July 1, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
When I was 18 and doing a gap year between high school and college, I went to look at an apartment in Paris for a roommate share. When I arrived, there was no apartment but, instead, only a room with two men inside who said they were brothers. They spoke a language other than French or English and I couldn’t understand them. Then, one of them tried to push me down on a bed. By something I can now only explain as some kind of crazy kismet or divine intervention, the landlady came to the door, knocking and asking why the brothers had “Une fille américaine” in their room. The landlady was elderly, with glasses, outraged. I jumped up and ran out of the room and kept running until I got to the subway. I never forgot the courage of that landlady.
It was that night that I first spoke on the phone with Lorin, an American with family ties to France, who had moved to the city from Davis, California. We became roommates and he was a protector of mine. We are still friends to this day. When I hear his voice on the phone, I feel safe and I smile, every time. I wrote about him and our long friendship in a Le Weekend last fall. And, because he now owns a very successful bakery in Davis that bakes, among many other things, a special kind of bread you get in Bordeaux (his wife’s home region) called a “sarmentine,” he wrote about it for Frenchly, here.
Several months later of that first year on my own in Paris, a guy I’d gone out with didn’t listen to the crucial word, “no.” It’s an upsetting and ugly story and one I will have to tell another time as there are layers to it that have reverberated for years for me. But the next morning, when I told one of my roommates, an English man named Martin, he said, “Oh my God, why didn’t you come get me?” I had no answer. Except that I, like many women, somehow felt it was my fault. (Lorin was traveling at that time.)
I don’t bring these stories up for sympathy today. But to make a point: If, in either instance, I had gotten pregnant, far from home –a victim of a violent rape in one instance, the other of date rape– my life could have been turned upside down if I didn’t have a solution: there is no question but that I would have chosen an abortion at that time. I was about to matriculate to an Ivy league school; my whole life was ahead of me. I was not prepared or capable of being anyone’s mother.
On the other hand, many year later and married, after I had my two sons, though I felt our family really could not handle another child, when I thought briefly I might be pregnant again, I knew inside my bones that there was no way I’d ever be able to abort a third child, unless I needed to do so for the child’s or my physical safety.
Both possible outcomes balanced on one very important assumption: that I could choose.
What has happened in America this past week with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade is a travesty and a tragedy. It is a violent act against women and children. That notion I had, that I could choose, even an ugly choice, is gone now for countless American women in 14 states.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Simone Veil (not to be confused with Simone Weil, the French philosopher), who was a French Magistrate, later the Health Minister and then the President of the European Parliament. Veil is Best known for the law that legalized abortion in 1975, which she advocated and is known today as the Loi Veil (The Veil Law.)
She also legalized birth control. And though I never had to try to have an abortion in France, I did take the pill for the first time when I got into a relationship later in my year there. I remember it was ridiculously, wonderfully, shamelessly easy.
Now, my intern, Charlinda, had a really smart idea this week: she wrote me a note after noticing that our author Joanna Scutt’s piece on the imminent demise, back in May, of Roe v. Wade was at the top of our Google analytics since Friday and said, “Should Joanna write a new piece?” Yes, resoundingly. And here it is. Please take a minute to read Joanna’s intelligent and thoughtful piece about how France is reacting to the news of Roe v. Wade.
Now, before I get too far along here, Joanna also has a new book that just came out about bohemian women in a secret club in Greenwich Village who sparked modern feminism. It’s called Hotbed.And….if you are the first two people to write to me with the answer to the following question, we will mail you a copy: What are the three kinds of crisis Simone de Beauvoir said would affect the safety of abortion rights? (For a clue check out this terrific piece in The Atlantic by Pamela Druckerman who wrote Bringing Up Bébé.)
Cook, watch & read ce weekend (Cuisinier, Regarder et Lire):
First up, I have this beautifully written review by Colby Professor and amazing writer, Debra Spark, about a French novel called, The Book of Mother. I read the review and, immediately, thought of the collateral damage we might not even think of when eliminating Roe v. Wade. You will see why I say that when you read the review. But suffice it to say, that women who are forced to have children they do not want can leave in their wakes a long legacy of hurt and pain that goes on for generations.
On Frenchly this week, we have so much for you! Nonalcoholic rosés and bubblies for the holiday weekend; French wedding venues; 6 essentials for classic Parisian summer style (and your side character in the making); a not-exactly-dummies’ guide to converting to Celsius and the metric system; a summer reading suggestion in the classic book, Moulin Rouge,which is a fictional account of Toulouse Lautrec’s life and, finally, we have a profile of the Instagramming whirlwind ex-pat writer, tour guide, wedding planner and more, Yanique Francis.
Or if you have not seen it yet, the most important movie of the year was made in France: it’s called Happening and is about an illegal abortion in 1963 France.
To cook: Our friends from Boston are making the trip up for “le week-end” and when they come we eat, play board games, swim and laugh. They are like our family and we look forward to our time with them whenever they come, but especially in the summer when things can slow down a bit and we can enjoy all the wonderfulness summer has to offer. Their son just graduated 8th grade, so I have to make him something special. Right now, I’m thinking I might take these butterscotch blondies I made last week and froze (mine have chocolate chunks and walnuts added) and crumble them into some homemade vanilla ice cream and top with chocolate sauce and a goat milk caramel I’ve been getting at my farmer’s market that is insanely good.
Aside from that indulgence, since Dan and I are both trying to lose some of our Covid fifteen before we get on a plane to go to France in two weeks, I am thinking that I will do a spin on this mango coleslaw with some simple BBQ-ed chicken. My classic slaw always has mustard seeds, celery, cabbage, carrots, parsley, a little maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in it—I’ll lose that ACV for the lime here and still use maple instead of honey or agave and….I think I can lose those mustard seeds, too.
Ok, have a good weekend wherever you are. Get outside, believe in cosmic kismet, bake a pie, start reading Joanna’s new book or just stick your feet in a bowl of cold water—do one thing that makes you feel ok about one thing in the world and then write me to tell me about it.
And come to Frenchly.us for more!
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