As a kid, my mother would swear to me in French, causing me to repeat after her and suffer the corrections. She was not French, had never been to France, but had taken the language in high school, and frequently lauded it as the “most beautiful language in the world.” Thus there was no hope that I wouldn’t become a Francophile.
My best friend in high school hammered it home. She was half French, and spent summers with her grandparents in the old country, likely drinking wine and laughing around a garden table, as I assumed all French people did when they weren’t sunbathing topless. She, of course, hated going back, complaining that she missed so much of the social action in our sleepy Northern California town.
Eventually, I went with her the year after we graduated and spent a couple of weeks in the tiny Parisian suburb that her grandparents lived in. We spent our days wandering aimlessly around the cobblestones and reading YA novels. There were no dinners outside, but we did have some wine and some laughs. Even that visit couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for French culture, specifically the je ne sais quoi of French women.
Years have gone by, and I’m a lot less saucer-eyed than I was then, but I still have a latent Francophile-ness, which is never more apparent than when I’m scrolling through garbage internet articles at the end of the day—give me a headline like “The 7 Secrets to French Women's Confidence” or “12 Ways French Women Are The Sexiest in the World” and I will click every time.
Perusing one such piece of content a few years ago, I was told of a French woman who wore lingerie every day under her regular clothes. The knowledge that it was there—and that she was the only one who knew—gave her a boost of confidence throughout the day. The next day I went out and bought some lace boy shorts and a matching balconette bra.
I was never a woman who put too much effort into my appearance. Not to say that I've been entirely free from vanity, but I recognized early on that looks are fickle and fleeting, and put more stock in developing character. This led to some pretty disastrous tomboy years, and the eventual discovery of a happy androgynous middle ground in my mid-twenties. At the time that I bought my first pieces of lingerie I was dressing in slim slacks, fitted Oxford shirts, and brogues. The addition of the lace set was a juxtaposition, but it was also like a missing piece falling into place; I felt feminine, but on my own terms. Just like the French woman in the article, I felt sexy knowing that I had a little secret under my clothes.
Sexiness has been largely misunderstood, I feel. As a culture we’ve been exposed to more Lara Crofts—bombshells who somehow kick ass while still pandering to a masculine-dictated ideal of beauty than Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien—a real woman who kicks ass and is sexy through the pure force of her being.
After that initial purchase of the lace matching set, I branched out into lace bralettes, thongs, and eventually a bodysuit that I wore underneath my buttoned-up ensembles. Sometimes I let my boyfriend undress me at the end of the day. Sometimes I take my clothes off and hop in the shower. No one else knows my little secret.
I have no illusions anymore that the French are perfect in any way, but when it comes to how to be a woman who kicks ass and is also sexy, we Yanks could stand to learn a few things.
Written by Amy Marie Slocum
Photos by Jesse Murch
Model Kayla Savage is wearing: