Monday, January 25, 2010

Transatlantic Parallel

Taa-daa: the second installment of Transatlantic Parallel with the eternally chic (and French obviously) Jeanne-Aelia of The French Eye of Design.

How about a little back story on our parallel series? Since we're still feeling our way in an attempt to fool-proof our technique and fine-tune our approach, this is what we do:  every week we e-mail back-and-forth, back-and-forth, with lists ticking off (in some cases this has a duel definition), what we like about our adopted countries; what we like less or not at all; what we miss from the place we once called home; and what we are glad we left behind.

Once we agree on the subjects; that's it. End of conversation. Silence on the airwaves. We attack in parallel, but not ensemble, if you see what I mean. Neither one of us will read the other's post until you do. Is that exciting or what? Can you still your beating heart?

This weeks topics for debate include:

1.) Bridesmaids versus untold numbers of flower girls.

2.) Standing like ladies and gentlemen in lines -- no cutting in.

3.) Café in the salon after dinner.

4.) Sweats. (Perhaps the name itself gives an enormous hint about the appropriate environment in which they should be worn? Then again, I guess not. . .)

Alright, I'm going to plunge right in and deal with the fallout later. There will be fallout, of that I am certain. I prefer bridesmaids, dear friends of the bride's, over the French tradition of scads of little girls and boys dressed-up in admittedly a-dor-a-ble (French pronunciation) outfits as attendants. There, I've said it.

This is why -- I know you want me to tell you: It's the bride's day. One hopes she knows how to choose her friends, let's hope also that her dress is a show stopper and that all the pretty maids in a row are supporting actresses.  I look at them as the complimentary greenery the florist gives one to fill-out a bouquet. (Think of this as a metaphor. Or maybe it's a simile since I used "as."  Thank you.) Theoretically their role is to make the star shine. 

(You be the judge. The photograph later painted by Edith herewith, shows the mini attendants moments before they run amok.)

Little children, even unspeakably cute little children, ultimately believe their role is to morph into unruly scamps and take the spotlight off the star. Yes they are sweet in photographs and walking down the aisle, but thereafter disaster strikes. I've seen it happen.

I have nothing against one, max two flower girls as long as their mothers are well-disciplined.

Without transition, a major rant about the French and line-cutting. It's a national sport. Some are actually proud of their highly developed techniques. 

It makes me wild. Do you hear me? Wild(!) They do it at the movies, at grocery stores, chez le boulanger, airports, boutiques, any and every place they can get away with it. 

When Andrea was about eight I sent her to our tiny village to pick-up a baguette. When she didn't return after 20 minutes I started to worry. When I ventured out to look for her she was at the end of the line because all the adults had cut in front of her. She would still be there today if I hadn't intervened.


Moving along from bread to café. . . I must admit one of my favorite rituals at French dinner parties is coffee and tisanes in the salon. It is for me, like walking from one experience and atmosphere into another ambience entirely, the third act in a play. Dinner is finished, the hostess gives the signal, everyone stands, places their napkins on the table and adjourns to the living room where a beautiful try is set with demitasse cups, little chocolates and nearby an assemblage of liqueurs, Armagnac, and brandy. 

Neither the hostess nor the guests start a march into the kitchen with their dirty plates. The host or hostess extinguishes the candles and the lights as they leave the dining room and the evening flows on, new setting, more lively conversation. (Antique service above by Christofle.)


I've saved the worst for last: sweatsuits or any parts therefrom worn as real clothes. Yes, I am fully aware of the taut bodies in Juicy Couture get-ups, but still. I don't care how many accessories one adds, I'm sorry, unless a woman is literally running or at least on her way to or from the gym I don't get it. You know I could go on and on, but enough said. Oh, no, not quite. A woman of a certain age should really re-think the sweats issue and visit her full length mirror (if she doesn't own one, it should be her next fashion purchase) take a quick glance over her shoulder. And then ask herself: Do I really like that derrière view? Probably not. Furthermore, is that a choice location for a message?

In all my years in France I have never seen a Frenchwoman, of any age, wearing sweats as if they were some form of ready-to-wear. Never.

A bientôt, until Lundi prochain.


Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart said...

Brilliant! Letitia Bravo, bravo, bravo. The bridesmaid you chose is elegant and beautiful, but I hold my ground...the lines, no comment. agreed. the sweats, even looking like that, we still agree( and with messages on the derriere? n'importe quoi.) et le cafe: alors la! quel luxe et quille elegance! very tough to be compared to a femme d'un certain age; she is really a femme d'un talent certain.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm with you all the way on all points Tish, especially the sweat pants attire. I don't believe I've ever even owned a pair much less worn them. Little children are show stealers. That's their job and they do it well.

When we have dinner parties we try to follow the French tradition and move to another room. It's so much more civilized than having guests stack plates in the sink while you scramble to pour coffee for everyone.

J'adore this post. A bientot,

Marsi said...

