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Friday, September 10, 2010

French Girl Friday....

Hello my friends! How has your week been? Has any of the lessons we have chatted about influenced what you do, say, think? I find it seeping in here and there, nothing of any huge impact, but in little ways and that is perfectly fine with me...after all I am certainly not trying to be who I am not or pretend that I am French...I am proud to be an American ...well born American at any rate as I am a real mix of heritage and I would love to explore all parts of it. I have some pretty heavy hitter ancestors in my family tree that is for sure.

Today's chapter is all about friendship. How it differs from what we all have here compared to how they handle it there. When I was reading the chapter I found that I really did not agree with, want to follow the ways of the French and was thinking "if it works for them ...great....but that is just not me." And that is ok. I still liked learning about it. I found it interesting. Just not sure I would implement any of it. Many of the up coming chapters are like that ( yes, I have read ahead) , but I am dedicated to finishing the book and discussing it here each Friday, before I find the next one that I am interested in.

Speaking of of my very best friends is my daughter Rebecca. We may have our times of opinions knocking heads, but for the most part we have always meshed very well together. I have been her Mom when I had to. Now, with her being older I can be her Mom when she WANTS me to. I love that. That transition to where I now can be friends with my daughters. Well as friends often do, she brought me a small , just because present. Wrapped in her traditional "plain brown wrapper" and a black ribbon ( she even wraps Christmas Gifts in the same basic package paper) , she presented me with the "little something". She had been at the book store and had spotted first a book binding of a very retro lady, all in black...say ala 1960's, with red lips. She had to pull the book from the shelf. Well on the cover was the same character , with a compact, and then purses by her heeled foot. It was called "Elegance" by Kathleen Tessaro.
It is a work of fiction.... "This finely wrought debut novel tells a Cinderella story of sorts about an unhappy thirtysomething woman who manages to turn her disastrous life around. Louise Canova hails from Pittsburgh but is currently living in London with her actor husband. Louise has severe self-esteem problems, a budding eating disorder, a complete lack of interest in any activity, and a growing sense that something isn't right with her marriage. One day, while browsing in a used bookstore, she comes across a style manual entitled Elegance, penned by a doyenne of Parisian style and grace. Captivated by the advice in the book, Louise begins to dress better (no more Birkenstocks and shapeless dresses), work out regularly, and sleep less, and she seeks more attention and respect from her husband. Tessaro is a skillful writer, and in her capable hands this subject receives the respect it deserves, with dark undertones from Louise's past rearing up unexpectedly throughout the story. Readers will enjoy following this harrowing journey of self-discovery, renewal, and reinvention to its uplifting conclusion." Kathleen Hughes 

 Rebecca said when she saw the description, that even though it was fiction, she just had to get it for me! Isn't that just a wonderful example of thoughtfulness by a friend (and a daughter of course). She knows me so well, even sometimes better than I know myself and we share so many things, all this makes for a wonderful relationship. Isn't it also what we all want in our friendship? Closeness and sharing of our lives, our likes and dislikes? I adore my daughter, all my daughters ( despite what they may think from time to time) but I do hope that one day I find a close friend , that is not just on the other side of a computer screen ( though I adore all of you as well) , someone whom which I can have my morning walk with and share all the highs and lows and details, good and bad with. I think friendship is very important. They , whomever "they" are, that it makes us live longer too! 

Other less involved friendships can be wonderful as well. Like the one I have with my youngest daughters co-workers, just because I am her Mom and they have "known" me for over two years, so really do want to know how I am , and do not mind the truth from time to time. Or the gas station lady, Jane, who once again today gave me an extra stamp on my coffee card, and who now smiles much more and even laughs a bit from time to time . Those are important as well to me. 

And of course then I have all my blogger friends, friends of Face Book and friends that I met off of other sites that we are now very close via the internet. As well as you followers that decided you cared what I have to say, what I share here, even when you do not leave comments, I can see from the feeds that you visit often, and that means the world to me. Even if at times I get greedy for comments and more followers, I am very grateful for those of you who are so loyal. 

