Chapter 1: Julia
Julia did not think she was an ordinary person and she was not interested in having an ordinary life. Ever since she was a child she had daydreamed. She daydreamed of an exciting future - of an extraordinary future life. It would be a life full of love, passion and a fabulous career. Her goals were twofold. One was to have an exciting career and the other to share her life with an interesting, passionate man and have children. She yearned for a romantic fairy tale life. This was going to be very difficult to attain in the Egypt of the 1950’s.
“Come and help me in the kitchen instead of just sitting there and looking out the window,” shouted her mother from across the hallway. Julia was deep in her thoughts and did not want to budge. The apartment they lived in in the heart of Cairo was very large and Julia often secluded herself in one of the rooms and read. She read romance books and daydreamed.
“Come on now, get moving,” called out her mother again.
“Coming,” Julia shouted back and reluctantly got up from her chair to join her mother in the kitchen. Their kitchen was very old fashioned. It was not a welcoming place. It was dark and bleak and had only one small window perched on top of the sink and it overlooked a narrow passageway between the building next door. Her mother did not seem to mind it but Julia hated it. She hated all kinds of housework, cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes or whatever. Not that she did much of that with the young servant roaming around the house all day helping her mother. They were not wealthy by all means but servants came very cheap in Egypt. Only the very poor could not afford one. Her mother was a very good cook and was in charge of the cooking and wanted Julia and her sister to take an interest in it. Her sister somewhat did. She was more of a homebody. Her brother was excluded from that task. The rule in the Middle East at the time – not that it has changed since - was that men worked outside the home and women inside.
“How are you going to keep house and cook for a husband and family if you don’t learn?” her mother kept asking her. There was no possible answer to that question. Julia’s mind was far away from mundane chores. First of all, she thought she was too young to think that far ahead. She was only fifteen at the time. Secondly, she intended to make oodles of money and marry money and work outside the home - therefore the house would be taken care of by the hired help. Thirdly, she was not going to remain in Egypt, she had plans to somehow go to the States. That’s where things were happening in the books she read and in the movies she saw.
Julia was born in Cairo of mixed ethnicity. Her mother was Greek, born in Egypt and her father was Lebanese whose family had come from a remote village in Lebanon to build a better life in Egypt. Her mother’s family was in textiles and her father’s was in tobacco. Julia had grown up in an unconventional family atmosphere. Both her parents had been very liberal, unlike those of ethnic minorities in the Middle East. She grew up reading American magazines and watching American and European movies. There was no movie rating in Egypt and she and her siblings often went to the movies with their parents and watched all sorts of films on romance and crime. Romance was not that explicit then, nor was crime so bloody. Her big dream of a fairy tale life had been kindled at a very young age by watching these films. Her quest was to leave Egypt, go to the U.S. and have a glamorous life with a flourishing career as a fashion designer in New York, marry an intelligent, handsome, passionate, wealthy and out of the ordinary man, have intelligent children and lead an extraordinary life of love, passion, sex and everything else. She knew she was asking a lot but she had made up her mind to pursue and achieve these goals one way or the other.
“I am not going to stay here, get married, have children and be a housewife,” she told her mother. “I am going to the States. I want a career in fashion designing.”
“And how are you going to do that? There is no way to get out of Egypt, you know that, you need an exit visa for a specific reason. You cannot go as a tourist, you can’t go to college in the U.S. - we don’t have the money. Your life is here my dear. You’re quite pretty, you’ll find a nice man.”
Julia was indeed a very pretty girl of average height, very slim (unlike her contemporaries in the Middle East who, she thought, were overweight and over developed by 15), with long, reddish hair, inherited from her great grandmother on her mother’s side who had been Irish. She was very proud of her hair and took great care of it. She had lively brown eyes and pouting lips, a great smile and a vibrant personality. She was also an avid reader and she had read somewhere that if you wanted something badly enough you would end up getting it. So she daydreamed and hoped that things would somehow happen. She also believed in God and she prayed. Her mother had taught her to say a prayer every night before going to bed. After praying for success in her father’s job, health to all family members including the family cat, she also prayed about her future.
