Springtime in Paris: Woman of a Certain Age Feels the Difference

Springtime in Paris: Woman of a Certain Age Feels the Difference

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springtime in paris
Women of a certain age bloom in Paris during springtime. © Yvonne Hazelton

From age 25 to 50, I lived in the California suburbs, raising kids and teaching piano. During the ridiculously long chapter of my life called Breastfeeding, I homeschooled, wearing the requisite denim jumper. It was great because I could pop a boob out one side and feed the kid anywhere.

When that chapter closed and the next one, Schlepping and Hustling, opened, I moved up to sensible dresses, or pants and a blouse. When I needed new clothes, I went down to TJ Maxx, took six dark neutral frocks into the dressing room, and had a mini-breakdown, fretting over my lost youth and wondering if kids were worth it. (JK, sweeties, I love you. But seriously, who hasn’t thought that?) Anyway, I bought the dress that made me cry the least and went home. (BTW if you can leave a TJ Maxx dressing room without crying, I need the name of your prescriber.)

Photo courtesy of author

My friends were all in the same boat. The ones that worked outside the home just cried in the Nordstrom dressing rooms instead of TJ Maxx.

I drove a green minivan, like all the other moms.

We lived in a cookie-cutter ranch house, like everybody else.

We went to church, where my style of dress was approved of as being non-threatening to the fragile male eye. I wasn’t causing anybody to stumble.

I was invisible, and that was fine.

When we had a night out, we’d drive the kids down to Outback Steakhouse. A woman reaches peak invisibility at Outback.

It was fine. My emotional plate was full and I was trying to keep the whole family happy. No time for anything else.

looking for love
Yvonne Hazelton in Paris. Photo courtesy of author.

And suddenly, a life change…..

When I was 50, we moved to Paris. There, things were different.

I was shocked and appalled when men, random men, strangers and waiters and clerks, talked to me. Me, a mousy middle-aged brunette with no game!

The butcher and the postman looked delighted to see me. Customers in cafes where I drank coffee commented on the weather. They were generally respectful and appropriate, just shooting the breeze. I was mystified. What did they want from me?

“Nothing,” said my new friend Lisa. “Men in Paris are flirty. Talk to them, or don’t.”

“Flirty? To me?”

“Yeah. Everybody.”

paris granny style
Two fashionable elderly women in Paris.© Alexis Duclos for INSPIRELLE

I began to notice the women of my age and older. They had great style, as you’d expect in France. (I’ve written about granny style before, lots of striking monochrome outfits with excellent accessories.) Women aren’t invisible in France. Old, young, middle, they’re just women, all worthy of a conversation. They all exchange friendly banter with each other, with clerks and friends and dog walkers passing by.

Freed from the sartorial bonds of piano teaching, I went shopping and let the salesladies put me in some nice outfits. They showed me how to drape a scarf and tie a belt. I bought French undergarments, all lace and support and magic, making me sorry to conceal my goddess form with too much fabric. I grew more daring.

Read about Yvonne Hazelton’s online dating experiences in Paris. And for more cheeky observations, click here.

Paris in spring
© Krystal Kenney

I love Paris in the springtime…..

My first springtime in Paris, when people came blinking out into the sunshine after a long gray winter, I was amazed at what the women of a certain age wore. They were fabulous. Strappy sundresses, sandals with a delicious pedicure, gold jewelry against tanned skin, linen pants and shirts unbuttoned daringly low or buttoned so that only the top two buttons were done and their tummies peeked out. They had glossy hair and sat at cafe tables with their friends, toasting each other in the sunshine with rosé. Many femmes d’une certain age showed more skin than I had ever shown in my life, and they didn’t care about wrinkles or saggy knees or bra straps. They were out with their friends feeling the warm breeze and sipping wine, not caring who saw their armpits.

They weren’t invisible. They were aggressively visible.

I went back to the shop and had the ladies put me in a sundress and some cute sandals.

I met Lisa for rosé on a terrace. She had her sundress on, too.

We toasted each other, feeling the sun on our shoulders and the wind in our hair, and I felt that denim jumper galloping away into the sunset. Its job was done.

————-

If you’re in the US and need to get ready for summer, go to TJ Maxx or Nordstroms or wherever you go and try on some pretty sundresses. Don’t cry – if the dress doesn’t fit, that’s its problem, not yours.

If you’re in Paris, I suggest the following shops:

Maison 123 (shops all over town, with workwear and fun stuff)

Donna Cusumano (38 Blvd des Batignolles, the actual shop where I got my dress) (okay, several dresses)

Nina Kendosa (flowy linen and cotton, shops all over town)

Uniqlo and Muji (chain stores but great summery things)

C&A (department store with lots of sizes)

Get those magic undergarments at Clair de Lune, 119 bis rue Ordener. Your girls will thank you.

Everybody, it’s springtime! Get out there, show your collarbones or your knees or whatever you’ve got, and be visible!

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