Monday, April 13, 2009


C and I went to dinner at L'Éléphant Saturday night. We were among the only people there who were not locals--if locals means that the waitress greeted you with the bises, the kiss on both cheeks. We didn't get the bises, but the waitress and the chef do recognize C, and they always seat us at the same table. So I think that gives us the status of respected outsiders. Which, let me hasten to say, is not bad.

We had ordered our pizzas--one reine, one quatre saisons--and drinks--a seize for C and a petit pichet, the smallest denomination wine comes in (but it left me with a headache most of yesterday quandmême) for me--when an older woman came in. She did the bises with the waitress, the chef, and the father and son at the table beside ours. Then she hovered until the father and son got up to go, when she took their table. They were finished--the food and drink were gone--but the time between finished and leaving is a fairly elastic thing in France. Anyway, they got up to go and she installed herself.

She draped her black velvet brocade opera coat over the back of her chair. Under it she was wearing a black tulip skirt with alternating matte and satin panels; a black blouse with long sleeves in illusion fabric, the bodice mostly illusion as well but backed up by a lacy black camisole. Pearls. Black stockings. Black velvet pumps with gold trim. Short spiky black hair, dyed to match. And large black tinted glasses trimmed in rhinestones.

She was pushing 70.

Her daughter came in and sat down with her shortly. Daughter was also in full black, but trending more to the denim and biker boots end of the spectrum. From which I think you can deduce that Madame her mother was the only person in L'Éléphant who, if Maurice Chevalier had put his boater round the doorjamb looking for someone to go dancing with him someplace where the lights were low and the champagne was flowing, would have been ready to slip into her opera coat and sally forth.

Now, I have been clear recently about my preferred footwear, and about my predilection for wearing clothing in which you cannot tell my bra size at first glance. However. Madame Rhinestones reminded me of a Department of Homeland Security advertisement that ran quite a lot in the bad old days. We can be scared, it went, or we can be ready.

Madame Rhinestones wasn't going to see retirement age again. Keeping her hair that black probably requires a fair amount of coiffage. But she is in the game. She's not in house dresses or sensible shoes or even comfortable jeans and no-iron knitwear. If aging scares her, she's keeping it under her (no doubt also black, maybe with a sequin detail) hat. She has not given up. If Maurice Chevalier shows up, she's ready.


  1. Chrysler! You slay me! I never fail to enjoy myself immensely when I stop by your place for a visit--from day one, before I ever even thought of leaving a comment.

    I loved your guessimations on the bra sizes and the Cinderella footwear in the outback of France--made me so happy I wasn't showing off either.

    This latest post actually touches on one of the main reasons that I am somewhat glad to be going to France to meet up with my dotage. There are women all over the country doing that fearless act of continuing to be the woman that they have been for decades and not buying beige outfits and support hose to finish up life on earth.

    Thank you for the absolutely fantastic word portrait on Mme Rhinestone (my favorite gemstone), it gives me hope for a viable future as a stranger in a strange land!


  2. I'm inspired to grow old disgracefully too!


  3. There's a different group here in the US, ready at a moments notice to hop on a bike or a pair of skis and do twenty miles. I belong to that one and it's a lot more comfortable!