I feel like Auntie Mame. I'm the one off in left field, or more specifically, the one who has leapt across the ocean and added a certain gloss of European education and culture. Were I still back in the US, in Boston or Northern Michigan, I would hold myself a bit differently.
I would perhaps speak less about politics. I would be at ease with men as big brothers and easier in their company. I certainly wouldn't wear a transparent top with a decorative, made-to-be-seen bra underneath. Nor would I flaunt my décolleté.
Yes, when you live in France you do learn to dress differently. You acquire a certain ease with your body being at least partially on display. If you are beautiful, if you have assets worth showing off, you do so. Is it demeaning? I don't live it as such. However, I am careful when back home.
In France it is not considered crass or cheap to wear a lovely black bra under a sheer white blouse. Quite the contrary. You'll see this combination on the most elegant and bourgeois of women, and these of a 'certain age.' And you certainly don't worry if bra straps are in view in the summer under a slip of a top. That's simply summer wear. Accept it as such.
And so I startled and educated the young woman in my care. It is alright, I was careful. When entrusted with a sixteen year old of lovely manners, superb parents, generous spirit and more, I hold myself to high standards of care and attention. But I must say we did remark upon, laugh at, and contemplate these certain cultural differences.
I suppose that the character Carrie in Sex and the City put out the vibe of being sexy and smart while nearly always having her bra in view. And many Europeans assume Americans are simply like that. Little do they realize the power of our Puritan past. Nor the fear that sexy demeans. It goes far beyond the surprise of meeting a blond with brains. If a woman is proud of her appearance, elegance and allure, can she run a corporation? Or must she dim it down, and be subdued to earn and keep respect for her intellect and administrative powers?
In any case, in France it is demeaning of yourself to not be at your best. It is appropriate and expected that anyone with a decent level of self-esteem is aware that enjoying her beauty and physical presence is perfectly normal.
And so, we have a choice of lingerie that is quite marvelous. We have boutiques in every village that specialize in such, and when sales time comes along, we stock up.
Thus, in my role as Auntie Mame, I may need to pick up a couple of pretty brassieres for a certain sixteen year old. Decorative, comfortable, in pretty patterns, easy to wear, and most definitely not with added padding. Apparently something that is difficult to come by back home in Boston.