Back in 2000 I lived in Paris for a year while studying at Parsons School of Design. On the weekends (okay, not EVERY weekend), instead of recovering from being out at one of the various clubs, I would spend the day wandering all around the city. Popping in and out of shops, brassaries and of course, the pharmacy.
French women are some of the chicest around and their beauty game, while nonchalant and uncontrived, is unparalleled. European women in general know how to do it. They don’t obsess over every little line or imperfection, preferring to age with grace and stand strong in the knowledge that true beauty comes from within.
They focus on living with enjoyment and savoring life. Pausing to enjoy a coffee with a friend in the middle of the day, taking time to spend with family on Sunday’s when the only things open are museums and restaurants. Participating in all the culture and beauty that surrounds them on a daily basis.
Being dropped into that culture in my twenties was a gift. I knew no one and spoke just a few words of French. I had only been to Europe once before, but I knew it was my kinda place when I saw there was a smoking section on the back of the plane.
You see, at that time, this girl smoked Gauloises, stayed up until all hours of the night, sketched perspectives of rooms and had decided that an MBA at Columbia or Wharton wasn’t the path I wanted to take. I wanted to explore the world, be creative and try something new. Paris gave me all that and more. So I left my job, my family and my boyfriend and headed to Paris looking for adventure and ended up finding myself.
I got comfortable with a lack of personal space, of not being understood and being okay with it and of being stared at while I waited in line at the Tabac in my Birkenstocks. Apparently they weren’t deemed chic then, but I’ll just claim being ahead of the pack.
Living in Paris taught me the following things:
- All things in moderation.
- Smoking might not kill you.
- Fishnet tights with trainers can be chic as long as you are wearing a trench coat.
- Eating dinner before 8 PM makes no sense.
- A diet of bread, cheese and wine is okay sometimes. See #1.
- Use a cloth napkin at every meal and never let another paper napkin enter my home.
But most of all it taught me that true beauty isn’t found in potions or serums, but in experiencing life with all it’s twists and turns and unexpected challenges. Real lasting beauty comes through self knowledge, confidence and the freedom found in being yourself.
So don’t worry so much about the bags under your eyes, or the extra wrinkle that wasn’t there last year. Believe me when I say that there will be more and with each one know that you have lived another year, expressed yourself freely and if those laugh lines deepen, so be it. At least you were smiling.