I recently bought a bottle of St. Germain, a sweet liqueur produced in France. It was recommended to me for use in fancy cocktails and in the sly, delicious fortification of white wine. The bottle came in a gift box with a carafe and a 1′ x 2′ poster featuring scantily clad young girls, presumably photographed in France, presumably around 1920, presumably drinking St. Germain. I direct your attention to the scanned-in portion of the poster I’ve included above, in case you missed it. (You didn’t.)
When I opened up the poster that day, I hooted with glee. “What??!” I cried, and showed my friend Ben in town from Portland. He snatched it from me at once. He grinned. “Now that’s good marketing.” There were instructions on the backside (!) of the “pamphlet,” as Ben called it, on how to mix various drinks using St. Germain.
“If that’s a pamphlet, I’m a Freedom Fry,” I said, taking it back. Oh, the French. So obnoxious, so brilliant. Getting a maid’s nearly bare bottom smack in the middle of a poster when all I wanted was an aperitif is a little presumptuous and…well, plain sumptuous. The poster works beautifully. It’s a genius move on the manufacturer’s part. My friend and I poured a touch of the liqueur into our Chardonnay, sipping and staring, transfixed by the image of these two girls. He was fantasizing about happening upon the pair by accident; I was fantasizing about being one of them.
Look again. Wouldn’t you want to be there?
Two pretty, stockinged French girls in their early twenties are reading a book together. It’s summer, around four or five o’clock in the afternoon. Cicadas buzz in the trees and lazy bees dip and wobble over field flowers. Just out of sight is a picnic basket and the Peugeot bicycles they used to get to the clearing. The girls stole a tube of lipstick from a sister earlier and a bottle of — wait for it — St. Germain. They’ve been at leisure for several hours, dozing, drinking, laughing, telling secrets, taking long, deep breaths. It’s bright and hot but there’s a gorgeous breeze; the air feels so marvelous on the skin that they’ve allowed their skirts to get rumpled, their knickers to show without a single care in the world. They are floating in private, languid, countryside. Friends, kindreds, girls, girls, girls.
What I love most about this photo is what isn’t there: There is no man. If you’re a girl who has ever had a best girlfriend, you know the sweetness that comes from a perfect, sensual afternoon that involves zero dudes. It’s not sexual. But it’s sensual, best believe that. Indulgence of the feminine kind is one of my favorites. These days, I am mostly busy with my career, with dating the male sex, with stitching patchwork and setting (more) goals. But when my longtime friend Kristina comes over, she always spends the night. We talk till midnight, we sometimes have wine, we talk about love and books and the past and when it’s time to get into our jammies, we never care if the other sees us change. She sleeps on the couch, I go to my bed.
But oh, for a glade, St. Germain. Oh, for those lazy bees.