So now that you know a few thoughts on friendship from my point of view..Chapter 3 Le Coeur , from the book Entre Nous  by Debra Ollivier
There is a section in the book that says " On many occasions I've watched the French sidestep the direct use of the word "you" to avoid improperly addressing a person." ......" From the day she's born, she's learning to manage the delicate balance between the two "yous" - the formal vous and the informal tu ." So starts the section title Vous/Tu. It has a box that breaks things down for the reader. I like these, as often it gets a bit tedious when trying to recall everything. So here it is ...who does get the different "YOUS" ? 
"Who get's Vous, Who get's Tu
Back in the old days formal boundaries between individuals were maintained with rigid protocol. These days french society is more hang loose, though hard rules still apply:

-Your in-laws ( probably forever) 
-Your boss ( though that changes based on industry in many professions the use of tu happens almost instantaneously).
-Certain colleagues and clients ( moving vous to tu in the workplace is contingent on countless little social cues and nuances) .
-Teachers, administrators, bureaucrats and anyone who can wield more red tape than you can.
- The rest of the world : Anyone and everyone you don't know makes up your daily life , from new clients to retailers.
-Your parents: Sometimes, in certain families , where the traces of la grande bourgeoisie still linger. 

- Family members ( with the exception of in-laws and la grande bourgeoisie )
- Children 
-Certain colleagues 
-Anyone who merits a certain disdain ( the irreverent use of the informal tu is an insult in and of itself) "

How hard it must be to remember all these rules , simply for the use of the word "you" . I mean seriously, I know it comes naturally to them, but I am not sure I could live with all these rules ...But perhaps we have them in place already and do not know it. At least some of us. Me? Well for the most part I regard most people, family, friends and strangers alike , with the same "friendliness" , as if they have been a part of my life forever...That apparently , according to the book is VERY American. I can not seem to help it. It is simply who I am .
There is other headings in the book...
Community Life: The Outer Cirlce
The French Girl is an Exclusive Club of One
Family History
The French Family Tree
Children and Family
Who Teaches Children What
Children and Time
Men and Women
Saying I Do
Anatomy of a French Marriage 
The Language of Love

Then of course there is all the "Borrow a page from the French Girl's Book"  So let's do that.....  

"Borrow a page from the French Girl's Book: Vous/Tu
Think before you speak . Take a moment to consider the emotional space between yourself and others. Always say less. Cultivate and respect relationships with people with whom you interact. Learn to bite your tongue, gently. Harness your own power through what you keep to yourself" 

Now when it is broken down that way, the author and the French have a certain point. So maybe this is easier to work into our daily relationships.

"Borrow a page from the French Girl's Book :Friendships
Cultivate friendships instead of collecting them. Deepen and clarify existing relationships before adding new ones. Go slowly in getting to know someone, allowing the friendship to unfold rather than burst into bloom. Share your secrets sparingly ;guard the secrets others share with you. Invite friends into your home thoughtfully and as meaningful gesture of friendship. Nurture and protect the lives around you."

Again, when you put it that way.... Ok I am guilty as many women are for sharing my life in a 5 minute space of time while waiting for check out. I am chatty . I so rarely actually see another living being, past the cats, what with my kids all moved out and my husband always at work , that I tend to rattle off. I did not used to be that way. I used to be much more reserved and well the above rather did apply to how I lived my life and cultivated my friendships. But now with the current life situation and the age of online friendships and well the fact that I share nearly everything with you my readers ...the rules and ways of forming friendships has really changed for me. I am undecided if this is good or bad. Anymore, I feel like a puppy that suddenly gets attention, I get so giddy and nearly pee if spoken to. Everyone is a friend.

