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Speaking of Donn and his beret and his faux-French accent (why do you think he has this outRRRageous accent?), I have bad news: the accent is contagious. People, especially males between about 35 and 60, (ok, only males) see the beret and they just go off. “Ah, oui!” they shout at him. It’s getting a bit old.

But yesterday morning, he ran into a friend of ours, an older woman, and she said, “Now Donn, you’re looking very French. Maybe a little too French.”
We love this. We’ve been saying that to each other ever since. “Maybe a little too French,” he says when I ask if a certain outfit looks good, or I say when he asks my opinion on his new business card. But she was serious. And it got me thinking about the propensity of older women to be, well, frank with those younger than themselves about what might be considered personal choices.
This reminded me, inevitably, of our time in France. French older women are unstoppable. They wear black, of course, and high-heeled boots, and they have immaculate silver hair and lipstick and tiny dogs on long leashes, and they have no qualms about approaching complete strangers and telling them what they’re doing wrong with their lives. This happened to us. One Saturday, on the way home from school (children go to school on Saturday in France. That just ended the romance for you right there, didn’t it?) we stopped in at our favorite coffee shop to pick up some freshly-roasted beans (still warm) and the proprietor of the shop gave each child a sucette, a lollipop, as a treat. They wandered happily down the cobblestone alleys, eating their candy , and an older woman stopped Donn and I to tell us off. “It will ruin their teeth!” she told us firmly. “They should not eat hard candy.”
Of course we didn’t think of the good answers till several blocks later. “It helps them quit smoking,” Donn muttered. “It’s just their baby teeth!“ I riposted. But it was too late. She was gone from our lives, leaving us just a little bit flabbergasted.
Another time, we were stopped in the park and reprimanded because Abel’s coat was not zipped. It was a raw March day and he was wearing a t-shirt, sweater, and coat, and running at full steam, since we were (once again) late for school. This was not the same woman, but another one who took it upon herself to help us raise our children, since presumably hers were in prison or living on the streets.
But I was also a tiny bit envious. I want to be like this. I want to be able to tell complete strangers how to live their lives, and do it with such imperviousness, such command, such confidence. I’m just not there. I’m too nice.
My theory is that you are comfortable telling people the age of your kids what to do. I could never be bossy to a 20 year old, for example, but when the kids next door lost their house key and came to hang out till their mum came home from work, I had no problem telling them they could eat oranges but not candy and not to jump on the furniture. Carry that out 20 years, and I could see myself stopping people on the street and telling them that pajamas are actually meant only for sleeping in and look comic and wrong when worn in public.
So when I’m an old woman, I’m not going to wear purple. I shall wear a long black coat and burgundy lipstick, get a small dog, and sail the streets, telling people what to do.
Looking forward to this might make the aging process a little easier to bear.
Because right now, it really sucks. Elliot has been exercising for 4 days now and is already noticeably trimmer and sailing up the hill, leaving me gasping in his wake. It almost makes me want to be 12 again.

almost too French, non? 

January 2008

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