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 wrinkles. There, 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: