made all that last part up, how on earth would  I know what George Clooney is like as a lover ?

I’m getting way off topic here. What I actually want to write about is perceptions of beauty, ‘older woman’ anxiety, and our charming refusal to face certain facts.  My François is a remarkably humble person for a Frenchman, very private as well, and would not be happy … ah, non, non, pas ça Lynette (!) … if I went about describing all of  his beautiful physical (ahem) attributes publicly ,  so, fortunately that is not at all my intention.

To come back to subjectivity though, here’s a wonderfully workable example. My dear friend Hannah in Sydney doesn’t think François is as handsome as I do. She tends to like men who are short, stocky, reasonably hairy and preferably with shaven heads and given that’s just not my thing at all, we have yet another reason for us to for us to adore each other’s company … it’s one more reason  our friendship is seamlessly perfect. There would never be any question that she’d be interested ‘that way’ in François,  (quite apart from the real reason that she happens to be one of the most ethical, principled, human beings I know …) but, because I think she’s so fabulous it’s nice to know that she doesn’t fancy my man, not even a little bit ! And, sadly, I’m long enough in the tooth, to know of women who did have affairs with their (ex) best friend’s husband/partner, and having seen the kind of devastation that sort of betrayal of friendship causes … it’s wonderfully re-assuring to know it’s just not an issue. Actually, now I think about it, I can genuinely say that I don’t fancy any of the partners of my good friends … Australian or French. Can’t  help wondering if this is a kind of subconscious, self selecting healthy thing. You would think so … makes life a whole lot happier, richer but less complicated, non?

So, certainly not all women look at François. But a lot do … in the bus, at the movies, in restaurants, even while he’s driving. And some French women flirt outrageously with him … one woman who I invited to lunch at our home, when I hardly knew anybody here, turned up in the most elegant, skimpy little silk dress imaginable, expensive, ‘très classe’ strappy sandals ( needless to say I was in jeans and less than sexy t-shirt) and was visibly disappointed when she realized lunch was in fact just with me! Then, the same woman wanted to ‘facebook friend’ François but not me. Should I be perturbed about this?  In fact, François ignored her invitation, and almost never facebooks anyway. He wasn’t interested in admitting her … out of loyalty to me. Of course,  I like this. Is this me being terribly old fashioned, ‘square’ and unreasonably possessive?

François is not younger than me, but he looks it, unblemished and unlined, and me, well I have Australian skin, dry from too much sun, creased from too much laughing, and yes, way too much stress.  The death of a spouse, senior jobs in big corporations and adorable babies born too close together will do that to you.  The upshot of all that is wrinklesThere, I’ve said it.

And so, I’m thinking more about my fading youth, my attractiveness to François,  what kind of condition I will be in I will be when we finally manage to get married … a French wedding, now there’s another good subject for a blog … and above all how to be myself, how to truly age gracefully.

I believe that to have to have the kind of face full of wisdom, humour and kindness that I’ve always loved in ‘older women’, I need to live the kind of life that delivers a woman a face like that … above all, a life (in spite of my fair share of suffering) that has moved beyond grief and rage, and moved into the light … and  a life hopefully still decades away from shuffling off this mortal coil.

By the way, I’ve finally stopped dying my hair platinum blonde … it was time. I’m now ‘gracefully grey’ and my hair was in any case falling out … my body  had got well beyond ‘sending me a signal’ … it was using shock tactics. So, now I’m grey … very. My son Harry told me this morning that I look like one of the Elders on the Jedi Council in Star Wars … apparently this is a good thing, even if their average age is about 956.

I’ve attached the URL for a piece by New York Times journalist, Ann M. Morrison, about the difference between the way French women and American women age. It’s very ‘parisienne’ … and some of it is frankly unlike the daily lives of French women I know here. One point, though, rang very true, and that is, that French women do NOT discuss their beauty regimes in front of their husbands… !

I also liked this passage particularly …

Françoise Sagan once wrote, “There is a certain age when a woman must be beautiful to be loved, and then there comes a time when she must be loved to be beautiful.” And many Frenchwomen seem to be well loved as they get older — by their tight-knit families, their friends and, perhaps most importantly, themselves. 

See full piece at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/fashion/15French.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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A Concubine … a mother, a painter, a writer, a cook, a lover and a friend.

THE AUSTRALIAN CONCUBINE … that would be me !

I am a concubine … it’s true, and I have been for years now.

My darling Australian and New Zealand friends laugh when I tell them but ‘Concubine’ is my official legal status in France. I wish it wasn’t so…

In any case, this is the starting point for my blog … about my crazy, wonderful,  sometimes lonely, often frustrating, always fascinating life here in the Auvergne in the centre of France.

Thank-you to my dear, dear friend Myrna* who suggested I do this.  Myrna is a Brit living in Melbourne who was my ‘soul sister’ when we met as radical young students at the age of nineteen. We’re now both 51 (!!!), well, I am,  Myrna will be the end of the month … and we’ve been through so much together … Myrna had children, ten years before the rest of us which was shocking enough, but  even more shocking, was that she had twins as well … and,  from there, our lives unfolded, weddings, babies, divorces, teenagers, the death of my husband Patrick  from throat cancer, new loves, new lives.

 Anyway, I now live with my wonderful and supremely handsome French man, François and my two children from my first marriage, Eloise and Harry. (It’s actually very difficult living with a  handsome man … especially one who is French, but that’s a subject for another blog …).

François and I are still not married. For those of you have endured long and appalling divorces, you’ll understand. And if you think divorce can be messy in Australia, you should try France where unlike Australia, ‘pour faute divorce’ is still permitted, sanctioned even. This is ‘at fault’ divorce which  perhaps has a role where there have been grave acts committed against the well-being of one or other spouse … but perhaps even then, if  actual criminal activity has occurred, isn’t this just better handled by the police?

In my view, ‘fault divorce’ drags everybody through the mud, throws insane amounts of money ‘par la fenêtre’ and into the coffers of lawyers, requires witness statements that are penned in reluctance and/or bitterness and usually can’t be proved one way or the other.   But, most of  all, ‘at fault’ divorce prevents all the parties involved getting on with their lives. Ours, quite simply, is a story of two people who left desperately difficult marriages and fell in love.  We all need to try and live peacefully, gainfully, recovering from our suffering and with increasing love and joy in our lives.  

I don’t believe there are good divorces … just some that are less bad. Mine was concluded  in Australia after two years, after plenty of anguish, plenty of unnecessary guilt on my part and with me giving away too much of what was rightly mine. In a desperately sad , but somehow ‘right’ karmic twist, the proceeds of the house I gave away are now held in trust for my two children. 

But at least, at least … we didn’t fight out a gruesome ‘at fault divorce’. Nobody should have to go through this … and did you know, that … that man, Tony Abbott, who would like be Australia’s next Prime Minister thinks this is a good idea!!

See link to story on this below.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/no-fault-of-abbotts-but-big-marriage-idea-gets-little-support-20090712-dhe7.html


So, for now, I am a concubine, unable to legally work in France until François’s divorce is concluded.

Life has its compensations, even if our relative lack of income makes our lives quite tough at times. (not tough relative to most people in the developing world … I know, I know.)

See below a photo of my little stone house, modest but lovely, deep in volcano country, here in ‘La France Profonde’.



I’ll keep blogging … next time some more about surviving the emotions and behaviours that go with divorce, but on the joyful front …  stories of my life in regional France, and how I fell in love with the Auvergne.

More strength to you all.

Lynette.

* Out of respect for loved ones, friends & acquaintances, I’ve changed all names except for my own and very public figures.

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Bonjour mes amours … !

Clermont-Ferrand, France

Lured to the Auvergne France by love …. for a wonderful French man … a mother of two teenagers, oil painting and writing and cooking and walking because I may not legally work in France, trying to find beauty and wonder in each day.

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