Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Like the French

I have gained a grand total of 2 lb over this Easter Holiday.  Obviously too much cozonac (the Romanian Easter cake) and lamb.  Ughhh.  I am hoping that this weight will not stay around, and that it is rather composed of salt and water.  Yeah, keep dreaming.

Whenever I feel that my weight balance is off kilter and that I am starting to treat food with a different attitude than my usual, I re-read (or discover new) books on interesting historical women that inspire me.  They are universally thin and beautiful.  If they are not beautiful, they are so well put together that nobody notices.  If they are ugly, then they know how to make themselves Jolie-Laide, the French term for "an interesting, unconventional type of beautiful, that could almost be ugly but it is not because of reasons difficult to explain consciously".

Romanians raised in city where I was born have been heavily exposed to French language and culture in my day, starting from the beginning of the 20th century, when the wealthy used to send their children to study in Paris, at the Sorbonne.  Pretty much everybody had to study French in school, and because I really enjoyed the culture and the air of myth surrounding the French women, I took it several steps further and took night school at the French Cultural Centre, an old bourgeois building restored and used by the French Embassy as both a library and a liaison area, including a place to take classes and do international language proficiency exams in French.  In a time when all we had was the dull grey communist notebooks and manuals, the French library brimmed with white shelves, colourful books, and the smell of shiny pages, not to mention CD players, the height of luxury back then (I mean about 17 years ago).

I have learned a lot about French history and culture, and find it relaxing to read books on some of the fabulous courtesans of the time.  The one that I am currently interested in is Diane de Poitiers.  She managed to look good well into old age, and adhered to a rigurous physical regimen for those days.  She would wake up at 6 am, and swim in the cold river to freshen her complexion.  This is in a time when people only bathed at christening, after giving birth, and when prepared for the funeral, for fear that they would catch the pox.  A popular hygiene book at the time advised women to wash once a month for their and their lovers' comfort.  Scary.  Anyway, Diane smelled clean, she was busy exercising and horseback riding for about two hours per day, and was mostly vegetarian, eating even at the king's court from her own garden's produce.  She was the lover of Henry II, who was 20 years her junior.  He loved her until he died (this poor woman burried both her husband and her lover in her lifetime) and gave her two castles, one of which I have visited when I was last in France, Chenonceau.  Queen Catherine de Medici, Henry's wife, used to be so threatened by this mistress that she drilled holes in the ceiling of the king's chambers to spy on them and learn something that would make her more alluring to the king.  On the other hand, Diane was repeatedly encouraging Henry to make love to his wife, in order to produce heirs for France.  She was quite secure in her role as mistress and in her seductress powers.

I must say, I sometimes fantasize of spending time in reality with such a lady, and learning her secrets.  They obviously have to do with discipline and adherence to a beauty regimen that includes diet and exercise, but they have subtleties that I might never grasp in my lifetime, things that have to do with being secure in one's skin to the point that one knows life will be ok, no matter what.

It is not that she did not suffer.  She was very much human and upset by the maliciousness of the royal court ladies that hated her for her beauty and charm.  Will write more in the next installment if anybody cares to read (let me know in the comments section).

Oh, yeah, two more days to viability.  Emma is doing great, kicking lots, will certainly be an athletic child.  I plan on putting her in dancing if she is interested.

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