10.08.2009

Modesty- Comme les Français


I have already divulged the fact that there was only one bathroom chez Famille Chic. I quickly got used to sharing this bathroom with the three other members of the family: Madame Chic, Monsieur Chic and “A” (their son). I was asked my first day on arrival by Madame Chic whether I wanted to take my baths every morning or every evening. Hmmm. I chose morning and secretly wondered if I would also possibly be able to take the occasional hot bath before bedtime. I thought I might ask- but decided not to stretch it- especially on my first day there.

Time passed and I quickly got used to my routine salle de bains. I kept a little basket in my bedroom that contained my toiletries- as counter space in the tiny bathroom was sparse. Each morning at 7:00 am I would go to the bathroom and partake of my morning ritual. The bathroom, like the kitchen, was very bare bones. It was always sparkling clean and had very modest features- tile floors, a tiny mirror and a freestanding sink with hardly any counter space. There was no shower (which I found very odd, at first) but, instead, an ample-sized tub with a hand held showerhead fixture.

The tub was situated in front of a very large window. The window did not have any covering on it (no blinds or curtains) because it did not look out to anything but a wall. One morning, about three months into my stay, I was in the bathtub, well- bathing, when suddenly I looked up and there was a man in the window. This sounds very creepy- and believe me, it was! It was the window washer, doing his monthly rounds. He was washing the windows for the entire building, suspended on one of those window washing scaffolding things (at the time I was at a loss for the proper terminology and I still am). Mon Dieu! I shrieked and scrambled to find a cloth or towel or something to cover myself! The window washer looked in the window and merely smiled and waved at me and carried on with his business. He did not leer, he did not stare (I wasn’t sure whether I should have been relived or insulted).

After my traumatic bath I immediately went to Madame Chic and told her what had happened. I expected her to be outraged- shocked! Instead she looked at me with an amused smile and said (in French) “Oh yes, he’s seen all of us in the bath. He only comes once a month.” Madame Chic probably sensed my utter bewilderment towards her nonchalance. She asked if I would feel more comfortable if curtains were put up in the bathroom. I thought about it for a moment and decided against it. Yes it was weird, but perhaps my Puritanical American instincts were in overdrive and I just needed to chill. I said ça va, no need for curtains… after all… when in Rome…

The next morning I discovered someone (presumably Monsieur Chic) had installed a makeshift curtain over the bathroom window. I have a feeling that the moment I left Paris it was taken down.


Edgar Degas' Woman After the Bath courtesy of: www.encore-editions.com

12 comments:

Roberta Fleck said...

So the window cleaner only comes once a month you say?

*Admirable* self-control...

;)

xxx
'berta

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

That is so funny and Roberta's comment also made me laugh. At least it was someone young and beautiful like yourself! I would have changed to the night bath! xx

M.Lane said...

It sounds rather like the dorm when I was up at school. Odd, but not impossible. I'll bet your stock went up a good bit by not asking for a curtain!

ML
mlanesepic.blogspot.com

Michael Rivers said...

If the window washer was cute and you knew when he was going to be there, that would be a different story! I would have been freaked out too. Just from seeing a person looking in the window.

Rebecca said...

Modesty in the bathroom and with our bodies is so ingrained in most Americans from a young age. You handled it extremely well. Very adaptable! :)

CashmereLibrarian said...

I grew up in a house with one bathroom for seven people. Plus my mom was a nurse so we were pretty open about things. It freaked my husband out when we were first married, but now he just rolls his eyes!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Roberta- I think if you had been in the bath the window washer would have come back way more than once a month! ;)

Josephine- Changing to the night bath would have been the smart thing to do, I think. But I did decide (for that temporary moment anyway) that I could live with it- Famille Chic had lived there for over 30 years and didn't mind!

M. Lane- It did remind me of my college days in the dorm. I think Madame Chic could tell my insistence that a curtain not be put up was half-hearted- hence the makeshift curtain that found itself on the window the following morning :)

Michael- lol! Yes if the window washer looked like Brad Pitt I might not have minded so much!

Rebecca- Yes we are very modest, aren't we? We are not a culture of exhibitionists that is for sure- take a look at the difference in our beaches. The women in Europe are very quick to whip off their bikini tops- that would never happen in Santa Monica! xo

Cashmere- sharing a bathroom when you are growing up is a good thing, I think. It makes you grateful...

Stephanie said...

Holy Cow! What a funny story. Seems in some cultures it is the norm for window washers to be privy to well, say our privates?
I too strive to find the joie de vivre in everyday living and just wrote a post about finding the sacred in the ordinary.
I'll be back!
Stephanie

The Coastal Chicster said...

See, I have the opposite problem with modesty. I grew up in a house at the Jersey Shore that backed up to a huge yard and some woods, so there was never any reason for me to pull down my shades or draw my curtains when I got changed or anything. I often find myself realizing at the last minute that I'm changing in front of an open window - oops! It drives my boyfriend crazy when I do that at his house, too. "THE BLINDS ARE OPEN!" he yells at me. Haha. Bad habits die hard, I guess.

La Belette Rouge said...

LOL! This reminds me of the shock I felt when I went to work at Club Med and discovered that all the French girls I worked with sunbathed topless and the resulting sunburn that I got after they encouraged me to get a suntan topless.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Stephanie- Thanks for your comment- I look forward to catching up with reading on your fab blog xo

Coastal Chicster- lol! You would fit right in in France... Your bf? Maybe not so much :)

La Belette- How funny! Club Med- I can just imagine it! I have yet to go sans bikini top on a beach- I can imagine the painful burn marks. ouch!

Bonjour Madame said...

I am so glad to find your blog! I too would have been horrified at first! That's one cultural hurdle that would take me a while to clear.

I see you like perfume from your blog roll. I love it too! I'm going to add you to mine so I don't miss anything. I like these posts about you living in France!

Stephanie

 
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