When in Rome, do as the French do. Or whatever.

photo (96)So, I’ve been trying this new thing lately.  I’ve been wearing just red lipstick.  No no, just red lipstick.  I’ll put on my moisturizer, comb my eyebrows if I have a moment (and lightly even them out with a pencil if even more time), and then choose one of my reds and get to paintin’.  And then I’ll leave.  No concealer anywhere, no blush, no mascara, nothing beyond the red lip.  Today was one of these days, and I employed NARS Dragon Girl.  It’s brighter than the more scarlet Cruella, but I’ll take either one.

Considering my inability to wake up in a timely manner, I often find myself lacking the time to put on any sort of makeup before I leave the house for work.  I’ve discussed this before.  But it bums me out.  For as much of a crazy hoarder lady as I am when it comes to makeup, I have to say that I probably wear it just three out of seven days during the week.  It’s depressing too, because putting on makeup has the capabilities of relaxing and centering me, and I have to miss out on that creative moment just for myself.  But part of what prevents me from doing my makeup quickly is this belief that when I do it, I have to do a full routine.  And it’s not that a full routine necessarily takes a ton of time once I get going, but it’s just that I take about as long as an Ent to make a decision when it comes to makeup.  Seriously.  I’ll lay all of my makeup out in front of me and then just stare at it for a few minutes before I pick anything up.

What’s great about the red lip, however, is that it needs nothing else.  It really doesn’t.  No “full routine” is necessary.  I recently read an interview of makeup artist phenom Laura Mercier, and she talked about how you can find women all over her home country of France who wear absolutely no makeup everyday except for red lipstick.  Their hair is perhaps casually pulled back, their skin is bare, but their lips are painted vibrant red.  And somehow the touch of unabashedly glamorous red manages to pull your whole look together.  It looks intentional, and yet it still appears like you didn’t try too hard.  Like you just ascend to Audrey Hepburn levels of sophistication on a regular basis, even if you’re just in a sweater and jeans.

I do admit that I love the French beauty aesthetic a lot more than our American perspective on it.  The French idea of beauty tends to revolve a lot more around the natural and the subtle.  There’s a sense of restraint within French women when it comes to things like makeup and hair, and yet they’ll never be accused of not taking the subject seriously (but not in an obsessive manner like we tend to be used to … think more reverence than obsession).  Conversely, American beauty has few subtleties to it by comparison.  The idealized perception of Barbie and women like those we see in the Miss America pageant, the outlandish plastic surgery procedures we’ll undergo just to feel like a “hotter” version of ourselves, all the gloss, shadow, and false lashes we use, and the heavy face makeup that really doesn’t do a thing for your face other than make you look like the child of RuPaul … seriously, what we tend to perceive as light, day-time makeup here will fly as an over-done full face of crepe batter in France.

It isn’t that French women don’t try; it’s just that there’s a difference between, say, trying to look like a Victoria’s Secret model every day from the time you’re twenty until you’re fifty, as opposed to just simply trying to age gracefully when it needs to happen.  I’d like to think that what I’m doing (and not doing) to my skin today is actually an investment that will pay off when I’m sixty.  And finally, the most interesting part of French beauty culture to me is the fact that there’s zero emphasis on working out.  They take their time with food, eat a very balanced diet, and do plenty of walking, but the gym fanatic culture we see here in America doesn’t exist in France.  Whether a woman has a J.Lo butt and Gwen Stefani abs isn’t really a concern; it has more to do with a woman’s taste and how she carries herself.

I know all of this may sound like the very height of snobbery, and for that I apologize.  It’s just that getting acquainted with the French idea of beauty over the past couple years has given me the realization that getting ready, or should I say getting pulled together in a sophisticated way, doesn’t have to be as hard as a routine of eye makeup, face makeup, and curled hair.  In fact, sometimes doing just the opposite has a much chicer effect, and this has been nothing short of freeing for me personally.  Because I feel like concealer, bronzer, blush, eyeliner, and mascara are all necessary when I do my makeup, I give up on all of it all together when I don’t have the time.  But not so with the French!  Just grab the rouge and go, and if it can be so with the French, it can be so for moi.  xo, MR

p.s. Oh, have I been to France?  Nope.  But let me just say this- when I get there, DO NOT expect to find me galavanting around like an excited tourist.  I intend to blend in seamlessly, even if it means wearing a paper bag on my head as some kind of fashion-forward “statement” so I can hide from you.  I need to be taken seriously by the people that I so admire, and I’ll be not be outed by you ID-ing me as a ‘Murican!  If there is a ever a time when I need to look like I can cut you with my gaze, it’s when you find me in Paris.  I’ll be wearing the most uncomfortable plantar-fascitis-inducing heels with the most awesome, heavy, bad-for-travelling-but-good-for-looking-like-Catherine-Denueuve coat I can find.  I don’t have time for your comfy sweater-sets and walking shoes and backpacks!  What is that kind of foolery?!  Don’t look at me with your fanny pack in Paris.  DON’T look at me.

One thought on “When in Rome, do as the French do. Or whatever.

  1. I love this one!!! I love Paris and I’m heading back for my 4th trip next month. I’m usually in all black. Heels and bags over the top! I’m not an American when I’m there! I speak French and feel transported to another time and place!!!! Thanks for the great read!!

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