Bien dans sa peau - une femme d'un certain âge

Bien dans sa peau

It’s that mythical state that French women supposedly embody from birth (though the vast number of minceur creams and pills in French pharmacies may be a chink in that armor), and, we’re told, the foundation to achieving effortless chic.

Being comfortable in one’s own skin is not a state that comes easily to some of us. We struggle with our failure to meet cultural standards or even just our own. We starve, we crunch, we pluck, dye, wax, inject ourselves toward an arbitrary and unattainable ideal. We practice denial: the comfort of going sleeveless on a hot day, ice cream from Berthillon, sex with the lights on, a day at the beach, clothes that actually fit our bodies as they are now.

Not to be morbid, but recent deaths of friends and people we knew only from their work bring home the point that Life Is Short. Life is too short to worry that your thighs are too dimply or your ears are too pointy or your boobs are too small or your upper arms sag. Life is to short to get upset at finding another wrinkle or grey hair. Life is too short to spend apologizing for what we walked away from the table with in the great crapshoot that is genetics.

But “bien dans sa peau” also goes deeper, I think. It’s a type of comfort and acceptance of our likes and dislikes, our choices and values, and how we live our lives. It’s the knowledge that we’re not perfect, and mistakes do not make us worthless. It’s a form of grace, of living (and yes, dressing) in alignment with who we are, and not trying to fit ourselves into a mold.

In his usual eloquent way, the Manolo sums it up perfectly: Dress well, live well, treat others well, and do all you can with joyful confidence and others will invariably come to love your flaws as you yourself cannot.

Photo of Simone Signoret from here.

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  1. June 25, 2008 / 3:11 pm

    So well said, by both of you! There is a charm and intrigue in imperfection. When I see a woman so perfectly coiffed,dressed and (often) starved, I want to reach out and muss her up a bit. Eat your gelato, dance till your bangs fly!

  2. June 25, 2008 / 3:13 pm

    Oops, that was me, not my son- though I hope he would share these sentiments!

  3. June 25, 2008 / 5:05 pm

    Deep for sure. I find that when I’m not feeling comfortable with my life choices, my appearance, mainly my weight, becomes a source of self beratement. I suppose dieting is the most cost effective/least invasive of physical change regimens. But then it’s the most self denying, at the same time. And the vicious cycle continues. I think Anne Lamott said grace is forgiving, even yourself.

  4. June 25, 2008 / 5:05 pm

    It’s human nature to fret about little things, because it’s human nature to always be dissatisfied. I think people start beating themselves up about THAT and then they’re really in a downward spiral. As long as your life isn’t ruined by the little things, a little fretting isn’t gonna kill ya.

  5. June 25, 2008 / 5:40 pm

    TU Student – Thanks! Yes, we all should have a little wind in our hair from time to time.

    duchesse – did you post a previous comment? It seems to have disappeared.

    metscan – I’m a big believer in “fake it till you make it”. Try pretending to be joyfully confident for an hour or so, and see if it catches hold.

    dana – I’d disagree that dieting is not invasive, but yeah, we do tend to focus a whole spectrum of dissatisfaction onto our bodies.

    wendyb – sure, some fretting is fine; it’s the part when you start making your life smaller because of imagined flaws that’s gotta go.

  6. June 25, 2008 / 6:55 pm

    Why, after I read your first paragraph here, I was thinking of Manolo. Quite!

  7. June 25, 2008 / 7:00 pm

    surgery = physically invasive
    dieting = psychologically invasive
    I vote NO to both

  8. metscan
    June 25, 2008 / 4:15 pm

    “do all you can with joyful confidence”( if only I could).. Very good thoughts,leaves me with something to think about.

  9. June 25, 2008 / 11:35 pm

    AYYY! MIss J was going to use the very same quote from the Manolo! MIss Deja has beat her to it, and done so splendidly.

  10. June 26, 2008 / 12:11 pm

    @ Dana:

    Dieting = physiologically invasive as it can do some serious damage to our bodies’ homeostasis

    @ Dejapseu: You rightly point out that ‘bien dans sa peau’ goes beyond la peau 🙂 I think however somewhere the socialisation of women in our cultures limits the pursuit of living with grace..

  11. June 26, 2008 / 6:08 pm

    miss janey – thank you. I’d love to read what you were going to add to Manolo’s words.

    Linda – the Manolo is wise. 🙂

    Shefaly – “socialisation of women in our cultures limits the pursuit of living with grace..” I’m intruiged.

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