She had always had very modern ideas about boyfriend girlfriend relationships. This was frowned upon by the society in Cairo where she lived. Marriage was arranged by the families and most women stayed at home and took care of the husband, the house and the children. Careers for women never entered the picture. There were no careers for women anyway. The only openings, for girls with no family fortune, were that of a secretary or a shop girl. After graduating from high school, girls of well to do families, as young as 17, waited for the right suitor to come along, preferably an older man from a wealthy family, who would be a good provider. However, if the parents of the girl were not rich, a girl was obliged to seek a husband from a middle class family, one who would hopefully have a promising future. Some young people did manage to have boyfriends and girlfriends but it was all clandestine, not in the open.
Julia refused vehemently to follow that custom. She had her own ideas. She decided that she would choose her own husband. She did not think there was much of a choice in her circle of friends though. She was boy crazy but did not particularly fall for any of the boys she hung out with. They were all mama’s boys as far as she was concerned. She had read the book and seen the movie “Gone with the Wind” and she adored Rhett Butler. She was in love with Rhett, not with Clark Gable. That was the type of man she yearned for.
“Don’t accept any suggestions from friends and family to introduce me to a prospective suitor” she told her mother.
The very first time that a man had been brought to the house by well-meaning friends to be introduced to her, she did not come out of her room. And people talked about what a bizarre young girl she was. From then on her mother never accepted any more propositions. “My daughter is different” she would say “she wants to make her own choice.” “But you people don’t have any money,” her aunt told her mom, “how on earth is she going to make her own choice?”
Julia and her siblings went out in groups of girls and boys and no one was anyone’s special boyfriend or girlfriend. They went to the movies, to the Gezireh Sporting Club (an exclusive sports and social club with a swimming pool, tennis courts), to basketball games, to the Pyramids, to the zoo, etc. They were always in a group.
One day a new boy joined their group. His name was David and he was the son of a wealthy family who had just moved to Cairo from the Sudan. They had a lot in common. They were both artistic and they both disliked the traditional mentality of life in Egypt. They were rebels. They adored dancing and went to night clubs (teenagers could do that in Egypt) and drank alcohol (teenagers could do that to in Egypt) but never got drunk. They would stay all night with one drink and dance to the latest Italian band in town. Julia and David fell in love and, after a year of dating clandestinely, David wanted to marry her. They were smooching in the car one evening after coming back from a movie, and while David was kissing her passionately and groping her boobs, he said “Julia, I love you so much, will you marry me?”
Julia was not surprised. She also loved David and she had thought of the possibility of marriage to him. He was her first boyfriend, the only boy she had ever kissed but what about her dream career? How was that going to work out in this picture?
“Yes, David, I would love to marry you but I thought you were supposed to go to college in the States.”
“I’m going to give up that project. I have a quite a good prospect of a job here. I’m going to ask my father to put me in charge of one of his photo shops. I can make very good money and we would be able to afford to live very comfortably here. What do you say?”
“I don’t know what to say. Of course I’d like to marry you but I also want a career. I thought maybe we could go to the States together. I have no chance of doing anything here except be a housewife and have kids.”
David thought about that idea and came up with a plan. “Okay, let’s plan on going to the States together after getting married. We’ll think of a way to work it out.”
Julia was extremely happy about that prospect. First, they had to figure out a way to break the news to their respective parents. They knew they were going to get opposition, especially from David’s parents. So when David told his parents that he had given up the idea of going to college and that he wanted to get married, his parents flipped.
“You’re too young to get married. Who is this girl anyway? What do her parents do?” Don’t be stupid, don’t give up on a good future.”
He told them about Julia. “I love her and I will not give her up.” He then went on to tell them of their plans. Besides the fact that his parents thought he was too young to get married, they objected to the fact that Julia was a “working girl”, meaning her parents had no money, therefore she had to work outside the home. It was kind of a shameful stigma. She had a very good job though. She was confidential secretary to the president of a British bank but that did not matter. To them she was a working girl. David hated his parents for their old fashioned ideas and he stuck to his guns.
Julia’s parents on the other hand were glad that their daughter had found a man she loved and wanted to settle down. The idea of their going to the States also appealed to them because they knew that Julia would not be happy just being a housewife in Cairo.
