21 January 2009

The Challenge

Our first full day at the beach. We go to Gouverneur, a gorgeous, curved, white sand beach on the south shore of the island, bordered by green hills to the east and west. On Saturdays, many tourists are traveling, and many locals have the day off. Bright sun, light breeze, our beach chairs face the sea, the sun, and all who come and go. When it comes to people watching, it doesn't get any better than this.

For both of us, happily for different reasons, the people to watch are the French women. They are breathtaking. One after another. It makes reading my suspenseful police procedural very difficult. Every two minutes one of us pokes the other and we gawk, then make analytical observations about the latest woman passing our vantage point close to the beach entrance path.

The "Challenge", as Pinks put it to me this morning, is to describe the scene without being a dirty old man, or worse. A test, she says, of writing ability. She dared me to try. Here goes:

Some common elements I observed:

1. It would appear that all the French women are born with a dominant ”style" gene. No exceptions. Its effect is lifelong. Whether the woman is 8 or 68, it is always on display. This is involuntary.

2. Pinks and I disagree about this, but I am absolutely convinced all French women know EVERYBODY IS LOOKING. The result is that in the supermarket, on the sidewalk, and in the shops, the gauzy shifts and the high heeled slippers,(or whatever they are called) are show stoppers. I am not sure if it a cultural or criminal regulation, but no French woman may wear sneakers in public unless she is in the gym. On the beach, the bikinis are breathtaking, and the cover-ups, be they filmy, sometimes glittering tops, or clingy brightly colored pareas knotted low in front on a bony hip, are stunning. The entire look is as if it were all just "thrown together." Perhaps, but I doubt it. It's too perfect to be chance.

3. All the women affect an air of total indifference to the fact they putting on an electrifying fashion show as they parade by.

4. There are little if any cosmetics or other artificial styling assists involved here. The women swim, bake in the sun, lie on the sand or on towels, swim again, change their babies' diapers, whatever, and they still are heart-stopping. I have never seen even a re-application of lipstick on the beach. WYSIWYG.

5. Did I mention they have perfect figures? I mean movie star, model perfect. All of them. Really. Staggering. Something in the drinking water? Or another French gene that bars the production of cellulite? Whatever. It's not for me to question nature's wonder.

6. On the beach, women either stand or lie on the sand. Only Americans sit on chairs. Think about it: what is the best way to display that perfect body? Sitting folded up in a beach chair ain't it.

7. Some French women remove their tops, some not. Then they swim, walk the strand, sunbathe, converse with friends and their children, whatever. That's all I have to say on this subject. I am simply not going there.

Oh, one possible exception to Point 3 above, re their indifference to public notice. One topless "10" who parked herself at the water's edge near us must surely have been aware the show she was about to put on would draw the attention of all within a quarter mile. (Pinks disagrees, but she is simply wrong. Besides, it's my blog). First, the young Deborah Kerr wannabe, looking for all the world as if she were awaiting the arrival of her own Burt Lancaster, lay down on her back at the fringes of the surf, her feet pointing to the sea, letting the wavelets roll over her. I am not sure if she ever saw the famous beach scene in From Here to Eternity, but she sure channeled it. After a while, perhaps sensing that Burt was not going to arrive and her audience was drifting, she sat up and treated herself to a self administered languid mud scrub. All of her. Pinks and I were both transfixed. We had the following conversation:

Me: Good lord, Pinks, what is she doing?

Pinks: She is exfoliating herself.

Me: Huh? Is that legal to do on the beach?

Pinks: I guess in France it is.

When the exfoliater had done her work to her satisfaction, she rose and walked slowly into the calm sea. I thought the entire population of the beach would give her a standing ovation. Pinks and I sat open-mouthed through the entire performance. Brava!


I surrender. It's impossible for me to be any more graphic without violating the "dirty old man" rule. In fact, I am already in trouble at home, but I have a responsibility to those of you who are now freezing your asses off to tell you what is going on here.

Come on down and see for yourself.

A bientot.

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