Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Becoming is a long process.

I wrote the following for the Yahoo French Chic/Je Ne Sais Quoi group in 2004. Seven years later, I am interested in exploring what has come to happen and what can still use work. Here is the essay, an exercise in manifesting my ideal inner self:

Who I am (becoming)

She has finally stopped calling herself a “girl.”  She hasn’t felt like a girl since she was in her teens, anyway; always assumed older because of her height, her throaty voice, her voluptuousness, and the fashion sense leaning toward the styles of her mother’s and grandmother’s generations. Now, entering her 30’s, she is finally coming into her own.

She organizes her life in the old fashion: She takes time with her possessions, gently tending to each lovingly chosen pair of shoes, each carefully ironed garment. After all, she buys new clothing exceedingly rarely, and only after careful consideration of what each piece will bring to her life.  Will it make her feel beautiful, confident, comfortable in her skin? or will it just end up taking up space in her tiny-small closet?  As a result of this careful consideration, her wardrobe is pared down to the basics: Two pairs of tailored, flat-front black trousers; a pair of good-fitting, dark denim jeans; two black skirts (one long and clingy, one sexy and retro-chic, reaching just below the knee, and black, like Marilyn Monroe’s on the poster from “Bus Stop”); a couple of light sweaters, in deep sapphire, black, and crystal blue; one soft, black angora turtleneck, perfect for foggy San Francisco summers; a long fitted coat in supple black leather; a fun black coat in kicky corduroy; a vintage black cocktail dress; a very small handful of scarves and silver jewelry; and a selection of fitted tees in black, grey and white. The tees take her from work to yoga to the gym, which may not be chic but is a necessary bi-weekly ritual to keep her from going from curvy to doughy—a real possibility, given her passion for good food.

Her cooking regimen is as simple as her wardrobe: Fast food, boxed food, and fake food never make it into her kitchen. She prepares her meals only from scratch, using the bounty of fresh ingredients from the little markets in her colorful city neighborhood: Deep, golden olive oil, creamy, whole-fat yogurt and fresh free-range eggs from the Greek market on the corner; fresh gorgonzola, stilton, and pungent black olives from the cheese-maker’s; a deep cabernet or a sweet Riesling from one of the million little vineyards represented in her cozy local wine seller’s shop; sweet plump berries, deep green spinach and fat red tomatoes on the vine from the Korean produce market.  Far superior to the other produce shops in the neighborhood, it is bit up a little hill and farther than other some of the others, but well worth the walk for benefit provided to her calf muscles, her wallet, and her palate. 

Once home with the ingredients of the night’s meal, she leaves her shoes on a rack by the front door and the woven straw bag on the entryway table as she changes into her house shoes (a chic, clean pair of black tapestry slippers brought back from a friend’s trip to Bali years ago.  They’ve never been worn outside; they are simply too delicious to set foot on a city sidewalk. And bien sur, the city streets are filthy in America; why let the outside in to her cozy and clean private abode?).  She admires the painting that hangs above the table: it is large, done in muted grey tones in a formidable wood frame.  She has been paying it off, in small monthly increments, for over a year.  The money helps her friend, the painter, and the piece brings a shock of joy to her every time she passes it. She considers this joy a good investment.

She pads across the honey-colored hardwood floor, over the cushy flokati rug and into the small, white-tiled kitchen. She unpacks the day’s wares onto the sparkling tiled counter.  She washes the vegetables and fruits one by one before storing them in pretty wire and ceramic bowls, ready for use in tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch.

She prepares the night’s repast.  For her: a lovely spinach salad with blue lake beans, sweet shredded carrots, and cold leftover organic chicken and garlic from last night’s meal, served with a little scoop of red lentils with diced cherry tomatoes on the side.  For him: all of the above, plus a scoop of wild rice with shallots and chanterelle mushrooms, another savory leftover.  They talk about the day, careful to not dwell too long on workaday things, sharing instead their impressions of the books they are reading, the coming election, the environmental action group to which they both give their time.  They linger a bit over a glass of wine before they pack the leftovers into containers to bring to work for lunch the next day.

After dinner, she pours herb-infused oils into a hot bath, which she has drawn for her nightly beauty ritual. She brings her Italian textbook with her to the claw foot tub, along with the language tapes she puts into the bathroom’s little portable stereo, tucked behind a stack of fresh, white folded towels, their tidy plush stacks reminding her of the northern spa she visits twice a year: once in the winter, just after Christmas, and once in the summer, on her birthday.

As she relaxes in the bath, conjugating verbs after the voice on the tape, the herbal mask dries on her face, plumping her skin with fresh organic ingredients that feel wonderful and smell divine. She soaks a bit longer, inhaling the relaxing scent of lavender and lemon balm, practicing the rolling r’s, the musicality of the language that comes more naturally to her—she must admit—than French ever has.  Still, like beauty, intelligence is also pain, and to learn is often to struggle; so she still practices her French, a bit every day.

After the bath, she attends to her face, dissolving the mask with cool water and finishing with a simple swipe of her homemade herb-infused apple cider vinegar.  It is good for her skin type, at a fraction of the cost of a commercial toner.  She flosses, she brushes.  She dabs a bit of sandalwood oil on her pulse points and heads off to bed in a vintage kimono from a flea market years ago.  Tomorrow night she will meet friends for dinner at an inexpensive little Vietnamese noodle place, followed by a band at a local club.  Tonight she is totally happy to be staying in. The bed is warm and covered with soft jersey sheets and a fluffy white eiderdown. She lights a candle and nestles in, grateful for the day.


  1. This is great. Thanks for posting this. I really enjoyed reading it!

  2. I reposted mine as well from way back when! It was interesting to see if I was still living up to my ideal ~ fortunately, for the most part I am! Your vision is lovely ~ I particularly love the idea of your spa visits! Aaaahhhhh! I may have to add that to my revised version though I have always wanted to go sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year! :D

  3. Thank you both for commenting. Stephanie, I see you've had 9 million profile views. Do you have a blog? Miss. B, thank you for letting me know you re-posted your Qui Je Suis as well. I enjoyed reading it and subscribed over at chez vous.

    I've been thinking about a post comparing my life then to my life now; my goal is to post it this French Friday.

    Thank you both for stopping in!

  4. Wow. I have saved this from French chic from years ago. Out of all the ones posted there, this one was always my favorite. I love the writing, what is says about lifestyle and also -- I'm a no. cal native and my heart will always be in SF. I last lived by lake merritt and miss the bart into the city, hanging out in north beach.
    Anyway, I'm blathering on. Found your blog and am reading back posts with pleasure. I don't know if you used your name on FC, but so glad to see you here.


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