After failing to dissuade their son not to commit this folly and jeopardize his chances of furthering his education by an early marriage, David’s parents finally relented and accepted their son’s decision. Admittedly, Julia and David were very young to take this step. She was 19 and he was 21 - too young for a man in the Middle East to get married. It was okay for a girl to get married in her teens but a husband had to be at least 25 years old. In retrospect, she thought this was pure folly for her to get married at 19. She had not yet had any life experiences, not that she could get any in Cairo anyway. But they were in love so she embarked in this prospect with enthusiasm, especially since they had plans to move to the U.S. where she would start a new life with the man she loved and have her dream career. In Egypt, married women did not pursue a career. They had children and took care of home and family. Not Julia, she had other projects up her sleeve. She was adamant, she was going to have a career as a fashion designer and it was going to be in New York.
David also had modern ideas and readily agreed that his future wife pursue a career.
Julia knew that life in the U.S. would not be easy to start with, but that’s where her future lay and she was prepared to make some sacrifices, but not all the sacrifices. “I am not going to be the only one doing the cooking and the cleaning once we move to the U.S.” she told David.
“Don’t worry about that, sweetheart, I will help you,” said David. In Egypt, they had servants who catered to their every need. She did not know the first thing about housekeeping or cooking or ironing clothes for that matter. Ironing was done by experienced ironers. It was inconceivable to wear a shirt or a dress that had any signs of wrinkles. Everything had to look freshly pressed. David was head over heels in love with her and agreed to everything she asked for and even took lessons from the local ironer to be able to iron his own shirts in the U.S. There was no such thing as drip dry in Egypt. Everything was of the highest quality cotton and cotton needed expert ironing.
They made great plans but, about a couple of weeks before the wedding, after her dress was made and all the preparations were going on full speed ahead, Julia started having doubts whether marriage to David would really work. They loved each other madly but they were quarrelling about stupid things all the time – mostly about sex. As it was almost unheard of to have sex before marriage, they did not go all the way. They kissed and petted but David needed sexual release. Julia thought he was a sex addict as he dry humped her or wanted her to masturbate him whenever they saw each other, which was almost every day. She later found out that most young men are highly sexed up and needed release. Julia hated the act of masturbating him. There was no pleasure in it for her. It was a mechanical act with no romance involved. It also disgusted her. Consequently her love for him somewhat diminished. Is this what sex is about? She asked herself.
Her mother warned her, “I am surprised you are marrying this guy, you are always bickering. It will not get better once you’re married you know. This is as good as it gets.”
“It’s okay mom, we can manage and there’s always divorce, you know.”
“You are not yet married and you’re already talking of divorce, are you out of your mind girl?”
“No, I’m just saying that if it does not work out there’s always a solution.” Julia was very pragmatic about this. She brushed away her negative thoughts and decided to go through with it because deep down she did love David. She told herself that what she was feeling was only a temporary setback. She was very optimistic that once the marriage was consummated, the romance would get rekindled. They would start a new life in the States and everything would fall into place. She would work hard to get her fairy tale life. The first part of her goal had been attained. She had found her man. There remained the second part – an exciting career.
They had a sumptuous wedding in Cairo. The church was full to the brim with family, friends and acquaintances who wanted to see this Romeo and Juliet of Cairo finally make it to the altar after so much opposition from the groom’s parents. They honeymooned in Alexandria. There had been heavy petting before the wedding night but, when the marriage was finally consummated, Julia was greatly disappointed because she did not have an orgasm. She had been very much looking forward to this. She had thought that the actual sex act would fix all their problems and she would indulge in marital bliss. Alas, she had very few orgasms during her short married life. David was not an experienced lover. How could he be? His sexual experience had been with street prostitutes – in and out. This was how most young men in Egypt got sexual release. They would pile up in a car, pick up a prostitute in the street and have turns with her in the back seat. David had told her about this practice and it had upset her that he was touching other women. He did wear a condom of course.
