Our French niece, Alexandra, was chez nous for lunch today. Her country house is next door to our house.
Normally she is here with her husband, three daughters and as of six months, her grandson. It would be an understatement to say that her life is busy. She is a doctor involved in policy in the Ministry of Health in Paris, she is the assistant mayor of one of France’s largest towns and is a regional delegate although I’m not entirely sure what that means. I know it means more work.
Several times each year she travels to international symposiums to discuss world health questions and problems.
She often performs civil marriages in the town’s mairie (town hall).
She is one of my favorite interviewees because I have enormous admiration for the way she manages that most difficult challenge woman face today: The delicate balance between her personal life and her professional life. (She and her husband also entertain often and well. He is a great cook, as is she.)
Since we’ve been talking about dressing and making an effort every day in some way, I asked her if a little bit of fussing was part of her quotidian.
“Absolutely,” she said, “except for today — just a little bit of cream on my face and a swipe of mascara, hair au naturale, shorts, tank top and my pink Converse sneakers. Tomorrow, I’ll tame my hair with a brushing, add a little bit more makeup, jump into a dress and a pair of wedge sandals and voilà, off to work.”
She was also wearing perfume, which she failed to mention, but I smelled it when we performed our “bonjour” double kiss ritual.
“When I’m in Paris and not working, I still make an effort before leaving the house. It’s important for me to feel ‘pulled together’ then I can forget about what I’m wearing.
My girls are the same way. Caroline is heading back to work after her maternity leave, Julie loves to dress for work and Paris parties and of course Alix is still in school, but she has a lot of fun with her clothes. They think making an effort is fun. They really care about the way they look. I think they see the way they dress as a means of being creative, even if they are only wearing skinny jeans — maybe in white or red — sandals and a mariner t-shirt.”