|Who Are You?|
When a Frenchman first told me that I was 'Someone who's really somebody' I suddenly became a personage that I didn't know about before. As an expression of admiration it's not bad, but it does bring with it waves of reflection about exactly who you thought you were before actually becoming 'somebody'.
You see, it seems the French don't happen to follow their interests or passions and yet if there's anything outside of love they admire, it's someone who's passionate about something.
Vous êtes quelqu'un = You are somebody
If you should happen to have a certain expertise, an unabiding and perhaps unnatural interest in something then you'll be introduced in advance to their friends as 'Being somebody' or 'He's really somebody'.
It doesn't really matter if your particular area of expertise is practical, silly, awe inspiring or obscure. Someday, by someone you've only met for 5 minutes, you'll be described to their friends as 'Someone who's really somebody' and then you'll meet your new friends at a dinner or party.
The French appear to have the habit of compartmentalizing their lives into areas that can be counted on one hand. It begins with a great devotion to friends, family & social life and ends with the demands of work. Just don't let the two meet because then things will either get boring or ugly, which is actually the same thing.
After family, friends and work, the only thing that comes next is vacation. After no less than four or five interviews probing the deepest depths of their psychology, when a Frenchman finally tells the collected Human Resources Department what color their underwear is, they finally pass the standard 4-5 interviews, get the job and an automagic five weeks of vacation. But that was in the good old days.
Now that the 35 hour work week is in place what was normally a five week vacation has expanded faster than the 5 PM baguette in a stone fired oven, to 7 or 9 weeks.
You'd think that with all this time on their hands they'd be exploring the aerodynamics of complicated Chinese kites or mastering the subtleties of Turkish cuisine but they're actually more interested in finding the best airfare to Turkey.
Which has given rise to the French admiring your interests which to them, seem to make you ' somebody '
While you were 14 years old and knew everything about hand held, Japanese wood saws and your friends labeled you as unsocial and retarded, all of a sudden, for reasons unknown, in France you're suddenly elevated to the stature of someone who's helping to solve the problems of Cold Fusion.
It's odd becoming a personage that you didn't know about before. A bit like my friend who tackled a creative writing assignment in High School by writing a story with several illustrations of Nixon beating off and being asked by the young, extremely buxom English teacher to read his assignment in front of the class so as to embarrass him into the deep and dark shadows of peer pressure.
That was America, whereas in France he'd immediately be declared an authentic 'auteur' and certainly be described as 'being somebody' who everyone would then love to meet.
Of course the inverse applies as well. At a dinner party with quite enjoyable company I was once introduced to the local Administrator of Culture and his girlfriend or wife. It was only after dinner I was told that shortly after opening her mouth she would be freely described as 'like anybody', which is definitely a notch below 'being somebody' and while being the absolute truth, could also be a grave insult.
I'm a photographer with a fine arts background and the French seem to think they single handedly invented the entire process so it seems that I've become 'somebody'. Throw in over a decade of using the Net, mix in a dose of computer graphics & Web expertise and all of a sudden it seems that everybody thinks I'm somebody.
So when I'm given the compliment of being 'somebody' I simply point out that 'Someone needs to be somebody or there'd be nobody left and France would be empty '.
Paris Guides - Provence
Return to Visit Paris
Copyright 1999-2009 Don, All Rights Reserved User agreement