“I don’t want you to have sex with prostitutes” she told him. “Or, if you do, don’t touch them, just go in and come out after your climax.” The reason she did not want him to touch a prostitute is because these women all had very Rubenesque figures with large hips and big boobs while she was very slim and had a small bosom. She did not want David to do any comparisons. That’s when he had had the bright idea that he would refrain from going to prostitutes if she masturbated him. She should never have agreed to that absurd trade off.
Their married life began in Egypt and then they landed as immigrants in New York. She managed to have a thriving career in fashion designing in Manhattan through sheer determination and he became a very successful photographer. For most of the time they had fun but they still quarreled a lot. Her parents and siblings arrived in the States shortly after she had settled down with David.
After a few years into the marriage, Julia realized that it was not working the way she wanted it to. Passion was lacking in the relationship. Her mother had been right. Things were not getting better. She was heartbroken and decided to break loose and regain her freedom. She did not know how to broach the subject though. She craved to go to Europe and have adventures. She was too curious and could not envision going through life without having had sex with any other man except her husband. In Egypt she could not even have had other boyfriends, let alone a lover. After having had a boyfriend a girl was branded and men were reluctant to marry one who had already had a boyfriend. Men would consider her to be tainted, touched by another man. They all wanted a virgin of course. Technically all girls were virgins. Some did everything with their boyfriends, except the act of penetration. If, God forbid, there was any penetration and if the couple parted, then the girl would get sewn up to pretend to her next suitor that she was a virgin.
Her friend Mariella was a case in point. She and her boyfriend had gone all the way as they were sure they were going to get married. A few months later they had grown apart and had decided to separate. Mariella came to Julia crying her eyes out.
“Arty and I have separated and I don’t know what to do because I’m not a virgin anymore. No one will want to marry me now. What am I going to do? My life is ruined. I have no future.”
“You have to tell your mother,” Julia advised her. Luckily Mariella’s mother had sympathized with her daughter, after severely reprimanding her of course, had kept it a secret from the father and it was arranged that she gets sewn up. A year later she got married to a guy who never suspected that she was not a virgin since there were telltales of blood on the sheet on their wedding night.
Julia’s mother had warned her to be careful when she was dating David. She related to her the story of her uncle who had left his fiancée high and dry when he had found out that she was not a virgin although he had loved her very much. Consequently, he had had a nervous breakdown and later had married a girl he did not really love but she was “pure”. It was such a hypocritical society and Julia wanted no part of it.
Julia and David had a hectic life in Manhattan. They worked very hard. Something was missing as far as Julia was concerned though, and that thing was passion and they were still bickering. One day, after a stupid fight, Julia suddenly blurted out, “this is not working David, I really can’t live with you any longer - you are always criticizing me and picking up fights for stupid reasons. You’ve become a control freak. We are not really happy together. I think it would be better if we separated.” She did not want to utter the word divorce yet.
David was stunned at her outburst. “You really mean that?”
“Yes, it will be better for both of us. We can’t go on like this.”
“Don’t you want to sit down and talk about it?”
“Not really, there is nothing more to say really, I’ve made up my mind; for God’s sake David we have been fighting even before we got married,” Julia retorted. She was fed up of being chained down and was very eager to investigate other pastures. Her dream of having a perfect life with a perfect husband had been shattered. There must be something better out there, she thought, so she set her mind on Europe. She wanted to meet European men. She loved her career but it was not everything for her. She had to find the right man to marry. Marriage and children meant a lot to her. She could not envisage a life without the right partner. She was not envious of the single career women around her who had arid and barren lives without a man or children. Her criteria for a suitable man were very demanding though.
David was too proud to argue so he picked up his belongings – the car, his stereo and his clothes - and moved out of the apartment the very next day. Julia found a lawyer and they eventually divorced and she moved to Geneva, Switzerland to be as far away as possible from the unhappy experience. She was ready to start on her European adventure. She had no alimony and had only $ 500 in her bank account. If she could not find a job in Geneva, then she had decided on Plan B – go to California and start a new life there. There was a guy in Los Angeles, an old friend of theirs from their group in Cairo, who was smitten by her. When he heard that the couple was divorced, he flew out to the East coast to see her. They dated a few times.
“Why are you going to Europe, come to California and let’s get married,” he told her.
