I just got back from my local butcher where I bought a pound of ground beef to make Asian meatballs (served on a bed of quinoa with a yogurt-garlic-herb-lemon juice dressing.) On the sidewalk in front of me, a frazzled-looking mother pushed a multi-seat stroller filled with four toddlers of varying ages. Observing the scene, this is the thought that ran through my head: who would want to bring four children into this world?
An hour earlier, I had read the headlines of The New York Times: Supreme Court Strips Government of Crucial Tool to Control Pollution
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, dealing a blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to address climate change.
The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal justices in dissent, saying that the majority had stripped the E.P.A. of “the power to respond to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”
Republicans cheered. Why? Why would they cheer such a ruling? The Clean Air Act? Who needs it? Important judgments that Americans achieved in the past are being torn down by these ghouls.
I happen to believe there is evil in the world. John Kennedy
Destroy the seed of evil, or it will grow up to your ruin. Aesop
This is my favorite:
Hell is empty, because all the devils are here. William Shakespeare
I’m depressed, and I’m not even American. Along with my ground beef, I also purchased a bottle of white wine that’s chilling in the fridge. I’m going to open it right now and get drunk.
There was a time when the entire world looked towards the United States of America as a model and beacon of progress, greatness, safety and hope. No longer, I’m afraid. Today it is looked upon as regressive, not to mention dangerous. Gun violence: every day, on average, 316 people in America are shot. Dangerous also, now, for many pregnant women (not all) seeking abortions. Does this signal the return to illegal backstreet procedures? The clock has been turned back.
Progress? The USA is a nation whose outdated Electoral College vote put an individual named Donald Trump into the shoes of President who in turn nominated three of the five conservative Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. It escapes no one that these three are fervent Catholics. Since when do personal religious beliefs dictate legislature for an entire country?What happened to the separation rule of church and state, does it not exist in America? The Vatican in Rome has publicly approved the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
If only Ruth Bader Ginsberg hadn’t died, or had retired earlier. If only the Electoral College had been abolished. None of this would’ve happened.
Today, the rest of the world learns with shock and horror the Roe news. It’s like plunging into a dystopian novel, which is why my blog’s cover photo depicts Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
In 1973, the Supreme Court made abortion federally legal. Imagine, amidst the euphoria of that moment, telling American women: “In 49 years, this law will be revoked.” No one would have believed it.
Listen carefully to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s words in the video below. This is just the beginning, she says. Next, birth control, gay marriage and a host of other progressive policies will be criminalized.
I hate Facebook, and have always hated it. But people said to me – “If you want to promote your book, you must get a Facebook account and all the other social media accounts.” I also dislike Twitter, Instagram and whatever else is out there in terms of social media. Blogs (mine and others), book vlogs and personal emails are my thing. (I also love YouTube.) And so, groaning inwardly and with much reluctance, I opened a Facebook account.
“You need to get “friends” and “likes”!” people said to me. So I tried to find some Francophile book clubs and other French-related things and people to connect with. It was an arduous task and utterly ungratifying, to be honest. All that scrolling and wading through some of the mindless junk that humans post. I don’t know about you, but my time on this earth is precious. I wasted hours on that thing.
“Am I doing this right?” I said to myself. I kept thinking that I was in the wrong place and that somewhere, in places that eluded me, was the Facebook pot of gold that would showcase my writing prowess while granting me thousands of “likes” and instant stardom. I’d be the next Emily St. John Mandel and sell millions of books!
I never found that place.
And then last week, I received this email in my inbox:
Juliet, you have 30 days to take action.
Hi Juliet, Your Facebook account has been suspended. This is because your account, or activity on it, doesn’t follow our Community Standards. If you think we suspended your account by mistake, you have 30 days to disagree with our decision. If you miss this deadline your account will be permanently disabled. Thanks, The Facebook Team
Huh? What did I do wrong?? I was a high school student again, a rebellious one, being called into the Principal’s office for talking back to a teacher, skipping a class or smoking a cigarette in the parking lot. Someone was going to phone my parents, and I’d be grounded.
I had to click a button that said I disagreed with their decision, send a photo of myself (?!?), then wait for a pontifical pardon, if not from the Almighty Zuckerberg (himself a lawbreaker, give me a break!), then from one of his minions. Why I did all that, I do not know. I’d like to know what they’re planning to do with my photo. Post it on their internal “Offenders” bulletin board? Again, Zuck is the biggest offender of them all.
I don’t know what I did to contravene their rules, but I don’t care to know because Facebook has no value to me whatsoever.
Words cannot describe the joy of finding a box of books, my books, waiting for me in the lobby of my apartment building when I came home last week. All that work, all those years of writing writing writing, collaborating with my two excellent editors (thank you again, Ardella and Marianne) and arguing with book cover and page layout designers (I prefer to forget that part). As I lugged the Amazon box up to my flat, I thought to myself – you are carrying the fruit of your labors.
At the office, colleagues came to me, cash in hand, wanting to buy my book. I was surprised because, even though they speak and read English, they’re not Anglophones. (I say that because I never read books in French.)
The other day, while lunching in the staff cafeteria with two colleagues, one who hadn’t read the book yet asked the other who was halfway through, “What’s it about?”
“It’s about Juliet’s adventures in Paris,” was the answer.
“It’s about my adventures and misadventures in Paris, but it’s more than that,” I interjected. “It’s essentially about a flourishing family and its consequent breakdown.” Parts One and Two are the sunny years, Part Three recounts what happens in many families when the parents (authority figures) die: dysfunction, chaos, even anarchy. In a small way, I told my colleagues, I was inspired by Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family.
