Every Monday, Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart of the sumptuous blog, Through the French Eye of Design, and I embark on our transatlantic conversation. We are always in parallel. She lives outside New York and I live outside Paris.
Each week we choose subjects to examine in our adopted lands which, because of our culture and heritage, we may find funny, infuriating or frustrating. Then we tell you all about our pleasures, prejudices and predilections.
This week we’re taking on the police and TV anchorwomen. You have to admit we have no fear.
Lights, Camera, Action. . .
Oh yes, and right before show time on the other side of the Atlantic — granted, with a few exceptions — comes makeup, makeup, makeup, gloss, gloss, gloss, major false eyelashes, a can of hairspray and what seems like some tucking, pinning and starching to hold that “I’m here to talk about serious news” wardrobe in its crisp, primary colored, no-nonsense professional state of strict immobility through the entire broadcast and beyond.
I like CNN’s Becky Anderson’s style. She gives off a bien dans sa peau air. The only problem with her is she is so twitchy she makes me want to take a tranquilizer.
My favorite news person in the States is Ann Curry and I think Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer make a great complimentary style team both in personality and wardrobe. (I take it this should be in the past tense because Diane is moving on to the evening news. Watch her fabulous clothes.)
Meanwhile at 8p.m. on the national news in France — it’s a small country, as far as I know we have no regional newscasts which is where admittedly one sees the most egregious aberrations on the coif/cosmetic front in the States (I am waiting to be corrected) — the women news anchors here appear natural and comfortable. For the most part, their makeup is understated, their hair does not give the impression it has been lacquered into a rock-solid structure and their clothes look just right and in the case of my favorite anchorwoman of all time, Claire Chazal, exceedingly chic.
Do any anchors in other countries dare bare their arms as Claire has done above?
On the negative side, on some of the new news channels the women look a little too comfortable for my taste since they are after all talking about the mayhem that is our world today. Hard news deserves some sartorial respect.
A couple look like they rolled out of bed, grabbed a scrunchy and let their hair fall where it may. A few seem overly anxious to show us the difference between a classic V neckline and a plunging, look- at-the-lace-on-my-bra V. They all pass by makeup of course. That’s the one grooming area where truly they do surpass their Anglo-Saxon peers.
As far as presentation, as in actually presenting the news as opposed to their facade, it’s the same story the world over I would suspect. Everyone knows how to sit up straight and read. It’s the least we can expect.
Here Come the Police
As I’ve mentioned, one cannot help but be shocked from time to time when fully immersed in another culture. Dealing with the police is one of those areas.
What surprised me was not the police per se, but the vehemence with which some French women detest them. I have seen perfectly preppy (BCBG), well-brought-up, chic women with children in tow, when stopped for some reason by a uniform fly out of their cars and turn into wild, raging harridans using language for which they would give their children a serious time-out.
A woman I knew — I witnessed this, dumbstruck — was so out of control that when the policeman told her if she didn’t shut-up (he said “calm down”) he would continue to write ticket after ticket after ticket for “outrage against an officer of the law.” She didn’t care. She went on and on and on and so did he. Back then it cost her nearly 2000 francs. He had a good reason to stop her and she probably could have talked her way out of the fine, but she preferred this route. She loved to recount her hysterical confrontation at dinner parties.
Since living in France I’ve had three “pull over, turn off the engine, show me your papers” encounters with the police. Before the orders they always give a little salute and say “bonjour madame.” I find this maneuver unnerving. For some inexplicable reason I’m afraid of the police, as if I’ve done something wrong of which I am unaware, but they know exactly what it is and the jig is up.
Every one of my impromptu meetings have proved to be more than pleasant. This is how they unfolded, after the salute, etc.:
1.) “Did you know you have no break lights?” (I’m thinking: I may be blonde, but I’m not completely stupid, do you think I would willingly drive without those suckers?) I say, “Oh no officer, of course I didn’t know. In fact I just picked up my car from the garage yesterday (this is true). I am soooo, sorry I would never drive knowing I had no break lights. And btw, I love your boots. Can anyone buy them or are they only reserved for the police?”
At this point he looks at his boots — they are great and I was sincere — and said he didn’t know, but if I promise to get those lights fixed first thing tomorrow he’ll let me go. I promise. He then said: “I wouldn’t want you to have an accident.” Merci, officer.
2.) “You don’t have your fog lights on.” (I’m thinking: What are fog lights?) I say, “Bonjour Monsieur, do I have fog lights, I didn’t know I had fog lights?” Then he shows me which button means fog lights and he lets me go telling me to be careful in the future.
3.) “I can’t read your license plate.” (I’m thinking: Well that’s excellent news.) I say, “Oh.” This time it’s a gang of them with one woman. The leader asks for my papers. I say, “Of course.” Then I realize they’re in another bag because the bag I had yesterday didn’t go with the coat I had on today. I explain this to the platoon. Then I say, “I swear this is true.” (Which it is.) And the whole pack let’s me leave with the promise I’ll get a new license plate.
French police intuitively understand that I could not possibly accessorize with my blue Lancel bag when I was wearing my red YSL pea coat. It was perfect the day before with my French blue YSL pea coat.
Et voila. Now over to Jeanne-Aelia to see what she thinks.