After a recent trip to St Tropez (that’s how we roll at Beach) we have decided we shall not rest until we are French. Accent aside there was something so deliciously, so effortlessly, innately sexy about about those Gallic girls that we are now solely eating croissants and garlic, hoping that soak up the French via calorie osmosis. But what is it that gives our Euro sisters that je ne sais quoi? We asked writer and part-time Parisian, Isabel Dexter, to explain…
Apparently France’s First Lady, the undeniably smouldering Carla Bruni says ‘sex’ when she’s having her photo taken. It’s hard (excuse the pun) to conjure up an iconic French film where sex doesn’t play a major part; from the legendary Belle de Jour to the kinky Baise-moi. To be French is to be surrounded by eroticism. Fashion designer Nathalie Rykiel, daughter of Sonia Rykiel, added sex toys recently to the quintessentially Parisian designs from the famous French fashion house and told me: “This is Paris, we breathe sex like oxygen here. You don’t even buy a piece of meat without flirting with the butcher. In Paris you never forget you are a sexual being. A woman. And what could be more natural than that?"
Having lived in Paris for two years, writing a blog for Marie Claire on the quirks and perks of being a French girl and now penning a novel based on the concept, being labelled ‘sexy’ is definitely high on the list. When I first arrived in France I remember a conversation on the beach with French friends about how French girls had that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’… “You can be with a French girl who isn’t even that pretty or maybe her body isn’t perfect and yet she has an air, a confidence in her ability to seduce. That’s what makes her sexy," said a male friend of mine.
It’s all about the allure. As model Lara Stone said in an interview recently, “Most people can be made to look beautiful – someone can do your hair nice and put some make-up on – but being sexy is something inside and not everybody has it." French girls, especially Parisians, don’t wear short skirts, they don’t flash their cleavage (most of them don’t have any, as my best friend says, “My boobs aren’t small, they’re French!") and even on the beach they won’t necessarily be the ones parading around in itsy bitsy bikinis. Instead they’re the girls sitting by the pool in a large sun hat and long-sleeved cotton kaftan, somehow looking post-coital even when the naughtiest thing they’ve done all day is have a bite of their boyfriend’s ice cream after eating salad for lunch.
Yet, ironically the longer I lived in France the more I realised that French girls seem more caught up with insecurities about how they look than any other nation. They just don’t let it show. And they would never say anything disparaging about themselves to a man. This makes their relationships different to that of us Brits. A boyfriend in France is less of your best friend and more the person you want to seduce, again and again. “We don’t expect men to understand us," my friend said. “Why would we want that? It’s good to have mystery. This is what makes things sexy. Not being too familiar. The more difference there is between the sexes, the better the chemistry. Too much familiarity kills passion." There’s also a sense of playfulness, unlike in New York where a relationship is work and a date is a job interview, Gallic women play with their sex appeal like kittens tangled up in a ball of wool. Flirting is an art but one that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Take the most famous of French femme fatales, the beach beauty Brigitte Bardot being asked what she thinks of conventionality. " I can’t do the same thing every night, the same gestures… it’s like putting on dirty panties every day." A true pro.
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