Personal assistant: somebody to take up all sorts of daily chores and logistic dramas. Recommended by Jina Khayyer.
Employing a Personal Assistant seems as luxurious as having one’s groceries home delivered from the chic Grand Épicierie du Bon Marché. But it turns out to be one of the finest treats I can imagine giving myself. I met my PA last year when I was living in the Marais in Paris. My neighbour, a sophisticated Isabelle Huppert look-a-like, whom I imagined was incredibly rich, must have noticed that I often had several friends staying over, sleeping on the couch. (Hotels are expensive in Paris.) So one day Madame Neighbour knocked on my door and kindly offered me the use of her empty spare room.
I didn’t accept her generous offer, since I was about to move into a fabulous big space in the 10th arrondissement, but I did invite her in for a cup of tea. After all, one wants to get to know the stranger who offers something very personal for free. Madame was an American living in Paris for a quarter of a century already, happily married, bilingual, managing her household and her family of four, reading The New Yorker every week. She wasn’t even on the lookout for a job, but since that day she’s been managing my life.
I learned quickly that having a PA is like having the perfect relationship. I never have to face an empty fridge when I get home from a business trip. My dresses and suit jackets find their way to the best but cheapest dry-cleaner in town without my even mentioning that they need to go. No matter what I ask her, she always has an answer. What’s the gross national product of Zimbabwe? What was the dress Michelle Obama wore on her visit to Baden-Baden? She also supplies me with answers to questions I haven’t even asked yet. Why didn’t Yamamoto do a men’s show this season? She knows it all. All this comes at a price, of course, but I now have more time to write and more time than ever to simply enjoy myself.
A PA is like a saviour and protector. Even if this sound cowardly (there is nothing wrong with being a coward sometimes): a PA keeps away all the trouble. It’s easier to say “no” if she’s saying it. It’s even fun negotiating deals if she’s the one rising the stakes.
I try to take my PA everywhere. She takes care of the buzzing iPhone, the restaurant bill, and she notes thing that might otherwise escape one’s attention. Like the other day, when she overheard a conversation at the table next to us: apparently Hedi Slimane will be back in fashion next spring.
Ms. Jina Khayyer is the Paris fashion correspondent for Süddeutsche Zeitung.