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Friday, March 6, 2015

Formalities ...A French Girl Friday Post

dior. 1950's via google search 

I live a very informal life. You all know, or most of you who have followed my blog know that I have fibromyalgia. Clothing has to be comfortable for me to wear it. Was not always the way, I used to get dressed up to the nines so to say each and every day, my husband would come home and there would be Frank Sinatra playing in the background, and I would be standing there cooking supper in heels and full make up ( and yes there was clothing too...just making a point) , but now he comes home and it is jeans and a T or my pjs. It is not that I do not like to get dressed up, there is just not the energy to do so. In my mind, in my imagination I am that impeccably dressed housewife, who keeps the perfect house, and serves supper without the tv on in the background , candles lit and music playing... well most of you know about my June Cleaver hero worship. So what does this have to do with French Girl Friday you ask? I am getting to that, I promise. I guess in my always wanting to be more than I am , throwing in my desire to jump into a 1950's tv or movie world and my nearly life long love of all that I think to be French  (leading me to search to channel my inner french girl, though I do not at this point ever plan to or expect to travel there), I wish to add part of how they live into my daily life and part of that is the tradition, the formality that many live their life with. 

In the book Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott, in reading chapter 11, it is all tied together.  The chapter is aptly named " Live Life as a Formal Affair". Jennifer explains how quite the opposite to our, for the most part, very casual society, the French or at least the Parisians tend to be more traditional and formal in how they live their lives, " they have tradition in their veins..." ,. You are never going to see men with their pants hanging below their buttocks , girls and women going to the local market or even the shopping areas and restaurants in pjs and slippers. They as I have mentioned in previous posts, according to the author, even when at home are dressed properly for the day. They start and end the day like that. No lounging around in comfy clothing with slippers on well into the afternoon ( um guilty!) , they are dressed as if ready to leave the house even when staying at home. I truly have a desire to force myself, get out of the bad habit of doing such a thing. Oh yes I know, I have circumstances that often force  that upon me even if I do not desire it, but on those days , even on the really bad days I feel I could do better and at least brush my teeth, hair, and put on a little make up and get dressed in nice, but comfy clothing that does not appear as if I got out of bed just ten minutes prior to my husband coming home. 

Imagine this in reverse as my husband typically serves me,
even when I cook. He likes me to rest and take it easy.

Mealtime in my house is casual as well. I am never quite sure when my husband will be home, and on nights he is late, until very recently when I started cooking for our middle daughter as well nearly every night, I would just sit on the couch and eat while the television kept me company. We have the television on a lot when we are all at the table as well. When the girls were little we built a wall between the dining room and living room so that we could make meal time about the family. I tried very hard to make dinner more important, more traditional, even though I was raised myself in front of the tv with a tv tray once we no longer had a home with an official dining room. I was met with resistance and once we had the all "one big space" type of home, those efforts went by the wayside I am sad to say. I am not sure what my family would do if I was to set the table like that described by the author that she witnessed in the Famille Chic's home " The dining room table, when dressed for dinner, wore a table cloth. Their dishes were blue-willow-patterned china and for the glasses they used crystal tumblers. The dining room table most always displayed a fresh bouquet of flowers, artfully arranged by Madame Chic. Wine was decanted into the crystal tumblers and freshly pressed coffee was sipped out of delicate blue-and-white teacups." This to me sounds like perfection and what I think meal time should be, but I have never been able to achieve that, as I mentioned last week, we do not even have ( that are not in deep storage) "good dishes" , just good old corning wear. In the book, it is revealed that meal time was not just formal, but also an event, handled and gone through as if they had dinner guests each night, but it was their normal behavior. Our normal behavior is serve yourself, answer your text messages and zone out on tv while you eat and the tub of butter is sat right on the table. We eat, without much pause of the daily life and when finished do not linger. It is just the act of nourishment. Nothing formal or event like, no traditions made.... not even at the holidays. I imagine it is like that, sadly, in a lot of American homes. 

Formality should not be limited to family meal times, when one goes out, even when alone in a restaurant, and yes people do eat out alone other than fast food, the author suggests to make that a more formal affair as well, make it special, as special as if you were dining with someone. I have often eaten out alone in my life, I enjoy it. There was a time when I would go to a formal restaurant, dressed up as if on a date, with table cloths and waiters with the long aprons and black ties on and sit at a table and enjoy a very nice meal completely by myself and doing nothing more than enjoy the food and the act of eating it. I was never self conscience of doing so like many of my friends and it added a richness to my day,  more so than grabbing a burger and eating in the car or at home in front of the tv.  Now I am guilty of checking my phone or reading a book, though the author encourages that we do not do that, but more times than not I sit and ease drop a little, or people watch. I ask for a booth, I take my time to enjoy my meal and savor each bite and I behave as if I am spending quality time with someone, not just myself. Formal restaurants are a bit of the past for me, but doing the same thing in a local restaurant that I frequent now is just as enjoyable and on some level relaxing. 