“I can’t jump from one marriage into another so soon. I like you a lot and consider you a good friend but I don’t love you Steve. It wouldn’t be fair to you.” She refused his proposal. She would go to California, if Europe did not work out, but not to marry Steve.
She loved Geneva from the moment she arrived. It was a small, picturesque, very clean, very well organized (Swiss style) international town and it housed the European Headquarters of the United Nations as well as organizations affiliated to the U.N. The town had a magnificent lake which was called Lake Geneva by the locals but in fact its real name was Lac Leman. People had a very pleasant life in this town where the lunch hour was considered sacred and most shops were closed at midday for a two hour period. In summer it was not uncommon for people to go swimming in the lake during their lunch break. After the frenetic pace of Manhattan, this was ideal for Julia. Imagine going swimming during the lunch break. In New York she only had a half hour for lunch in a dingy hamburger joint on Seventh Avenue. The only drawback was that supermarkets closed on Saturday afternoon to reopen on Monday afternoon. One had to make plans to buy groceries on Saturday to last all weekend.
Julia’s life as a free woman began in Geneva. Finally she had sexual freedom. This was the 60’s and women’s lib was in full swing. She was on the pill and there were no constraints; she could go out with anyone she felt like. She was determined to have a ball with her new found freedom.
“It is very difficult to find a job and an apartment in Geneva,” she was told by people she met. “As for men, forget ever being able to get one, because women outnumber men by 5 to 1,” a friend of her mother’s told her. “Girls are so easy, men can get them for a cup of coffee.”
Julia always liked a challenge and she proved everyone wrong. As there was no fashion designing going on in Switzerland at that time, she got a job at the United Nations by lying through her teeth about her office work experience. She did not divulge the fact that her experience was in fashion design. She would not have been hired. She had had one office experience and that had been in Cairo. She invented a c.v. which luckily was not checked out and she got the job. She found an apartment by sheer luck and had men galore pursuing her. She very much enjoyed life in this small yet sophisticated town. The living was easy, the money was good and vacation time unbelievable – six weeks a year besides getting time off work during Easter week, Christmas week, etc.
“Caroline, you have to leave New York and come and join me in Geneva,” she told her sister on the phone. “We’ll have more fun here than over there and we don’t have to work that hard. The money is also very good and it is very easy to meet men.” They were both men crazy.
Her sister arrived soon after and also found a job with one of the organizations and they lived together and shared one car. They could not yet afford two cars. She did not particularly like working in an office after having had a creative job in the U.S., but all that time off from mundane office work was very attractive and it allowed her to further her career as an artist (painter). Her principal goal in life never changed though. She wanted to meet the right man who would whisk her off to have a successful, passionate marriage and have children. Does a passionate marriage really exist? Or does passion fly out the window after marriage?
She did meet a lot of men but never fell in love with any of them and, much to her dismay, none of them seemed to be of real husband material. Some of the men she met were married, from out of town, on business in Geneva. They all said they were separated, of course, to get into her pants, but she did not believe them and therefore did not take them seriously. She was wined and dined and went on weekends to major European cities as well as skiing in winter either in Switzerland or nearby France. She had not yet met THE ONE but in the meantime she was having fun at least. She had quite an array of boyfriends and sometimes they even overlapped. More than once it happened that she had a lunch date with one guy and a dinner date with another. She was always on the lookout for an attractive marriageable man- a highly intelligent man who would love her unconditionally, care for her, envelop her - a passionate man who would carry her to orgiastic heights- a man who would dominate her sexually but not otherwise. She pursued that goal relentlessly. A career was also very important and she had it now. She was an artist instead of a fashion designer.
During her second week in Geneva, after she had found a job and an apartment, she met Carter, an American scientist, at the Movenpick restaurant, which was the most popular hangout to meet people, right smack in the middle of town. Carter was 38 years old and he was in Geneva on a year’s contract with a scientific firm. He was not handsome by all means but was extremely intelligent, had a great sense of humor and he made her laugh. They went out on dates to good restaurants, to the movies, to parties and of course they ended up in bed. He fell in love with her. She liked him a lot but was not in love with him. His sexual performance left much to be desired. He was not passionate. He was tepid. But she was attracted to his mind and liked being with him. Close to the end of his contract and a few of months into the relationship, Julia realized that she was late having her period. This had never happened before and she was very concerned. This was no time to get pregnant. She had to tell Carter.
