Yvonne helped establish a Parents Committee at her son Julien? school, and at the same time participated in the 16th Arrondissement (meaning ?uarter in French) Residents Committee. Leon, the father of Julien, is of Italian origin and currently works in Brazil as a vessel manufacturer. Yvonne became his partner after crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a motorboat trip together. The two do not lead a legal marital life but instead chose to respect each other? privacy and live together while at the same time, apart. Today, she plans to run a volunteering service for a regional library in Normandie after her retirement as a professor.
I received a call from Beatrice the other day. She said she was on vacation at Fontaine in Southern France with her son and husband, and just got back from hiking at Mont Ventoux. She grew up as a daughter of a high school teacher at the region of Aix-en-Provence and lived a fairly liberal life. After graduating from highschool she felt an interest for motorbikes and decided to travel across the African deserts on her motorbike.
She met a man early in her life, married him and then left him. Her next marriage led her to Morocco, but her life there was suffocating enough to cause her to leave the man once again and return to Paris where she met her current husband. She had one son from her first husband, one daughter from the next, and finally one son and one daughter from her recent husband, all of whom she raised herself.
I have known her since 1991 when she and her husband visited Korea because of their scholarly interests. From the beginning of our relationship she openly shared her life experiences with me and despite our different cultural backgrounds, we have become good friends since.
What does it mean to live as a woman? There was a time when delivering babies and raising them was all life was to women. But today our daughters claim a different life from their mothers. For them, marriage is an option and a profession is indispensible. They are dreaming of an independent and individualistic life. Their primary question is what they will choose as their vocation to ensure their financial independence, and with whom they will choose to construct their lives with.
What is it that we learn from the lives of French women who have been claiming their emancipation and independence well ahead of us? Life is after all a choice and an adventure. Today our daughters are dreaming of a world different from what Betty Friedan called the ?omfortable concentration camp.
They now understand Simone de Beauvoir? remark ?ne is not born a woman, one becomes a woman. Yet, there is no concrete solution as to where and how one is to construct such an independent life. One can only depend on the decisions one makes in choosing a path everytime one faces a crossroad. Creating a new life that has thrown off the bridle of tradition, has to be an adventure in one way or another.
Daughters that are not intimidated by a challenge, an adventure, and have the courage to break loose from customary expectations are the ones who will eventually create a life they have desired. Of course life isn? so simple. Life is never created the exact way one intends. There is pain and there are setbacks. But that is what makes life worth living!
(74, English Language & Literature)
Currently lives in Paris and is the author of
The Idler Who Went To The Sea