"Borrow a page from the French Girl's Book: Family 
Consider your family an essential continuum, even if it's small or fragmented . Perpetuate your family's collective memory and personal history by preserving and passing down meaningful objects. establish a couple of rituals ( a big family dinner once a week, a family brunch, a walk en famile after Thanksgiving dinner) and maintain them at all costs. Keep photo albums and scrap books ; jot down captions in good ink"

Ok I fail at this. I have tried on and off through the years with my children to do all of this, and it sadly never lasts that long. My family all love each other, for the most part, and in their own ways, down deep. But rituals, yeah they just do not happen. We all lead very separated lives, some by distance, others by personality or life styles or placement in this world. So sadly , as I said I have failed on all accounts. I did not even really have it as a child to draw upon, so it was hard for me as an adult to make it happen and stick with it. I wish the truth was different.

"Borrow a page from the French Girl's Book :Children
Embrace boundaries and structure in family life. Be a parent first , then a friend. Surround your child with authentic things and experiences. Expose your child to the real world. Work with local charities. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Resist the desire to fill every moment with activities. Take the time to be with your child and teach him/her the virtues of time and solitude . Encourage daydreaming , reverie, and thoughtfulness in your children. Teach then the value of delayed gratification"

I think I did pretty good with this when our children were growing up. I was the parent; enforcing boundaries.I spent quality time with them.  We fed the homeless, we sung to Seniors from our church, we helped out at church functions...I always encouraged learning to be ok with being alone and play time; using their imagination. Delayed gratification...well even I am not very good with that !! 

"Borrow a page from the French Girl's Book : Men 
let go of the myth of the perfect man ( It's a myth, after all.) Focus on your power as an individual and on cultivating authentic relationships. If a relationship isn't working , move on. If you think you can fix your man, think again. Maintain your inner strength. Practice poise by what you don't give away about yourself. Cultivate the life of your mind . Never apologize for who you truly are."

WOW! Ok, this really is great advice. I lucked out. My hubbie is a great man. Often I am asked how I trained him so well? But in reality it is all just who he is. I have managed not to change him, but was able to tweak certain things. It took a lot of frogs before I found my prince....and I always remind my oldest daughter about that when she laments over her failed relationships and not having a good man in her life just yet. She sadly falls into the traps mentioned above of what not to do....but I know one day that will change and she will have happiness. At least that is our dream for her.  I see my Mother and Father , well he changed, not sure if she has , but I suspect on some levels she did....but in response to how my Father changed with age and time, and it was not for the better. She so often wishes things were different, but it is not to be....maybe it was always the same with them and neither saw it. I try to have my daughters not look at who they are with through rose colored glasses , that way they know 100% what they are getting and if they still love that man, and want to be with them, then that is wonderful, at least they will not be disappointed down the line. That is not to say I want them to have low expectations, I just want them not to put upon the poor gent they pick what their ideals are, as it simply is not fair. I knew all the great parts and not so great parts of my hubbies personality and ways and habits before I said I do....and I accepted them and we are still very much in love many years later....that is all I could ever want for my daughters.

The rest of the chapter, like the previous chapter is filled with little shadowed boxes that break things down and clarify the subject matter and then also we are given , as readers, wonderful movies to watch that go with the chapter subject, French girls "we love" , books, much wonderful things that I am not including each once again  I high suggest you order the book! Till next week......

Tomorrow , part two of the adventure from yesterday continues....more buildings, history, a ghost story and a photo that will possibly make you say "hmmmmm, I wonder..."


  1. I laughed for about 2 minutes after reading the line about being a puppy and nearly peeing yourself!! OMG!

    I tend to be more introvert and usually saying less and not speaking to people I do not know ,and taking a long time to get to know people. I guess I am very french that way. I think it is a good and bad thing. Sometimes I envy those who can talk to anyone!

  2. I, too, tend to be an introvert with thinking first and am quiet with others at first. Online media certainly is changing us - developing different world relationships. I am surprised there are so many people not with written comments - readers only. I then realized we do connect. I am grateful to be surrounded with all. Its been an interesting journey with writing.


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