Sunday, July 18, 2010

Face time

Summertime brings interns. Young, bright and energetic.

This year my two interns both showed up on the first day of work in long-sleeved shirts and hip-hugging jeans. They looked liked the coeds they are. The buttoned up shirts were their idea of office clothes.

That will not do.

Washington has its own costumery. It is traditional, conservative, and not too flashy. More important, one’s dress quickly identifies you as a successful, serious person or something else like an intern, research assistant, or a leftist. All of the latter are considered a waste of one’s time to talk with or sit next to.

You need to either sit with your peers or those you need to impress or pump for information. Casual talk is not appreciated in Washington.

I quickly gave the lecture on female dressing for Washington’s many foreign policy programs and how to be taken seriously at first glance. Pant suits are for old ladies. Dressing like a man looks awkward. The costume is fashionable skirts and dresses, yet not too trendy or imaginative. Like all good girls, you need to be understated.

This does keep you obscure and invisible. But to dress like someone in New York or LA invites nasty comments and distracts from all efforts to be taken seriously--someone with access and information.

Thus, it helps if you are naturally beautiful. My interns are.

I am not even pretty; and I have certainly never been beautiful.

So it was with fascination I read the July 15th New York Times piece, Aging Gracefully, The French Way. It is all true and I tore it out for my interns to read. The French women make understated into a statement. They wear much less make up and spend more time thinking how to present themselves than their American friends. And thus they seem much more poised and beautiful.

Interestingly, like their Japanese counterparts appear to spend an enormous amount of time on face and skin treatments. The Times reports:
According to a 2008 Mintel report, Frenchwomen spend about $2.2 billion a year on facial skin care — as much as Spanish, German and British women put together. If you happen to use the bathroom in a French home — something that is not considered polite, by the way — you might see a line of skin care products rivaling a shelf at Duane Reade.
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported a nearly similar phenomena in Japan:
The average Japanese woman spends 60% of her cosmetics budget on skin care, compared with 30% for American women.
A Shiseido survey found nearly 69% of Japanese women used cleanser, toner and moisturizer religiously at night, compared with only 17% of American women.
Indeed, Shiseido has documented that the average Japanese woman employs a much larger array of products each evening—as many as six products. First, she removes her make-up with an oil-based product. Then comes cleansing the face. This is followed by a lotion—a toner-like skin softener—and then possibly an "essence," or serum. Finally, she pats on an emulsion, which is less viscous than a cream, and then a traditional cream. All of this is achieved while performing an elaborate facial massage meant to help prevent sagging and wrinkling.
Wow, to average overworked, overstressed American woman falling asleep with either a bag of Doritos or pint of Ben & Jerry’s on her face is what passes for a nighttime facial “treatment.” When was the last time any of you even had the energy to brush your teeth let alone remember the order of a nighttime regime just for your face?

Well, as we all know, Japanese women don’t get wrinkles, and we do.

However, I think the Frenchwomen enjoy their life more. Here is a summary of

10 Ways to Age Like a Frenchwoman

1 Look out for No. 1

2 Keep it natural

3 No soap

4 The wonder of water

5 Diet

6 Exercise: Why? Go to a spa instead.

7 The doctor is in: Frenchwomen love their dermatologists and some women are resourceful enough — or have legitimate medical reasons, like arthritis — to get doctors’ prescriptions for weeks at their favorite spa. That means government health insurance covers much of the bill.

8 The surgeon is in but he keeps it natural not trendy

9 The look: Paris, like New York, is becoming very informal, but Frenchwomen never try to dress like their daughters. Accessories count: good jewelry, fantastic shoes or boots, and a scarf casually wrapped to conceal those neck wattles. And since Frenchwomen tend to have great legs (with help from varicose vein treatments), they wear more skirts and dresses than their American counterparts.

10 Think sexy: As the French writer Fran├žoise Sagan wrote: “A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to take it off you.” Buy some fun, new underwear.

Yes, ladies these are rules to live by, if we could have only been born French.

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