The only thing as enduring as the allure of French women, is the allure of older French women – or women “of a certain age,” as the French respectfully call them. Countless books have been written about these creatures we’ve all seen in France: Women who actually look their age and still radiate a certain undeniable sensuality. They seem comfortable in their own skin because they’re comfortable being grown-ups: They act their age and still enjoy seductive pleasures with men without trying to shave off the years. (Take note: The love affair between forty or fifty-year-olds is a staple in French cinema, as opposed to the junior varsity squad that dominates film in America.)
So how do these older French women learn to relish the accrued wisdom and compelling charms that only come with time? Consider these five keys to how French women age gracefully.
1. Sexy is a state of mind
French women understand that looking good and feeling good are not necessarily the same thing; the latter invariably trumps the former. In other words, feeling sexy on the inside, which usually involves having a rich inner life, makes you look sexy on the outside. A simple calculation. But just how do French women cultivate this inner sexiness? Read on.
2. Pleasure is a key part of life
French women enjoy life and don’t inflict strict rules on themselves. Pleasure is their North Star, which is not to say that they give themselves carte blanche to, say, gorge on sugar and carbs because it feels good. That is less about pleasure and more about immediate self-gratification. French women understand the secrets to moderation but always make room for small personal pleasures. (No wonder they invest regularly in fabulous lingerie.) They also go out of their way to cultivate a rich inner life.
3. Trying to hard to be happy can make you miserable
We Anglo-Saxons are finally getting around to the idea trying too hard to constantly be “happy” can make us very unhappy. (Witness a score of recent books written on the subject.) What we call “happiness” the French more often refer to as “joie de vivre,” or the joy that comes in small doses in everyday life: a simple but delicious meal relished en famille, a solitary walk in the park, an impromptu affair of the heart and mind. One way to cultivate that joie de vivre (in addition to incorporating pleasure in your life), is to opt for meaningful experiences through people, places, rituals or certain things, versus superficial distractions. French women have a keen sense of the brevity of time, so they keep these priorities front and center.
4. Having a life versus making a living
It’s one thing to make a living, quite another thing entirely to have a life. Leave it to the French to pass laws that ensure a healthy balance between the two. French women understand the value of unplugging from work and from the 24/4 world of social media. They make time for daily rituals and the fine art of doing nothing. In short, they work and play hard, keeping in mind the old adage: “No one ever said on their deathbed 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'"
5. Less is more
Finally, we’ve heard it all before because it’s true: Less is more. French women understand that we don’t need more stuff to be happy or sexy. That's why they generally wear less make-up than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, have fewer clothes in their closets that they don’t actually wear, and less gadgets that clutter their lives. Older French women understand how to get more meaning and pleasure in life with a lot less stuff. And that, in the end, equals a whole lot more personal satisfaction.
January 31, 2017