The last several months, I have joked that wearing my overalls in Paris might be considered illegal. Little did I know how right I was! Ever since that very first day I ventured out into the streets of Paris wearing overalls, there has been ongoing banter on Twitter and Facebook about the fact that this could be illegal. There were some of you who gasped with laughter saying, “No, you didn’t?” There were others who said things like, “Good for you! Be yourself and be proud.” In my defense, and yes, I somehow think wearing overalls… more exactly wearing paint stained overalls in a city where people only wear jogging/sports attire if they are actually running, does indeed need defending. My overalls have remained in my closet for many years, untouched, as I wondered why on earth I even bothered to bring them to Paris in the first place. That is, until I began painting. I was thrilled to have them, but never did I have any intention on wearing them in the streets of Paris. That said, I tend to get lost in my work. Knowing this, I always set a little alarm in order to take a few moments to make myself look somewhat presentable before picking the little ones up at school. When I write, work on my photography or social media managing jobs this task is pretty easy to do. However, on days when I get lost in my painting, things always seem to take a rather interesting turn. Maybe I’m just a messy painter, but sometimes when I paint I wonder if there is more paint on me or on the canvas. I literally throw myself into my work and disappear into the painting, letting go of all awareness as I get lost in the music, emotions, colors and the movement of my paintbrush. It’s almost trance-like. That is until I hear my alarm go off telling me that I have exactly 40 minutes to be at the school when the doors open. 40 minutes sounds like a lot of time to get ready and walk just a few blocks, but have you ever tried cleaning off oil paint? When you are up for some fun… give it a try. Be sure to take photos! I’d love to see how that all works out for you. Oh, and no using any of those nasty easy oil paint removers that actually work but kill your skin. Only use the natural ones so that you can truly have some fun. On most days, I manage to get cleaned up, throw off my overalls and slip into a pair of jeans, but one day in particular I was so deep inside my painting that when the alarm went off, I didn’t stop. I kept telling myself to take a few more minutes. It’s as if this painting posted below had taken me in and wasn’t letting me out.
The next thing I knew I had 15 minutes to get to the school. Changing was not an option, so I figured I would throw on a coat and hopefully no one would notice. I quickly washed my face, and tried to get as much paint off of my hands as I could. I threw on a little make-up to hide the redness that had formed on my face from all of the rubbing and ran out of the door. I walked out of the door cringing at the fact that once again this American was going to stick out like a sore thumb, even though I knew very well in my heart that I would never truly fit in. I walked to the school at a rapid pace. It felt almost criminal to be parading around Paris in overalls. I imagined all of the French Mommies and Daddies looking with disdain at me and my half-hidden paint stained overalls. There she is again, that American… has she no shame? Then I thought, they probably won’t even notice. I mean really, they have better things to do than to stare at me. Just then, an expat friend passed by on her bicycle. She waved and shouted, “Love the new punk look!” She gave me a huge giggle, blew me a kiss and said, “Catch you later!” I was confused. When did overalls become punk? I quickly forgot the whole punk comment when I ran into another friend in front of the school. I tried ever so casually to put my hands in my pocket and slide my coat closed, hoping this French friend wouldn’t notice. “The overalls are a nice touch,” he said with a wink and a huge smile. So much for no one noticing, I thought. Then, the New Yorker in me said, who cares? Let them look. Maybe I’ll start a new trend. That made me smile and I stood there proudly waiting for my little ones to come out of the school. When they did, my six-year-old little princess ran over to me and screamed for all to hear, “Wow, Mommy, you went to the hairdresser today! I love your new red highlights! Can I get some, too?” Red highlights? What on earth was she talking about? “Sweetie, I haven’t been to the hairdresser.” Just then, she reached up and pointed to my head, “Your hair has red in it… It looks funky Mommy! Can I put some in my hair when we get home?” I was so worried about my overalls being “illegal” that I hadn’t noticed until I got home that I had left the house with streaks of red paint in my hair. One might actually say that it looked professionally done! Well, I thought, at least I gave everyone something to look at, giggle at or downright laugh at. That can’t be all bad now, can it? Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time I would be obliged to run to the school in my paint stained overalls, and I would continue to tweet and post on Facebook wondering if there was a law forbidding this in Paris. Well, it seems that my fears turned out to be correct! Not only was it illegal for a woman to wear pants in Paris, it was illegal to wear pants in the entire country of France! I like to use humor on my blog posts, but this time I am being completely serious. According to an article I read on the BBC News website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21329269, the French government recently overturned a more than 200-year-old law stating that women were only allowed to wear pants or “dress like a man” if they got permission from the police beforehand. I know you are shaking your heads in disbelief and I wish I was kidding, but it’s true. The law was put into effect in the year 1800 and was modified in the years 1892 and 1909. Only then did it begin allowing women to wear pants “if they were holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.” No, unfortunately I’m still not kidding. Somehow this law was forgotten… or at least I hope that is why it took until now for the government to overturn it. According to the Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, “This order was aimed first of all at limiting the access of women to certain offices or occupations by preventing them from dressing in the manner of men.” Apparently she felt that the “ban was no longer compatible with modern French values and laws.” Really? I’m so glad that someone has figured that out! Now, I can wear my overalls and not worry that I will be taken away by the police. Then again, they only mention pants. I’m guessing that my paint stained overalls might somehow still be illegal in Paris and if they’re not, perhaps they should be. On second thought, life would be boring if we were all so perfect; wouldn’t it? No need to answer that; I’m just going to pretend you agree with me. This old French law got me thinking. I’ve heard of many strange laws in certain states in the United States that have been forgotten about and are no longer practiced but are still in the books. Please feel free to jot down an archaic law that no one practices anymore, but are still officially laws where you live. It might be fun to add them in the comments section below. As for me and my overalls… only time will tell. I’m guessing that they will see the streets of Paris again. If I promise to try to clean my “punk” hair before leaving the house, will you be so kind as to keep your laughing to a quiet minimum if you happen to bump into me while I’m wearing them?
UPDATE: Thanks to one of my Twitter contacts, I have a wonderful example of a female artist who received permission to “cross-dress” from the Paris Préfecture de Police in 1857. Thank you, Rosa, for paving the way for us women.
Here are the links that I received from my Twitter contact about Rosa Bonheur (Thank you, Tim) : http://invisiblebordeaux.blogspot.fr/2013/11/rosa-bonheur-world-famous-bordeaux-born.html http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Permission_de_travestissement_Rosa_Bonheur.jpg