Everyone looks so sophisticated and fashionable!

I’m beginning to look more and more French.  And blending in better.  I can feel it.  On non-shampoo days I would usually wear my hair up, like I do in Ocean City.  I twist it back with one large bobby pin into a French bun with long, free hair coming from out of the middle and loosely draping over from the top.  It looks nice and often times people ask me how I do it.  I’ve worn it that way here a couple times and have realized it’s not the look.  Antibes 9.13 003People in Antibes have their hair very controlled, and tight, like in a pony tail or something.  I don’t know where it is, except it isn’t bouncing around like in a shampoo commercial.   In fact, I realized that I probably look like a banty rooster with my hair on top of my head, bopping along when I walk.  So now I blow dry it straight and sleek.  I wear it down, nice and smooth or pulled behind my head in a low ponytail… no more 1980’s poof!   (I don’t know who this woman is,  but she was in my viewfinder as I was sitting on my bench using the Wi-Fi from the Lebanese restaurant, Falafel, and she captures the look of the typical french woman I see).

I even ditched my fuchsia pink lipstick.  I know… that’s a big step.  People in Bethany Beach have been telling me to GET RID OF IT, but I just couldn’t seem to let it go.  I liked the color it gave my face.  Sort of like those old Antibes 9.14 003ladies who paint two circles of pink on their cheeks and don’t quite blend it in.  (To the left is my Clairol #540 that I’ve been wearing for the past 9 years). I walked into a wonderful cosmetics shop with a cleansing soft-fragrance aroma and asked the lady for a shade of lipstick not so pink.  She obviously didn’t understand my French and began showing me shades of HOT, HOT PINK!  Was she crazy?  No one wears that color here- everyone wears a barely noticeable beige color.  Did she take me for a faux-pas fool?  Eventually, after smearing many, many testers on her hand and mine I found a shade I thought was becoming.  Just a hint of color.  

 “Combien ca coute?”  How much does this cost?   

“Trent-huit euros”  $38 Euros!  $57 US dollars for a fucking tube of lipstick???

“C’est tres cher.”  It’s very expensive, I gasped.  Maybe not to Miss Prissy Pants strutting around with her tightly pulled- back hair, but to moi it was way, way too much. 

I looked around at other displays, as she painstakingly followed close behind.  I didn’t want to keep testing samples until I found something in my price range.  So we moved from display to display with my asking “Combien ca coute” and her looking slyly at the price and then stating it with a raise of her eyebrow.  The least expensive lipstick in the entire store was $28 euros.  $42 US dollars. 

I should’ve bought a $5 tube of Cover Girl in a beige shade before I left the states.  I actually stocked up with three tubes of the hot fuchsia pink color so I would have plenty while here.  Oh, well.    I’ve noticed that I’ve been wearing almost no lipstick instead, which is something I couldn’t imagine doing in Ocean City. 

And now I think I appear quite François!  You naturally begin to look like the people you’re surrounded by.  You begin to act like them too, and become aligned with their goals, but that’s a story for my deeper blog. 

I am wanting to put things together from my very limited wardrobe that make me look more natural here.  I bought a new shirt and belt from the clothing market… Yes!  The clothing market!  More on that later.  And I’m really appearing quite fashionable.  All except for one major thing.  All the French women have tiny breasts.  Their clothes hang off their shoulders, straight to their hips.  Not me.  Mine hit speed bumps along the way.  By the way, a lot of the shirts actually hang all the way off the shoulder, like in the movie Flashdance.  Be ready for that look to hit the US next year and I’m so glad that I’m not the parent of a middle school or high school girl.

I am not the perfect body style according to the French.  They still hold beauty in the way bodies look in Renaissance paintings.  Little breasts, big fleshy butts.  I’m just the exact opposite.  When I was growing up, I was imprinted with the idea of big breasts being beautiful and a real asset.  Mom had a shape that turned a lot of heads, and she was proud of it.  She somehow instilled in me how fortunate she and one of my sisters were to be well-endowed.  And she told me how lucky my aunt Lorene was when she got her beautician’s license and began shampooing hair- all the working out of her arm and chest muscles made her grow an entire size! 

