France Drops In

I forget to get dressed.  For me, as an American, when I’m home I feel safe from appraisal and critique, thus I slop around the house, usually bra-less, in sweats. Shel waits to do the dishes until the mood strikes him, although it’s always at least once a day. As far as I know, this is a normal American approach to life. If someone wants to see us, they call, we fix a time, we rush around and get all tidied up, and no one’s the wiser.

In France, however, it’s absolutely normal to drop in unannounced. It’s not considered to be rude at all, because every French person is properly dressed by a decent hour, and the house is always ready to receive visitors. I’m sure that’s a generalization, and there must be some French people who are as carefree and messy as we, but I have to say that I don’t know anyone like that.

For better and for worse, our house is behind a wall and a gate. Visitors must be buzzed in to enter, which is also absolutely normal here. All of this, I’m sure, is left over from the times when the south of France was invaded on a pretty much continuous basis, leading people to feel insecure if they’re not behind walls.  When a French friend visited us in the States she was shocked to see how open everything was, not a fence in sight, doors left unlocked. Impensable, unthinkable, to a French person, from this part of the country at least.

Fortunately, Shel is a lot less embarrassed than I am to be caught bra-less, since that’s his natural attire, which leads to silliness like my hastily dashing upstairs before he buzzes in the unexpected visitor so that I can get properly dressed before anyone catches me in my customarily disheveled state. If the house is a mess, well, he’s the first person the visitor sees, so he’s the one to make the excuses, leaving me to descend like the Queen and offer tea, seemingly oblivious to such minor details.

But today Shel wasn’t feeling well, and went to take a nap, and (perhaps I’m finally learning) I stayed decently dressed after my morning’s shopping, for no reason at all.  And boy did I feel smug when the electrician dropped by to make some repairs. It was actually kind of satisfying, to feel ready for anything, even a discussion of burned-out transformers and missing light sockets, in a crisp white shirt.

I’m not promising to become more French in this regard, but I’m considering it. We have friends coming over tomorrow, and the next day, so it’s a sure thing I’ll be dressed.  If you’re inclined to drop in, that would be the time.

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8 Comments on “France Drops In”

  1. Ujwala Samant Says:

    Oh gosh Abra, this is so true… I was in pjs (well just a long tshirt really) and Pascal let someone in and there I was disheveled hair, braless, old green tshirt with a huge smiley face on it, and not shaved legs…. now he checks how indecent I am before letting people in!


  2. As much as I love France, I do whole-heartedly enjoy doing errands in my Penn State sweatpants and sneakers! I guess there is something nice about always looking good, though… :)

  3. Edye Says:

    I feel inspired to do the same here… Then again, mostly all things French inspire me!


  4. I’m totally with you on this.
    The Italians also drop by whenever, only we have no buffer of gates or walls. We just have to pop our head out the window to see who is there. Fortunately the Italians are pretty loose about what you have on..or don’t have on!

  5. Gigi Petery Says:

    Gawd, that is so me! The first thing I do when I get home is run upstairs and ditch the bra and “presentable” clothes and put on warm jammies (in the winter) or a lounge dress (in the summer). We are both so busy with school/work that the house is a disaster. It is for that reason that we rarely have anyone over (except for very close friends that don’t care), and I never answer the door when I’m home alone. Chances are someone would find me unshowered, in my jammies, at 4:00 in the afternoon. I just pretend I’m not home. I’m never expecting anyone, so whoever is knocking at my door really isn’t welcome. How unfriendly that sounds!

  6. Heidi Husnak Says:

    Hilarious. I also have my casual attire of giant sweatshirt (sans bra of course) and exercise pants that I put on if puttering before a shower or once I am settled in for the evening. When my dog passed away recently the dear sweet neighbors decided to drag me out of the house every once in a while for a sit around the fire pit. At least the door was not handing wide open as it usually is or they would have walked right in. I learned to keep my “day outfit” laid out in the bedroom so I could ask for just a minute, or open the door and say “give me a minute” as I ran to execute a stage actress worthy change. Sounds like you are breathing in France and feeling joyful.

  7. Janet Says:

    And isn’t it Murphy’s Law that the day you go to the grocery store wearing something not so flattering is the day you meet that one cute guy…

  8. Lori Says:

    This post made me laugh so much. Our daughter jokes that the theme in our house is look homeless. My husband loves the sweatshirt he picked out of his brother’s garbabe 25+ years ago. I remember being so flattered in Paris because several times people came up to us and began speaking in French and were so surprised we weren’t french. I thought – wow, I can really fake it and look half decent for a week or two.


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