Book Review: Women, Work & The Art of Savoir Faire

Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & SensibilityWomen, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility by Mireille Guiliano

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe it’s because I read the reviews before I actually read the book, but I started out feeling very skeptical about this title. As I finished reading it and was able to spend some time reflecting, I realized that I didn’t dislike it as I thought I would. I’m also quite certain that if I were to meet the author she’d likely both terrify and completely captivate me.

I’m writing this review from the perspective of someone who operates in a world that is in many ways very different from Mireille Guiliano’s. I shy away from the big-city lifestyle that the author appears to thrive in and my career most certainly won’t be built on entertaining for a living. I can still find value in the author’s tale of success as a career woman, but I wonder if some of the negative reviews this book gets is because Mireille Guiliano clearly lives–and thrives–in a different world than a lot of us, certainly those of us reading this type of book, do, and she’s not trying to make us more comfortable with that fact.

Like the author, I also married for love and was “whisked away” from all that I knew at the time. My story, though, doesn’t involve me falling into a great job because of my language skills and cultural differences, and I highly doubt I’d ever be able (or desire) to hack it in the industry the author works in. On the other hand, her reminders to us to be assertive, to truly be comfortable with ourselves, and to perhaps dig deeper into why we’re not always okay with true competition with one another, are useful and applicable. Throughout this book, I identified parallels between her life and my own and then the two stories would veer away from one another again, perhaps to return later in some small way.

So the author appears to have walked into a few choice opportunities, but I find it difficult to justify the claim that her whole life has simply been charmed and she’s not qualified to tell “the rest of us” how it’s done because she has no idea how “the rest of us” have to make things happen. I think the author is a woman who has guts, a sharp mind, and the “savoir faire” to make things work her way. She knows what she does and does not like, and she knows what she’s good at. These are certainly things I want to be able to definitively declare about myself as I’m digging deeper in my career to determine my own long-term goals, so I appreciate that about her writing, even as I’m certain I’ll never run in the same type of circles she does.

At several points in this book I had to stop and think through some of what the author said specifically about men. Was it bashing, or merely comparing? The longer I thought about this, the more I wondered if perhaps her belief in women, and herself, as inherently better at many things, isn’t a large part of her success. That “I’m better than you mentality” can easily rub a lot of us the wrong way at first glance or meeting, but I’ve come to respect it. Still, I think I’m leaning toward calling it man bashing in this book, and that’s something I try to shy away from as I try to differentiate myself in a positive way as a woman working among men. (Can I not be excellent on my own, without comparison to someone else or advertising their shortcomings?) I had some difficulty getting past this as I read this text, so I did at several points imagine myself in conversation with the author, asking for clarification.

Certainly, don’t expect this book to be a “how to” guide to success. (I believe the author even states this somewhere near the beginning.) Alternately, there are very literal guides dropped into this book, including recipes for entertaining business colleagues and superiors as well as a detailed list of wardrobe must-haves. In this way, I think this book is a “just enough to get you headed in the right direction” type of guide. The author won’t tell you exactly what path you should take to get where you want to be, but she’ll give you enough that if you’re really interested in pursuing this, you might be inspired further to figure it out. Chances are, if you picked this title up in the first place you’re already doing some self-exploration and you’ll find the value in her story as an example of someone who has clearly done well.

If you’re on a mission to become a more polished professional woman, you might find something of value here, certainly if you’re not easily offended by someone who clearly has the guts to say things very bluntly. I did make a list of reminders and important excerpts as I read through this, so I certainly found some value in Mireille Guiliano’s wisdom and her decision to share it with us.

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Dirty Bird [dur-tee burd]

(noun). This is the guy (or gal!) who thinks it’s gonna win them a reward to shout something dirty or suggestive–and perhaps also gesticulate–out a car window at someone before speeding away. The dirty bird’s approach: fly in, swoop low, drop a load of crap, maybe strut around a little bit, then flit away, chirping merrily to the other dirty birds about what they’ve just done.

Continue reading “Dirty Bird [dur-tee burd]”

Chief Complaint: Stabby Pain

My dear, sweet husband has been asking to take me to the ER all day because he’s convinced I have an ulcer. I’m convinced that after his recent finger+hedge trimmer incident we need to avoid ridiculous ER bills for a while and I should try to get in with my GP tomorrow instead. Also, “I’m not dead yet!” and I can sit up and type this, so I’m clearly not ready for the ER, right? RIGHT.

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Servants’ Quarters

After being sick and stuck on the sofa all week–I was sick; he was stuck on the sofa with me, or anyway, he was kind enough to hang around and pretend to be interested in my sofa adventures–we decided to venture out into the world today. Cue drumroll, ’cause it was epic. I actually masked my under eye circles and put on earrings! And clothes!

Our favorite draft house hangout was sold out for the afternoon except for the VERY front rows of the theaters, so we decided on another of our favorite weekend pastimes, open housing. (Front row seats in the latter activity involve less neck pain and eyestrain, you see.) We spent the afternoon touring open houses in our area, contemplating real estate prices, decorating and remodeling options, and the move we keep talking about maybe possibly making sometime in the yet-to-be decided future.

We wandered through some pretty neighborhoods and into one particularly gorgeous house, and upon asking the real estate agent for the list price, we both giggled when she announced the price tag. I may break some rules of social etiquette, but I do know it’s rude to talk about money so I’ve edited that out here and you’re welcome. Anyway, I think it’s not going to offend anyone here when I say the price tag was just a tad outside our price range, by, well, just a smidge. (She quoted it and B said “Yeah, that’s about double what we’re looking for.” Only, he was lying because the price tag was about three times what we’d be in for at this stage of our lives, or the next or the one after that.)

The real estate agent giggled with us–fortunately, not at us, bless her for that–when I asked if there was a servant’s door through which we should quietly excuse ourselves after we heard the price tag. Continue reading “Servants’ Quarters”

Game Time

C: Hubby just texted me to say, “It’s time to play everyone’s favorite game.” I waited for a followup message but received none, so I decided to answer, “Pin the party hat on the naked fireman?” Turns out the real answer is, “Where is my hotel?” and he was not amused.

E:  That is NOT as fun as pin the party hat on the naked fireman. That is not as fun as ANYTHING you do with a naked fireman.

C: How about, “Where is my hotel where I left my naked fireman?”

E: Could be fun. Could be incredibly frustrating.

Happy Nine Years, Dude.

Most years I just lie to my mom now when she asks if I’ve had my flu shot, but I happened to be at the doctor’s office for a routine appointment when they were administering quadrivalent flu shots this year, so I got one. (Quadrivalent, for those of you who don’t know what it means, translates loosely to “bad mamma jamma.” Bad mamma jamma, in turn, can lead to some fun Web searches if you don’t know what it means.) Afterward, I promptly called my mom to tell her how responsible I’d been, in hopes that it might buy me a year or two during which she won’t nag me about flu shots. That theory was scrapped today when she found out I’m sick and she started a new chant that I’m certain is sponsored by whoever produces Tamiflu.

Anyway, flu shot. Did it. And now after comparing symptoms with my sister who was tested for the flu and diagnosed with one of the A types, it turns out that this mini-plague I’m suffering now may actually be the flu. Except I’m handling it far better than unvaccinated folks would, so contrary to all the whining I’m doing to my husband, it won’t in fact be the end of me.

Continue reading “Happy Nine Years, Dude.”