Drea was a gorgeous bride. It's so refreshing to see a bride in something other than a boring strapless/bustier dress. I really hate it, now that a lot of women wear them, particularly those who do not have the, ahem, decollete and arms for the cut to be flattering. Seriously, I've seen photos of size 20 brides in strapless gowns, and it makes me wonder how they miss the view in those massive triple mirrors at the bridal salon. All brides should look beautiful, and there's a dress out there for everyone. As always, one must know her body type. I love Drea's halter cut, the re-embroidered lace, and the contrasting sash -- and the unusual lime-green flowers. Stunning.

I didn't know that about little girls as attendants in France. I agree with you: terrible idea. But I love the idea of repairing to the salon after dinner for conversation and treats. How civilized.

This is turning out to be a fun feature, Tish, just as I suspected it would be.


Marsi said...

P.S. Sweats. Have you ever noticed that it's the girls who shouldn't who do? Same situation with the bridal gown: know your body and adorn it thusly. PLEASE.

P.M.S. What's funny is that when you see someone in sweats, you can tell they are the least likely people on earth to exercise.

(A little bitchy this morning. My apologies. A dreaded task for this afternoon must be affecting my tone.)

Shelley said...

Have to say I agree with each of your points -- especially about cutting in line. WILD is the right word. Brits are positively militant about queuing -- it's part of their national heritage. Germans cut in line as do the French (and probably most of continental Europe, I'm guessing); that's probably one of the reasons Brits don't want to give up their pounds and use Euros...

Anonymous said...

I live in Brussels at the moment -- if Paris has an ugly sister, this is it -- but have spent much of my life in England. At dinner parties there, one does just leave the dining room for coffee in the drawing room, but only the women. (Actually, they women don't go straight to the drawing room. They are invited upstairs by the hostess, where they can use the loo -- downstairs loos are strictly for men only -- repair their lipstick, and the rest of it, then back down to the drawing room.)The men stay behind in the dining room for brandy and cigars, then join the women perhaps 30 minutes afterwards. It works.

Style Artisan said...

I am in total agreement on the sweats topic! Marsi summed it up perfectly when she said, "What's funny is that when you see someone in sweats, you can tell they are the least likely people on earth to exercise."

Just because someone's ass is wide enough to function as a billboard does not mean that they should take advantage of the situation!

JMW said...

Great post! I agree with each one. I only had bridesmaids - didn't want to deal with the uncertainty of little ones' behavior (I love kids, but expecting them to behave perfectly during a wedding is ridiculous). Don't cut in line - show some decorum. Enoy the dinner party - clean up later. And, sweats should be worn for excercise or lounging at home. I don't want to see a brand on your arse.

Lorrie said...

Oui, oui, et oui!

I love the line "but only if their mothers are well-disciplined." C'est vraiment vrai!

metscan said...

I like this post. I already mentioned in Jeanne-Aelia´s blog that I prefer the French system more. We here in Finland usually have one bestman and a `bestwoman´for the bride, who take charge of the ceremony after the wedding. There might be one or two flowergirls, probably the children of the couple that are getting married. We do queue here too, with every now and then someone trying to cut in. I have never been able to wear sweatwear, not even at home. I really think that they are meant to be worn on those who do exercise. I have no trouble wearing my riding wear for a quick errand to a local shop, however ;)

BigLittleWolf said...

Trop drôle ! And even casual invitations to lunch or dinner in France are so much more elegant. I think the fact of taking time to savor - conversation as well as all the aromatic and delicious treats - has much to do with a successful gathering.

Ix-nay on the running wear as ready to wear. No question.

James said...

This is going to be fun! thank you Tish!

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Whew You hit a few hot ones there! and I agree with every one!First, after being back in France for only a few days, the ceremony of celebrating eating, drinking and entertaining is something I love. Whatever your tradition, the hostess drives the bus in her home. Me, I love adjourning somewhere else after dinner... About the sweats,I think if one wears them in public, then it should be a requirement, no make-up and your hair should be in rollers too! I hate lines,they are part of life but cutting in, esp on a child is just bad form! Another interesting, funny and cool post from vous. I'm going to check out Jeanne-Aelia's too.
Maryanne xo

Jacqueline said...

I really enjoyed your comparison, Tish.
Bridesmaids get my vote.
Being English, proper etiquette regarding queuing is imperative. There are rules and regulations to queuing which must be obeyed.
The French win, hands down, on the coffee, although, I do like to linger around the table, chatting whilst sipping an espresso.
Lastly, I think that tracksuits or sweats are not the most flattering of outfits.
I look forward to your next Transatlantic Parallel, Tish. XXXX

Semi Expat said...

Fantastic Tish - just love all these points and agree with you wholeheartedly too... Am still laughing though at your "If I hadn't intervened she would still be standing there now" ...
A pet hate of mine too - queue barging - I am British - we know how to stand in line and wait our turn too!

materfamilias said...