“Carter, I think I’m pregnant,” she told him during a dinner date.
“Are you sure?” He looked very concerned and took her hands in his across from the table, looking at her very tenderly.
“Yes, almost sure, I have never missed a period before, ever – it has always been very punctual and I do feel very swollen. I’m very scared. I’ll have to see a doctor to confirm it.”
“So, it’s not such a big deal, I have not come out and told you Julia but you must have guessed by now that I do love you very much. You are the first girl that I have really loved. We’ll get married and go back to New York at the end of my contract. We’ll look for a bigger apartment and everything will be okay. We’ll get help for the baby and you can get back into fashion designing.”
Julia looked at him dumbfounded. Marry Carter? She knew that he loved her but had not expected a proposal. He had been a bachelor for a very long time and she knew he cherished his freedom. She thought he would have suggested that she have an abortion. There were no problems with getting abortions in Switzerland within three months of pregnancy. It was a simple matter arranged by the consent of two doctors. There was no government interference whatsoever. She did enjoy Carter’s company but that did not mean she wanted to get married to him. There was no way Julia was going to go back to New York so soon after arriving in Switzerland and certainly not for Carter. She was in a dilemma and she told him she was not ready to get remarried. He was very disappointed at her decision.
“What are you going to do then?” he asked not letting go of her hands.
“I don’t know what to do. I hate to think about abortion but I may resort to that. I don’t fancy being an unmarried mother or having the baby and giving it up for adoption. ” Carter was a good man and it was comforting to know that he wanted to marry her but her heart was not in it. It would not work out because she did not love him. A few of her friends back in Cairo had made loveless marriages and resigned themselves to be dutiful wives but Julia did not want that. Also, she did not want to get married just because she was pregnant. She was adamant about this. An agonizing week went by contemplating all kinds of possibilities but in the end she did have her period so the matter was settled. It was such a relief to her that she did not have to get an abortion. They continued seeing each other until his contract was over and he was ready to return to New York.
“My proposal still stands,” he said when she took him to the airport, “just give me a call anytime.” They hugged and kissed and Julia felt rather sad that he was leaving. She had gotten very fond of him.
They did remain in contact throughout the years. He came to Geneva every summer and asked her “How is your love life, are you still free? Can we resume where we left off?”
Her answer was always the same, “No Carter, I have another boyfriend now, and we cannot possibly resume where we left off.”
Carter was a kind man, a very intelligent man and a very dependable one but that was not enough. He had not given her any sexual thrills and there seemed to be no earthly reason to go back to someone who did not excite her senses.
A couple of weeks after Carter’s departure, Julia met a German, high-ranking international civil servant, quite a bit older than her, at a U.N. conference. She liked him at first but then he became obsessed by her and was very possessive. He wanted to see her every evening as he had nothing else to do. Well, she had plenty to do as she wanted to also hangout with her girlfriends. When she told him she was breaking up with him, he tried to kidnap her one day. “You are mine and I want to keep you but you don’t know what you want,” he told her. Of course she knew what she wanted. She just did not want him and was scared of him. She broke off with him and never saw him again.
Julia had met Monica, an Italian girl during a trip to Majorca who invited her to go and stay with her in Portofino where she had a summer house. At one of Monica’s parties, Julia met an Italian lawyer from Milan. He was with a girlfriend and Julia was quite attracted to him but she did not pay much attention to him even though he neglected his girlfriend and tried to monopolize her during the evening.
“Dario,” that was his name, “is leaving his girlfriend and wants to be with you,” said Monica to her later in the evening when everyone was ready to go home. Julia was quite surprised and could not believe her ears.
“I don’t want to be the cause of breaking up their relationship,” she told Monica.
“You’re not breaking it. She is a good friend of mine and I know that it is at the breaking point anyway.”