When I was 12 and a size 28 triple A, I begged my mom to get me The Breast Enhancer that I saw advertised in the TV Guide.  I wanted it shipped fast delivery, but she said I’d been my size for quite some time and three to five more days of waiting wouldn’t matter.  It finally came- it was a 2′ rubber tube with round handles on the end.  You were supposed to stretch it in front of you.  I stretched and stretched and stretched.  I stretched it so much that on the second day it snapped.  It was like a huge rubber band breaking and snapping back against my hand and it hurt!  But what really hurt was that I had just lost the ability to increase my size. 

Thus the longing to be something I wasn’t turned into the realization 34 years later that for $4500 and a couple days of discomfort I could be everything I imagined!  I still don’t know why I waited so long.  So now I’m happy with my look when I’m in the states.  But here, my generous curves are quite off the map.  In fact, I think most women would go under the knife to change the way they looked if they had my shape.  That’s really an odd feeling- to suddenly be put in an environment where what you perceive are foot_binding_chinese_04your pretty features aren’t recognized that way.  I guess it’s the way those Chinese ladies bound their feet during childhood so they would take the desirable shape of  those little pointy shoes, only to have foreigners see it as a mutation.  Or the African tribe that implanted progressively larger and larger pieces of wood into their bottom lip to make it wider and longer- the TV crew probably looked at them with their eyebrows furrowed and their heads cocked sideways. 

So, the first fashion stumble I have to deal with is that the clothes don’t drape over my body in nice, straight lines.  The second is this whole bra thing.  French women actually show their bra on purpose!  Remember when it was bad to have your bra strap showing, and we’d pin it under our shirt at our shoulders so it wouldn’t come out?  Well, no longer a problem!  Women here have ALL of their bra showing- even parts you wouldn’t expect!  Some styles have the back of the bra showing… you know where the hooks are… the part that gets really grungy and dirty-looking!  The middle of the back of the bra is plainly in view with the cut of the shirt.  I couldn’t believe it, but I’ve seen it too many times for it to be the result of the wearer just not checking a mirror before leaving the house.  And some shirts allow the entire side, under the armpit to be out in the open.  Another possible problem area for yellow tinge and dark edges.  But not for these girls!  In fact, it seems like their beautiful bra is part of the outfit. 

But… it’s even harder if you’re an American man wanting to blend in here… Antibes 9.12 038especially if you’re in the slightly to middle maturity-age category.  Real French men wear Capri pants.  Yep!  Even the over 45 gang.  Somehow that younger, beach-going group can get away with Capri pants in the states, but not the more conservative guy.  And… to take it to the limit… many are tied at the bottom, so they have sort of a bloomers look to them!  And this stretches it even further… guess what kind of shoes they wear!  Those little boy English sandals!  The kind Prince William  and Prince Harry wore in their childhood pictures.  Rounded toes, straps across the top of the foot and a buckle on the side.  How cute!  But 50 and 60 year-old men all around here feel totally Antibes 9.12 093comfortable walking around in this outfit!   It’s even beginning to look normal to me! 

By the way… a follow-up to the water bottle fiasco.  I was talking to an Antibes resident about how good the tap water is in Antibes.  He said they’re very proud of the quality of their water here and all municipalities take great pride in having good water, but theirs’ is the best.  When I said I had a question about bottled water, he told me that Antibes’ water is filled with all the necessary minerals, strictly monitored by the local government, and much healthier than bottled water for which you don’t know its content or point of origin.  He incorrectly assumed that was my question.  Oh no.  I wanted to know the problem with taking the bottle into a coffee shop and setting it on the table.  So I asked if that was an acceptable thing to do.  He literally GASPED!  Like a mouse trap had gone off in his hand.  And shook his head and said with surprise, “You didn’t do that did you?”  Oops. 

Tomorrow I’m going to tell you about my favorite store in all of Antibes!  But for now, I want to leave you with one of my favorite sounds here.  There is a bell tower built during the 12th century that is attached to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is built on the site of a Greek temple dating back to the fifth century B.C.   The present church served as the area’s cathedral until the mid-1200’s.  There’s a second bell on top of the hotel de ville, or the town hall which appears modern since it was built in 1824.    They both chime on the hour, one strike for each hour, and on the half-hour, which means at 12 o’clock you hear 24 chimes.  On special occasions, such as a wedding, they chime for a long time.  I love it.  The metal clang is the sound of an old, heavy, antique bell and it takes me back to how it must’ve felt here many lifetimes ago.  I put it in a you-tube video so you also get a view of Antibes from the perspective of the little wooden bench where I sit when I’m picking up free Wi-Fi from the Lebanese restaurant.  Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-y0mmxKLjA