Recently my husband needed new shoes for work and asked me to go with him to choose. So off we went to the high street where we found a shoe shop with lots of choice and smiling shop assistants. Great, I thought, this won’t take long.
After trying on three pairs, his choice was made (my man is not one for hanging around in shops). So as he put back on his ‘Saturday shoes’ I walked Marcel around in his pram to keep him quiet, and the very nice shop assistant took care of delicately wrapping up the shiny leather lace ups.
Then we had a bit of an incident. On her way to the till, the young sweet shop assistant called over to me to say (whilst pointing to the shoes): “Madame, they‘re to be polished once a week with special wax” …
I looked over my shoulder in the hope that she might be talking to another client, then I looked at my husband who, knowing me very well, had a huge smile on his face, and was finding the remark and my reaction (shock) hilarious.
Can you believe that a young woman today could simply presume that shining a man’s shoes is a job for his wife??! (“Yes!” I hear my grandmother cry).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not beating the feminist drum here, I’m just trying to fathom how on earth being married to my husband automatically makes me his shoe shiner?!
I have seen many a traditional woman in France, mostly from my mum’s generation (which is not that old!) in families where the father never cooks and never gets up from the table at any given meal, and is served his three courses, only having the job of reaching for the wine to top up his guest’s glasses. However, today none of my French girlfriends, women of my age, have this attitude towards men. That someone so young (she was about 19), should presume that it’s her job to shine her man’s shoes just baffles me.
…I was speechless, and there was a long pause before I answered, indignant: “Are you talking to me? (not with the Robert De Niro accent though, she was French, it wouldn’t have worked). He’s big enough to shine his own shoes. Don’t worry he won’t be disappointed, he knows I didn’t sign up for that”. She smiled a little embarrassed and said: “You’re right, men should take more responsibility for their belongings”. Like this was a novelty. Leaving me thinking: will someone please take her back to 1850?
I’m still in shock, and asking myself if this could have happened in England. I really doubt it, but maybe I’m mistaken, I was brought up in a pretty female orientated family – where everyone took care of their own shoes.
(Reminds me of this fantastic book from 1958 one of my bridesmaids gave me on my hen night just before I got married, the ultimate French housewife’s guide – one of my best vintage treasures ever, thank you Faustine!)