Julia then took up a long distant relationship with Dario. He was a great guy, worldly, sophisticated, athletic, romantic and debonair as only Italians can be. Sex was quite good with him too. The first time he went down on her, he remarked, “I wish you did not cut your pubic hair so short. I like a full bush.” She laughed. This was a new one to her. No man had remarked on that part of her anatomy before. He came to visit her almost every weekend and she had a lot of fun with him. She also learnt Italian pretty fast. They did quite a bit of travelling together, going skiing in the Italian Alps, going on short trips to the Italian coast and visiting quaint small towns. She loved Italy and Italian food. After a few months into the relationship he asked her to marry him and move to Italy. She loved being with him but she did not love him enough to get married, leave Geneva, and move to Italy. What was wrong with her? Why was she not falling in love? Here was a guy with almost all the criteria. Why was she hesitating?
“Oh, Dario” she said “I do like you a lot (she could not tell him that she did not love him) but I am not ready to get married and move to Italy. I have my life here in Geneva. I just can’t leave it and transplant myself.”
“Why not? You do speak Italian now and you’ll be quite at home. I earn a very good living – you will not have to work and you can paint all day. Milan is not that far away from Geneva. You’ll be able to visit your family anytime you wish. Doesn’t this appeal to you?”
“Yes, Dario, it does appeal to me but somehow I don’t think I’m ready to leave Geneva quite yet. I don’t want to be dependent on a man for my living.”
He was extremely disappointed and he kept calling her and writing to her hoping she might eventually change her mind. They continued seeing each other intermittently but she did not budge from her decision and, after a while, he gave up.
An array of boyfriends followed after that. They were just short insignificant relationships or flings, rather. There was the handsome Turk who was in Geneva for a U.N. internship program. He was very cute and a good lover but she could not envisage life with a man who was not of the same religion as hers. She knew the relationship was going to be short-lived because he had to return to Turkey anyway. It was just a summer romance and a lot of fun. No future in it at all. She was not heartbroken.
There was the Iranian PhD student at Geneva University who dressed impeccably, was very suave and knew how to court a woman. He sent her 24 red roses on her birthday.
Then there was a Danish young man who fell hopelessly in love with her and wanted to whisk her away to Denmark after the termination of his U.N. contract.
One guy she really fell for was a very good looking Scottish guy. His name was Sean. He looked like Sean Connery. She met him in a hotel in Spain where she was vacationing one summer with her sister. He was there on a business conference. He was stationed in Geneva and “kind of” separated from his wife although they still lived together in London with the children.
“I have not had sex with my wife for the last couple of years. She is just not interested. We live together like brother and sister,” he told her. “I won’t leave her however, because I adore my children and I cannot live away from them.” So with whom was he having sex with? She did not ask. It was obvious that he was sex starved because he could perform twice a night almost every time he was with her. After a few months into the relationships he laid down his position quite frankly to her.
“I adore you Julia, but I cannot figure out how to plan our future together. If I divorce my wife and marry you, I would lose my children. I would be living in Geneva while my wife would be moving up to Scotland to be near her family and I would rarely see them. You see, I am very attached to them. I am in a quandary. I cannot figure out a viable solution.”
Julia was quite enamored of him; he was handsome, intelligent, caring, amusing, had a good job and was very passionate and good in bed. He was quite the husband material she was looking for. Just as she thought she had found the man she wanted, there was this huge drawback – a wife he did not love and children he loved. She was heartbroken but she decided that she could not continue seeing Sean. He was too indecisive and she did not want to pressure him. She did not want a man who would have guilt feelings of having abandoned his children because of her. He would resent her eventually. The relationship ended when he moved back to London. He kept on writing love letters to her for months and would occasionally come to Geneva on business. She saw him and had sex with him a few times but it was not the same as before. It became kind of casual and her heart was no longer in it. They finally drifted apart.
Shortly after that episode, she met the Spanish Minister of Defense at a U.N. Conference on Disarmament. They had a lot in common and were attracted to each other big time. He happened to also be an artist but there was again a huge drawback. He was married – unhappily he told her. What was the matter with those guys? Why were they all unhappily married? Or were they lying? He pursued her relentlessly and wanted her to be his mistress travelling with him on state business throughout Europe but staying in the sidelines, of course. He could not flaunt her presence. She went on a couple of trips with him but then felt uncomfortable with the whole idea and got bored tagging along with someone with no prospect of a future. He was not going to divorce his wife although he did not love her. “It would create too much of a scandal in the circles I move in,” he told her.
