The feminine

Mirjam Grupp

Mirjam Grupp writes about real love, romantic relationships and everything that falls between those two.

It was 2012 when I first went to Paris. It was winter, and I was sitting under a heater on the terrace of a café, drinking wine, smoking, watching the people passing by.

I had come here to escape a state of stuckness and the lightspeed-changing city of Berlin.

That time, my wardrobe consisted of hoodies, jeans, and sneakers. The colors were black, dark blue, and grey. It was not a matter of taste or style. I was hiding. Nobody cares about a look like this in Berlin.

The café was located at a corner of Rue Montorgueil, a small street where there are shops for cheese, for wine, for fish, for fruits, for flowers, for chocolate and for bread. The Christmas lights were already on.

The days in Paris were work-free, and I didn’t know anyone.

I struggled with flirting and had set myself a challenge: to look men in the eyes, just a little bit longer. In a place where nobody knows me and that I would leave soon again, this seemed to be achievable. I failed two times and looked away quite quickly. The third time, I forced myself to keep the gaze. But it was just my eyes, staring, without a connection, neither to him nor to myself.

This was the end of the challenge. I ordered some wine, simply watched people doing groceries, and started to notice a difference between a femme in Paris and a Frau in Berlin.

First, I thought the difference was the fashion, maybe the so-called “Parisian Effortless Chic.” But sitting on the terrace more often, observing longer, something else seemed to be the essence of it:

It was in the way a scarf was worn, or the hair was brushed. The idea of a bra or no bra under a cashmere sweater. It was the sound of earrings or the hint of a scent that subtly altered the atmosphere.

No matter what age or income, each femme carried a detail that said: I value myself – as a woman.

The details were not only on them - it felt as if they were wearing them from within, naturally owning their feminine.

I looked at my tomboy-wardrobe.

There was a dress in a shop window – dark green, soft, woolen, close to the body with a fine golden zipper line on the back, from the hollow of the knee up to the neck.

In this dress, I would be a different person, a femme. I would be feminine.

It suited me well, I brought it home, looked at myself in the mirror, but I didn’t fit in.

One year later, I came back to Paris this time longer. Looking effortlessly feminine took me two hours, by the time I left the house, I was exhausted and felt like an alien.

There was an unknown woman arriving at 19.15 in a café. It was summer-raining outside, and for quite a while, a man had been waiting. Her hair was wet and thin, the white blouse under her jean jacket transparent. Instead of closing the jacket, she left it wide open. Instead of tying her hair together, she tousled it.

Again a year later. One of the femmes has become a close friend. From time to time she was biting the nails of her left hand. But instead of hiding, she put color and a giant ring on it.

She said: “Of course. Also the not-so-perfections, everything has value in femininity. It is an essential part of our culture.”

It had been missing in my German upbringing.



© sauer zine 2020