Years ago, I took an early train to see cave art at Font de Gaume -- was the second person waiting so was sure I'd be admitted once the ticket office opened. As a crowd slowly gathered, I made sure to keep myself towards the front, but there was no clearly organized line and I started to be less sure of getting in. By the time the ticket office opened, despite my best efforts, I never would have been able to stay ahead of the pushy, pushy French crowd were it not for the kindness of the man who had arrived first -- and who was big enough to be able to carve out a clear space for me, and gallantly push me into it, right at the front! So I'm glad you started off your Transatlantic Parallel series by pointing squarely at this cultural difference -- I can very much relate!

オテモヤン said...


Lily Lemontree said...

I absolutely LOVED this post! Tish, you have outdone yourself. I wish I had read this about 10 years ago when I was planning my wedding. I chose to go with les enfants as a bridal party (maybe because as an 'older' bride, all my girlfriends were already married). I have adorable wedding pictures but none of the little tykes were 'in the mood' that day, parentally forced to walk down the aisle, ran all over the reception area in between servers and what have you, and each one of them (there was 7 of them) took turns on the tantrum train throughout the day. Luckily, I can look back fondly on my choice(ha ha!).
Can't wait for the next installment!!

Sara Louise said...

I loved this post, absolutely adored it. And I agree with you on all points, except, luckily for me I haven't experienced the line cutting yet. But at least now I know to look out for it, and I'll be ready!

Deja Pseu said...

So glad to see the consensus on sweats! Non!

Line cutting is a pet peeve, though we had not observed or experienced this much on our trips to Paris.

Tish Jett said...

You are all so wonderful, I don't know where to begin.

I did think I was going to get some serious fallout on the flower girl issue. You are such ladies.

Maybe we should start a "No Sweats" blog. We can take turns ranting.

You make everything worth it. Merci mille fois.


The Daily Connoisseur said...

LOL this is very witty and so much of it rings true! I particularly agree with the tracksuits- even though I am guilty of owning some! I try to only wear them at home when partaking in cleaning or lounging :)

Vivianne Leclaire said...

Agree on all counts. I stayed away from my adorable cousins and my hub's nephew at our wedding. Adorable, but who can predict what they will do? Except steal the show.
Since then I have been to many weddings that have convinced me that I made the right choice.
They can still look adorable in their "dress-up" clothes at the wedding.

I, too, love the gown in the pic. I am tired of the overdone strapless look. All the gowns start to look alike to me. The one in the pic was gorgeous.

And, yes -- NO SWEATS. Great name for a new blog.

Von said...

Queues...the British got it right
Baguettes..delcious if you stand your ground

JBeaudetStudios said...

What a fun post! I don't ever where sweats but a lot of people do in my town. They are so sloppy looking and so unflattering. I like the French! And I can't stand when people cut in line! Jennifer:)

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

Like many people, I'm so fascinated by French life 'behind the scenes'. What a great post. Hate the sweats!


notwavingbutironing said...

Spot on, agree with all your points, especially about queueing. I look forward to the next installment. Can you post about 'What to wear in Spring if you are over 40, and have short legs and an almost non-existent bust'? I'd appreciate your tips!

hollarback said...

Hello there, I just found your blog and am loving it :)

It's so very true about the line cutting. Back when I lived in NYC the worst offenders were the Italian and French tourists. Oh, the stories I could tell! I still smile when I recall two French ladies who tried to disregard the deli # system, only to be shut down entirely by the man behind the counter. He merely pretended as if they didn't exist. (the rest of us smiled broadly for the rest of the day - at least I did)

Brits, Canadians and Americans are all very strict about lines. I do like that in a nationality; it's very fair. Everything should be run by the deli# system.

I have never understood wearing sweats outside the house unless walking the dog or perhaps if the house is on fire. They are too much like PJs to be outside clothing. That and they hide NOTHING, so those who think that they are getting away with something - aren't. At all.

Tish Jett said...

Hollarback, You are hilarious. Why don't you have your own blog?

It was a pleasure to meet you and laugh with you.

Struggler said...

Well, for sweats, I'm with the French. For cutting in line, with the Americans (of course). For oodles of bridesmaids (of any age), with neither group - yes, lots of little tearaways are silly, but so, I feel, are having 8 of your 'best friends' dressed up identically standing around just to make you look good.
Oh, as for coffee, (and parading plates to the kitchen), I think perhaps the way we 'entertain' at home has changed. My Mom used to half kill herself with the work needed for a dinner party, whereas I think these days we're just pleased to see friends and who cares if it's pizza? But since you ask, I'll take my mug of tea on the comfy couch, thank you.

A Refocused Life said...

Tish - This new 'game' is so fun. I agree on all points. I like to leave the table and take dessert to a different room...guests get to move around and create a new seating arrangement for the second half of the evening.

Jadie said...

SUCH a fun idea for posts. it's the best way to consider different views, in the lived world! on sweats: i have some lulemon clothes i consider "splay clothes", for wearing in the evenings at home. soooo comfortable, but not baggy and ugly. one must be trim to wear them!

日月神教-任我行 said...


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