Hanging in the air a little when it comes to your future? Well, taking inspiration from a legend like Simone de Beauvoir may sound almost intimidating, but fear not – our author Julia Schulte has sifted her life for some lessons to give your living and loving a boost, Simone-style.
Famous feminist, acclaimed writer, co-founder of existentialism, philosophy teacher, Sorbonne graduate – Simone de Beauvoir didn’t leave out much in her professional career. Within her own lifetime she was a legend already, whether touring the world, holding speeches all over Europe, visiting a love interest in the States or interviewing Che Guevara in Cuba.
Now don’t get intimidated – had she been the former “dutiful daughter”, as she called herself in the title of her memoirs, she probably wouldn’t have gotten so far. There are just five simple steps to follow to become an icon like Simone de Beauvoir.
Hanging out in fancy French cafés
Last time I checked Café de Flore in Paris, a hot chocolate was over seven euros. This might be because you are served in the very spot once occupied by the great French existentialists, but Boulevard Saint German was already a desirable address when our favourite feminist was frequenting it. Of course, you could stay at home to study where you aren’t distracted – or you could, like de Beauvoir, go to a place that is always crowded with inspiring people. Pablo Picasso and Albert Camus dropped by while Simone was working there and the cafe remained a hotspot even during the Occupation. Instead of letting the buzz disturb her, Simone de Beauvoir managed to actually get some writing done, stimulated perhaps by the conversations around her. So get up and take your work outside with you. But you may want to dress up first.
Sure, there is a new colour in style every season and you could easily go with it – but why? Is there any colour strong enough to reflect your personality? Simone chose a non-colour instead and stuck with it most of the time: Black. Always classy, always elegant, always with a somewhat sombre touch. Of course you might fear now looking like a Catholic schoolgirl or like going to a funeral. But de Beauvoir didn’t just do plain dresses. Why not try a turban with the outfit? It’s an easy way to keep your hair up when you need to focus on your next masterpiece and surely a stylish note to add to any costume.
Doesn’t it just add the personal, human polish we need to ultimately fall in love with the bronze patina we have wrapped them in?
Start with the big ideas
Now that you have the attitude and the looks, you need great ideas to follow the lead of Ms. de Beauvoir. Think big. “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” – that is the kind of catch phrase you might want to go with if you want to change the world like Simone did. Don’t get holed up with developing your ideas little by little. Be sharp, be inventive, be radical. Simone’s masterpiece The Second Sex was a unique treatise at the time and is still one of the most influential works in the modern feminist canon. Of course, it is always clever to have a second string to one’s bow. So better you have more than one concept ready when you step out to make a difference. Simone de Beauvoir’s was existentialism – what is yours going to be?
Put the most difficult concepts in simple words
You can always try to impress your professors by showing off your eloquence, writing those never-ending sentences that everyone has to read several times to understand, filled with Latinised words… or you could just get to the point. It isn’t difficult at all to use circumlocution to describe an abstract concept. The real challenge is to express it in phrases people without a PhD in philosophy can understand. Simone de Beauvoir used straight sentences and clear words to explain existentialism and feminism. And to keep the reader interested, she didn’t only put them in essays. Try hiding your greatest theories in much acclaimed novels. That way you can make sure that it is not only old academics who read your thoughts, but also young students who will come to adore you for your fresh ideas.
Stay loyal to the One
Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre met in their early twenties – a nice time for a little romance, you might think, but this turned out to be an intense relationship that would last the rest of their lives. This of course doesn’t mean you can’t sleep around a bit. The couple never got married and always opted for an open relationship. Simone had affairs and love stories with both other men and women at a time when your grandmothers would stay at home, do the dishes and raise the kids. But even though it wasn’t always easy, Simone de Beauvoir stayed with Sartre until the very end, taking care of him when he was sick and dying. So while planning your breathtaking career, never forget the ones you truly love.
Teaser photo: Thierry Ehrmann, CC BY 2.0 (flickr)