I don’t happen to know too many French people here in New York, so of course I treat the few that I do like they are the spokespeople for their entire country. The other day I was in the playground with my girls and their little friend Lena, whose dad is French. FranÃ§ois was congratulating me on the book deal.
He’d never read Formerly Hot, so I gave him the thumbnail: It’s about what happens when a woman realizes that she’s no longer young–not old, but not young, either. She feels different, the world treats her differently, but it’s unclear exactly what’s changed except maybe the ingredients in her moisturizer and the little demographic box she checks when filling out a customer satisfaction survey.
And then, naturally, I added, “But perhaps French women wouldn’t relate to it so much. I mean, being French and all.”
He looked at me, all, Je ne comprend pas, so I explained. “You know, the French, they are supposed to find older women alluring, sexy in a different way. Seasoned, if you will, as opposed to merely…older.” His English is perfect. Still, he looked perplexed, so I tossed out the poster gal for the still-appreciated, French icon of permahotness: “Um…Catherine Deneuve? Just as hot, or hotter, even, than some young model?”
“Ah, yes, but that’s Catherine Deneuve. She still looks, well, like Catherine Deneuve,” he said. “No, I don’t think French women will have any trouble at all understanding this idea.” He went on to point out that, just like in the classless society in which we Americans dwell, French TV and film stars fret about their looks after 40 and often quietly move to off-camera jobs. Aged wine? Mais oui. Aged cheese? Formidable! Aged women? Quelle horreur!
Somehow, I’d swallowed the myth that French women were appreciated for their slender, chic loveliness well into their older age. Frenchwomen don’t get fat and neither do they get frumpy. But if FranÃ§ois is correct, and Catherine Deneuve is the freak genetic exception, not the rule, yet another one of my cherished illusions has been stomped on.
Then again, things are looking up for those foreign rights, n’est pas?