Conducting oneself in a formal manner, creating traditions, and exercising rituals, in ones life does not have to be limited to meal times, or entertaining. The author encourages the reader to do so in day to day life. Doing so adds a richness to life. It makes each day special, and can leave a lasting memory with all those that you meet  and who are in your life. Formality can be through your manners and how you conduct yourself, " Just remember always to be gracious, take the high road if met with rude people, and mind your manners. " ,. This is how I have always tried to conduct myself  in life, and it has not always been easy, but it has always been worth it to be able to say I had done so. That is not to say I have not had slip ups, but I do my best to as life goes on and maturity has taken hold to not have as many. You can create some small traditions and rituals in your daily life that are quite simple. My husband, myself and our middle daughter have pizza and bubbly ( as well as fresh baked cookies) every Monday night, now it is in front of the TV as it is for The Bachelor, but it has become one of our favorite evenings of the week. Tuesdays are Tacos, Wednesday spaghetti. My husband either cooks breakfast on his day off or we go to our favorite place to eat to get breakfast, but we make a point of spending that time together no matter what the day holds. My husband and myself also have a glass of wine and some chocolate each evening when relaxing and it is not only relaxing, but a chance for my husband to educate me on the wine, something he enjoys. I have a ritual that while out on my walk, I always stop for coffee, sit and relax and people watch while I drink it before continuing on with my walk, the people at Mc Donalds have come to know me and brew the coffee fresh and always take time to ask how I am doing and I do the same in return. It is one of my favorite parts of my days. A small ritual, a nice formality all rolled into one. 

george marks getty images

Letter writing, actually written on paper,  not many people do it, not since emails and texts. How about thank you notes? When was the last time you received or sent one. These small rituals, the formality of doing such a thing is a lost art. I once had quite a few pen pals, and adored receiving mail on pretty stationary filled with stories of their lives in far away places, it was a special occasion when the mailman would arrive with a stack of letters.  I was raised to send thank you cards. I did my best to raise my daughters the same way, but rarely do I receive one, now it is a quick text message or a note of facebook, when it does happen, it is a treasure and certainly makes my day. Mail can be depressing and or boring, bills, loads of ads for things you do not need or want, but rarely anything from someone wishing to let you know they appreciate you. The author states " Think how pleasantly surprised the recipient of a nice, juicy formal letter would be!", I fully agree! 

You do not have to be French or even have a desire to channel your inner French girl,( though I suspect that just by reading this you have at least a small desire to do so), to bring a little formality to your daily life, to create traditions or rituals, it does not even have to take a lot of effort, but in doing just simple things to do so can add a richness to your daily life that makes it so worth it. The author of Madame Chic gives even more examples than what I have shared with you as to how you can " Live Life as a Formal Affair" ,  Even if you simply just dress up a bit more on a daily basis, to clean the house, run the errands and serve a meal, along the way you may just channel that inner French girl as well as inspire others to do the same. So put on the pearls, wear that red lipstick, wear that special outfit even when just grocery shopping,  and light those candles on the dinner table... and add a bit of formality back to every day life.... I know I will. 

“What is it about wearing a tuxedo or that little black dress, that 

makes us feel confident, beautiful, splendid, even invincible?

We put on formal wear and suddenly we become extraordinary.

On the days when you feel low and invisible, why not try this on 

for size: imagine you are wearing a fantastic tailored tuxedo or a 

stunning formal gown.

And then proceed with your day.” 

 Vera NazarianThe Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration


  1. I do agree with what you have written, and I hope I have achieved a bit of it in my life. My husband and I have always made a point of eating at the dining table, and only lately have decided to have "picnics" in front of the TV if we are done in after our days. I get dressed each day, even if it is in riding clothes if a horse training day. (I am pretty well dressed at the barn!) We just moved to a new city and I am trying to incorporate letter writing into my schedule. It is so nice to receive a hand written letter.

    1. Thank you for your comments...yes it is lovely to receive hand written letters...wish more people would do it.

  2. I read your blog regularly and enjoy it so very much. I've never commented before but I wanted to let you know that your efforts are appreciated and brighten my day considerably.
    Thank you so much,

    1. Thank you so much Molly, that means the world to me to hear!!


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