Nearly Naked In Paris

photo: mannequins & mirror

All mannequins look cool, but these look frozen in August.

Sexy Abandonment In August

by Kathleen Hendrie Bouvier

Paris:- Tuesday, 31. August 1999:- The dummies have put their clothes back on - the ones in the windows, that is. I am living in the heart of the garment district, which became a virtual ghost town for the month of August.

Prior to their departures, the local merchants all undressed their dummies, or mannequins - not to be confused with the French mannequin, which can be a live human model.

There they stood, in their street front windows, naked to the world. It was as if they were there to sun-bathe, while their bosses did the same at their various vacation destinations. Well, the bosses are back, and the dummies are finely attired for the coming season.

The rest of us are still waffling, hesitant to give up the liberations of August that allowed us all to be nearly naked in Paris. I have decided that I personally am very fond of Paris in August - maybe more than the rest of the year.

I wish I had known this when my dear friend Carlo called to cancel his anticipated first visit tophoto: shop window mannequins me here, in Paris, in August. If so, I am certain I would have persuaded him to be here with me - anyway!

It seems Carlo has heard that it is rather hot and humid in Paris in August, and that we do not have air conditioning, nor proper showers, and that we do not use deodorant.

Apparently, this news was sufficient to dissuade him from being here. Besides being profoundly disappointed, initially, I was perplexed. How different is this from the tropical island that is Manhattan in August?

Well, alright, in New York they do get to indulge their plus-minus three degree Fahrenheit temperature tolerances by blasting the air conditioning, so that one is obligated to travel always with the cumbersome burden of a jacket, so as to bundle up appropriately for going in doors.

As for showers, I happen to have a terrific old tub that is deep enough to float in; just great filled with cool water on a hot humid night, with a glass of chilled 'little' - as in not terribly serious, and thus worthy of chilling - wine on the rim, of the tub that is. And, depending upon the neighborhood, deodorant might be - or not - more popular in New York.

But, there is something to be said for that parfum of overheated humans too. Almost sexy - it reminds me, for the umpteenth time, that there are few disguises here in Paris. It is just more real.

Now, I am shaking my head, and feeling sorry for Carlo, and grinning - a lot. He has no idea what he is missing. What a show is Paris in August!

Bodies everywhere, and they are good at this bodies-on-parade game. Is it the excuse of the weather? Is it the presence of so many tourists from so very many other places? Is it thephoto: french family mannequin fact that your neighbors and co-workers are out of town? Whatever the rationale, suddenly everything is on parade. Young, old, good, bad, it all is on display. There are thousands of people walking around Paris, being nearly naked.

Now I know why all the chairs in all the cafés are turned to face the streets. Who needs to look at their table companion when there is a show like this passing by for free?

Watching them makes me feel as if I were in some exotic seaside vacation destination, where fancy people get away with wearing almost no clothes, by sporting the full regalia of jewelry and hair-do and makeup instead. It is exciting to see. Especially in your own neighborhood.

Suddenly it is acceptable to be on the streets without a jacket, and this relaxation of standards invites a sort of abandon. But style is certainly not abandoned. It's become all the more exaggerated and flamboyant. No, this abandon expresses itself in a more relaxed, almost promiscuous sort of attitude. It is just plain sexy.

I've been taking my lunch out more often these days. The cafés have become even more irresistible. The parks too are full of nearly naked people - looking very relaxed. Who says everyone goes away in August? Poor Carlo. If only he knew what he was missing.

The human, exposed and relaxed against the background of so much beauty and history. And the style; I've never seen so many strikingly beautiful necklaces, nor necks for that matter. I imagine they were there before, but all that exposed skin seems to set them off better. Again, it invites one to exhibit. And the men - they are watching, and it is nice to be seen.

Oh, perhaps in my excitation I neglected to mentionphoto: 3 mannequins & ? all the many peripheral benefits that also make Paris attractive to me in August. Automobile traffic is - almost - manageable, pedestrians are slower too.

Around my neighborhood, I feel like a member of a club: 'The Ones Who Stayed.' My neighbors are showing themselves to me, and speaking. The ambient temperature is not the only thing that is warmer than usual.

There was a brief spell where the big news was that temperatures were 'lower than normal.' Bummer! - people covered themselves back up again.

The bright side is, it made me even more acutely aware of the effect of all that heat and exposure - off, on again - off. I respect how they are not bashful about showing themselves. And, it makes me feel bold. I am relieved at how when I am bold, it is accepted. Perhaps this is why nudist colonies have never gone away.

When we all are put into the same costume, or lack thereof, we become somehow all liberated. This is Paris in August. Carlo, what about next summer?

Kathleen Hendrie Bouvier©1999
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