Friday, June 21, 2013

French Women's Secrets To Using Technology

I first met Jamie Cat Callan back in my corporate days. I had signed up for a Saturday writing workshop she was teaching at NYU. She incorporated a lot of great exercises into what would later become The Writer's Toolbox. Miraculously, that day she got me writing. Just as much of a miracle,  Jamie told me that yes - I was a writer. You see, at that time in my life I wasn't convinced. 

I hold a special place in my heart for those I've met along the way who encouraged me to pursue to my art. So I try to stay connected. Which these days thanks to the miracle of social media makes it much easier.

When I heard about Jamie's latest book,  Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets To Feeling Beautiful Everyday I had to get me a copy.  And as you know when I come across something worth sharing - I like to do just that!

This delightful and insightful read is part self-help, part self-discovery and part travelogue of Jamie's adventures throughout France. At the end I wanted to go buy a new perfume and book a trip to Paris! But I also wanted to know more. I wanted to know how French women were adapting to the digital age. So I asked Jamie if I could interview her for my blog.  She graciously accepted. Here's are her answers to the questions I posed.

What do French women think of all this new technology? Are they fans of 24/7 connection? Do they have Facebook pages? 
This is such a great question, because the answer is really a yes and a no.  And that’s so French—to live in a kind of grey area.  Still, I would say that French women are definitely not into the 24/7 technology and while many French girls love their smartphones, they don’t participate in as much social media as we do.  It’s not unusual for a French Woman to pull herself off Facebook and suddenly become very mysterious.  This is especially true if she’s fallen in love!   

Do you find French women as attached to their smartphones and tablets as we are? How does a French women incorporate her smartphone into her sense of style?
In recent years, the smartphone and the tablet have replaced the intriguing paperback book a French woman might carry with her on her walks.  A French woman will position herself in the park or at an outdoor cafĂ© and then she’ll check her smartphone (one with a artsy case that reflects her personality).  That said, she would also be sure to look up from time to time to catch the flirtatious glance from the man at the nearby table.  It’s a matter of balance—so she will not get so hooked into her gadget that she forgets there’s a big wide world out there. 

You write about how French women feel permission to be completely themselves.  Do they extend that to their on-line interactions or are they more guarded?
While French women do give themselves permission to be completely themselves, they may not be so willing to share all the details of their lives.  I have many French women friends who are simple not on-line in terms of blogging, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, etc.  But, the French women that I do know who participate in social media have something amazing to show or tell.  They create beautiful style blogs, or post the most amazing travel photos on Facebook.  For French women, it’s about having something interesting to share and the presentation is important.  This is part of the French philosophy.  Micheline Tanguy, a charisma expert I talk about in Ooh La La! told me, “the French like to put a flower on everything.”  And I think this is true, even when it comes to on-line interactions. 

You talk about fashion being a conversation and how it often starts with a photo snapped by The Sartorialist. I’ve been a big fan of his from when he wasn’t so famous. How does a French woman react when it is her whose photo is being taken and then posted on a blog for the entire world to see?
I’ve actually taken photos of stylish French women, Sartorialist style.  It seems to me that younger French women, especially women who are in the beauty and style business, don’t mind having their photo taken and then shared.  (You just have to ask permission).  I find that older French women are much more reticent, so I try to respect that.  I also travel with a postcard of my book, with a barcode scan for my Facebook page, so that the woman I’d like to photograph can see that I’m serious and artful about what I do.  The truth is, I think Bill Cummingham and The Sartorialist have paved the wave for street style photographers all over the world, and stylish women are much more open to being featured on-line.

Without giving away your adventure at the end of the book – how did it feel to be without internet connection for so many days?  Do you recommend the respite?
I did have quite an adventure—and while still remaining mysterious, I’ll say this—I spent nine days in a hospital in Toulouse without internet or phone (although I could receive the occasional incoming phone call).  It was hard to be so out-of-touch at first and it almost felt as if I was coming off an addiction.  I did find that I could stay grounded by writing notes in my little notebook, keeping track of the time with my wristwatch (yes, very old school!), taking lots of photographs of the doctors and nurses and all my French hospital meals (which were delicious!)  And finally, I found that staring out the window to see what the sky was doing and how the changing colors brought with them the passage of time was very soothing, indeed. 

Lastly, you write that French women transfer handicaps to assets.  I just love that philosophy! Do they see technology as a handicap or an asset in their allure and mystique?
I’ve met French women who completely embrace technology and use it artfully to share their particular passion—whether it’s making their own macarons, or designing landscapes or following fashion trends.  I’ve also met French women who seem completely off the grid, living in ancient farmhouses that they’ve restored themselves using river rocks for walls and reconstructing wooden beams from the 11th century.  And so, in terms of allure—I believe French women know themselves.  They embrace their uniqueness with great passion and confidence, whether this involves using a smartphone or not. 
If a French woman does embrace technology, she will “add a flower to it” and yes, this love of technology will not be a handicap for her, but an asset and it will add to her mystique, because she is in alignment with her truest self. 
And this alignment--that’s really the secret to ooh la la.

Thanks Jamie! 

To find out more about Jamie Cat Callan visit:

To buy Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets To Feeling Beautiful Everyday (which I recommend you do!) click here!

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