“Bibi” (that was his nickname) she told him “I can’t go on like this being your mistress. I want more out of life and unfortunately you can’t give it to me.” She might have married him if he were available because she came very close to loving him and he came very close to being The One. It was not meant to be, however. They eventually parted amicably and did not have any future contact with each other.
After Bibi, there were a few short lived romances of no consequence. They were just boyfriends to while away the time with. Passing fancies. Nothing to get excited about.
Some men lasted a few weeks, some a few months but none fitted the bill because they were not husband material – there was always something lacking. They all fell in love with her but the feeling was not reciprocated. That was the big problem. She realized that she was looking for the “impossible to find” man. Her criteria were too demanding. He had to be of husband material, intelligent, worldly, knowledgeable, amusing, attractive, dependable and passionately in love with her and she of him. And of course he had to be wealthy – she had expensive taste in clothes – and oh, most importantly, he should not bore her. She could not suffer bores. But doesn’t marriage become boring after a while?
A French girlfriend of hers in New York had once told her. “There are men you marry and men you have fun with. Don’t ever confuse the two. Be very clear-headed about your choice.” Julia was a hopeless romantic at heart. She could not make a cold blooded choice. She needed to love a man passionately and be loved passionately in return. She did not want a marriage of convenience just because the man would make a good husband. Some of her old friends in Egypt had done just that and were happy but they did not have Julia’s cravings and dreams. They were docile, dutiful and obedient housewives.
Her auntie, way back in Egypt, had come up with the statement, “You are too outspoken. Curb your tongue my dear - men don’t like outrageously opinionated women and you’ll never find a husband if you continue this way. Act demurely and after the wedding you can change little by little.” She brushed her auntie’s advice aside. She was not going to think one way and act another way. She found plenty of men who wanted to get married to her, so there goes your statement auntie dear.
Her girlfriends in Geneva were all envious of her and asked her “What is your secret, how come you get all these men swarming around you like bees?”
Her answer was simple. “I don’t pursue them. I am not needy. Men do not like needy women. They like the chase and I let them chase me. Men like to feel they have conquered a woman. And, I never encroach on their freedom. I don’t talk a lot about myself, instead I listen to them. Also, I am not sexually aggressive.” She was quite passive in bed and liked being “taken”. She had found out that her boyfriends liked her that way. She did not have to put on a show or try to arouse them. She was very sensual and liked being made love to.
There had been the case of one man, her divorce lawyer in New York, who, she must admit, had had a lot of charisma. He had a powerful presence which she admired. During her separation period with her husband, her lawyer had warned her, “You cannot go out with any man except me in case your husband hires a detective and finds out you are seeing other men. Your request for alimony would then go down the drain.” What alimony? She was not expecting any.
She had been rather attracted to him and went out on so called “business dates” a couple of times. Eventually they had ended up in bed. He had made one big mistake though. After sleeping with her the first time, he had solemnly declared “next time you will take me in your mouth.” He never did have the opportunity though because she had refused to see him after that and fired him as her lawyer. How dare he come out with a vulgar statement like that? Who did he think he was dealing with? A penis-crazy woman? In any case his penis was too big and wide and he had hurt her. For days after that first encounter in bed she had trouble sitting down. That was the end of this one-nighter. She had later found out that he was married but he had kept that important fact a secret while “courting” her.
A friend of hers in New York had once told her that she never kissed her casual boyfriends but gave them blow jobs instead. “It is less intimate,” she had said. How can it be less intimate? Is there anything more intimate than the sexual organ? Stupid girl. She had never let her borrow her lipstick ever again. Even the thought had repulsed her.
So Julia’s life in Geneva went on full swing, going out on dates, having boyfriends and searching for the right man. Her artistic career was thriving. She had managed to give quite a few exhibitions in Switzerland and in other countries in Europe as well. All In all, she was quite happy but would have been happier if she achieved her ultimate goal of finding a suitable partner. And she finally found one.