Parts One and Two are entertaining and engaging. I’ve decided to occasionally post a short, random excerpt on this blog. Here’s one that highlights my suspicion that France is/was a sexist, patriarchal society. I was working in the marketing department of Reuters at the time –
Finding myself in the Paris equivalent of London’s ‘The City’ or New York’s ‘Wall Street’ was a stark departure from the creative atmosphere of the advertising agency. I quickly learned that the office culture of financial institutions was notoriously patriarchal, hierarchal and shockingly sexist. Innuendos, insinuations and invitations were rife, and an all-pervasive suggestion of conquest and coupling floated in the air. Fueled by caffeine, libido and the rise and fall of stock prices, the cult of seduction was evidence of the blatant machismo that prevailed in that industry and in the country. It was a male-centric world, and it was eye-opening.
Growing up in Canada, I took it for granted that Europe would be as enlightened as my home country with regard to gender parity and feminist activism. I was wrong. From the outside, France appeared to be an avant-garde society, but upon closer inspection I found it to be terribly traditional and conservative. The book that I had read when I was sixteen – Simone de Beauvoir’s groundbreaking opus in modern feminist theory, The Second Sex, written in 1949 – had done nothing to modify the archaic vision of society there. Madame de Beauvoir was decades ahead of her time.
In and out of the workplace, I found the women to be strangely docile and compliant, the men chauvinistic and entitled. It was around this time that I began to look more closely at my women colleagues and their status in the society I found myself living in. What was the female experience in France in the 1990s? How did they deal with this testosterone-charged culture? And, more specifically, how did they relate to other women? This last interrogation interested me because despite my best efforts, and with the exception of Roxanne, I found it near impossible to become friendly with them.
“There’s a lack of camaraderie between women here,” I’d say to my mother over the phone. “They all look at me with suspicion, like I want to steal their jobs or their boyfriends. It’s like I’m walking around with the word ‘rival’ branded with a burning stick onto my forehead.”
Glaringly absent from the urban landscape was the sight of just women out laughing, dining and partying amongst themselves in bars and restaurants like we did back home. I never saw it, ever. Men and women socialized only as couples. There was a stigma attached to being single.
France was late, very late, in coming to the women’s table, which is surprising for a country whose national motto is ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ and whose intellectual elites illuminated Europe with their progressive, rationalist thinking during the Age of Enlightenment. But deeply entrenched misogyny, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and the Napoleonic Civil Code of 1804 – enacted by Napoleon Bonaparte himself and, with revisions, is still in force today – severely curtailed the roles and legal rights of women in every sphere of French life. Powerless and decreed as inferior, they were subject to the authority of the father and husband, and made totally dependent on them, economically and otherwise.
In a strange way, women endorsed the macho system. Men were the power, and they were in thrall to them; it was a survival tactic. Viewing themselves through the prism of the male gaze, French women were accustomed to gaining men’s approval, making themselves desirable, obtaining favors and defining themselves through men.
For years I’ve been buying organic cosmetics. I prefer them to the chemical-laden big name products. To be defined organic, a cosmetic must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients and there must be no compounds of petroleum origin, paraffin, formaldehyde and dyes of synthetic origin.
Centifolia® is a French brand of certified organic cosmetics created in 1983. That moisturizing cream on the far left? Terrific. Since Covid, most of us wash our hands more frequently than we used to. I use this cream afterwards on my hands. The anti-age firming serum on the far right is lovely with an almost-not-there scent.
Toothpaste. Swiss-German Weleda is the world’s leading manufacturer of holistic, natural, organic cosmetics. The French brand in the middle, Coslys, is made from vegetal coal originating from pine trees and enriched with lemon and peppermint essential oils. It’s black. During a sleepover last year, my then 9 year old godson used it before going to bed. He came running out of the bathroom, alarmed, his mouth black with toothpaste lather.
Here’s a discounted item I received in a nice cosmetic bag at the large discount drugstore at La Défense (near the RER and metro stations in the shopping concourse.) The brand name, Apivita, is Greek. I liked the bag so much, I bought a second one as a gift.
ALL-IMPORTANT SUNSCREEN PRODUCTS.
Institut Esthederm is not organic, but it’s the best. French founder, Jean-Noël Thorel, has patented skin-friendly formulas that “respect the skin’s integrity and provide it with constant protection against ageing while improving resistance to environmental stressors.” Looking for an exemplary sunscreen? Buy these products.
Reasonably-priced, thermal springs organic product, Jonzac, is named after a town in the Charente-Maritime department of southwestern France.
And last but not least, made from 100 percent argan oil in a women’s cooperative in Morocco, this was a gift from my (Moroccan) concièrge. Naturally rich in vitamin E and fatty acids (omega 6 and 9), argan oil is used on the hair and skin for its nourishing and antioxidant properties.
Abundant sunshine. I returned to Paris yesterday afternoon and woke up this morning to pouring rain. Ugh! Sunshine makes all the difference. For a full-size slideshow, click on each image. The visitor to Spain notices how clean it is.
It’s siesta in Spain and the entire city closes down from 2 to 5 p.m. I arrived exactly a week ago and despite the fact that NO ONE speaks a word of English or French, I’m enjoying myself immensely. I need to learn Spanish.
I rented a super nice apartment in the Old Town where I am right now drinking espresso and enjoying the air conditioning. It’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop. What do Spaniards do during siesta? Do they actually sleep? Even the barking dog on the floor above has gone silent. Air conditioning is essential. It’s super hot and sunny outside; I hear it’s brutal during July and August.
Back to Paris in a few days; it’s only a one hour 40 mn flight from Paris to Valencia. I cannot post any photos because I’m writing this on my tablet.
Incidentally, the paperback version of my book is now available on Amazon –