When I went to the old city market on that Saturday, I hadn’t planned on doing anything out of the ordinary—least of all meeting a “celebrity” whom I'd have to decide whether or not to screw passionately in the grass (not to mention the prospect of jetting off to his private island). The night would ultimately end in a test of my morals—not just as a woman, but as a human being with dignity and esteem for oneself.
But you just can’t predict how your Saturdays will go in Tunis. It’s the day after Holy Friday prayer, and the day before the city shuts down completely—contrary to the normal Arab calendar where Sundays are actually the first day of the week (hint: the word for Sunday is “one” in Arabic). The old city is in full swing every Saturday, and all members of the family let loose, filling the cafes and bartering for produce and used clothing at the souk (market).
I look forward to this special day when I can be present in the community I live in—the day when there are no workweek distractions causing me to rush through it and forgo fruitful conversations. In life, particularly my life here in Tunisia, many small pleasures are only noticed when you take a moment to s l o w d o w n. That Saturday, I was on my way to my favorite street-side café when I popped into a bakery to pick up some mellowie (heavenly fried bread). In the middle of a big carby bite, I heard some French words being directed at me, and in my confusion, my first thought and response was “Sorry, I don’t work here!”
“Me neither!” the Frenchman cracked with a surprised laugh. I took a better look at who I was talking who, as these guests were quite a strange sight to come across in Tunis. Standing before me with wide eyes and curious smiles were two blonde Frenchmen dressed in floor-length traditional garbs and slippers. Who the fuck are these clowns!? They continued to stand there in the ancient road and inquire about me, hanging on every word while omitting lots of ooooohs and aaaaahs. My strange little life seemed to fascinate them somehow: An American girl teaching in Tunis?! How original, so avant-garde…
Before I knew it, I was being invited to a party in Sidi Bou Said—the ritziest neighborhood in the country, full of picturesque blue and white villas with prime views of the Mediterranean Sea. A chic French woman appeared and handed me an invitation. “This man is the greatest designer in the world, a pure genius!” she exclaimed, pointing spastically to Pierre. Well I’ve never heard of him…
The French gang implored me to come to their party that night and then bid me adieu to catch a lunch reservation. “I really hope you’ll come tonight,” Pierre said as he started to walk away in his absurd pointy slippers, his robe lightly dragging in the street. He kept his gaze fixed on me as he disappeared into the bustling market crowd.
I followed through with my normal Saturday plan, heading to my favorite café to read, sip Turkish coffee, and engorge myself on other street treats because I always honor my body’s wishes (and that goes for satisfying my food cravings and my sex drive). I soon found myself drifting away from my Arabic notes and picturing what the party would be like—and what tasty pork products and wine might await me at such a fancy party. (Arab country, remember?) I do admit, I also thought once or twice about Pierre—the unconventional, somewhat charming designer—and did some digging online to see some of his work, which was “ingenious” indeed.
A few hours later, I decided that going to a private party in “Sidi-boo”, as the expats call it, would probably prove to be more interesting than Netflix. Afternoon blended into evening, and I arrived at the address and buzzed at the villa entrance. Pierre’s assistant answered the door—still in the same garb he'd worn at the bakery—and cheek-kissed me on my way in. I was given a tour of the villa and its many beautifully furnished rooms and elegant Arabic décor. The party was being held outside in the yard, around a pool facing the city and seaside. And there, shining under the serene moonlight, was a long table of pork salami, French cheese, and wine. Cue hallelujah chorus: Genie had granted all my wishes!
The Euro crowd mingled amongst each other with glasses of wine in hand. It was a unique mix of people, and I met several designers, journalists—even a hip hop producer—all living in or passing through Tunis. This wasn’t exactly my normal scene, but hey, I was invited, so why not grace everyone with the presence of a semi-normal person such as myself? Soon enough, Pierre appeared, having traded in his Tunisian garbs for a fitted suit. This time, he didn’t look so ridiculous.
We chatted together by the pool, sipping some red and taking in the sea breeze. He was incredibly attentive, wanting to know everything about me, as if I was the most important thing in his life at that moment. His curiosity made his personality seem transparent somehow, and I could see how his persistence and questioning were traits of being a successful, out-of-the-box designer. He had quite a few years on me, but he was classically handsome, with shaggy blonde hair and a beard framing high cheekbones and sharp blue eyes. I’ll admit: I was intrigued, and I didn’t fight his hand occasionally grazing mine for totally unnecessary purposes. During my prior online "research", I'd seen the string of gorgeous supermodels he had dated, but right now he was single and apparently down to fucking mingle—with me, bitches!
“Let’s go look at the view from the hill,” he suggested. (Ironically, this is when things started going downhill.) As we sat there taking in the landscape, it didn’t take him long to start pulling some sexy moves on the old girl. “What made you decide to come tonight?” he questioned seductively.
“I thought it could be fun?” I said. (To get me some of that charcuterie platter, baby!)
Suddenly, his speedy lips made the short journey to mine, and we kissed deeply, releasing the tension and rolling into grass behind us.
Just as things began to heat up, Pierre paused. “I don’t want to have sex with you here; come to my island in France tonight and be with me there. You won’t have to worry about a thing.”
I stared back at him, dumbfounded by the offer. Never in my life had someone offered to fly me somewhere, except my parents (before the teat ran dry), but to a private island—what the French!? I told him I couldn’t accept the offer, and I had plans anyway (i.e., I had already booked a $5-a-night hostel stay.) But he wouldn’t take no for an answer, assuring me that it wouldn’t be a mistake, and even telling me that we could pop over to Asia after the island. His assistants would make the arrangements for me to join them. I remained in shock—I just couldn’t go. It was beyond weird and completely unlike me to even entertain the idea of having a “sugar daddy”. I had a fairly well-paid job; I could save up and take a vacation eventually if I damn well pleased, right?
We went back to the party, and one of his assistants refreshed my wine glass and told me I should “just go for the trip,” even if I wasn’t interested in Pierre. I found this even stranger, and it mustn’t have been the first time he’d seen his boss mixing business with pleasure. “We’re leaving tonight. Don’t bother going home; we’ll get you more clothes in France.” The party was winding down, and I had to make my decision soon: Say yes, and globetrot in style on a handsome celebrity’s dime—while being dependent on him financially? Or stop drinking the Kool-Aid and say no to this nonsense?
The more I thought about it, the more I started to think saying yes meant I would be in debt to him. He had already talked about “waiting to have sex” later on. But I wasn’t Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, and this wasn’t the way I was accustomed to “paying”. I mean, to each their own, but I wasn’t raised to be someone’s entertainment, sex toy, or trophy. I said thanks, but no thanks, and went to my hostel which I paid for with my own money—money I earned by using my brain, not my smile.
And I have to say, it feels much more fulfilling to pay my way and better appreciate the experience than to use my youth to get it for “free”. I know it might be easy to accept free things from men sometimes, but most of the time it gives them a feeling of entitlement, and is that really worth it? Badass working women of the world, unite! And say no if you’re not completely comfortable with the situation. It’s just not worth it, and being your own sugar mamma tastes so much sweeter anyways.