I've decided to write this post in English because it's likely to be quite long :)
When I initially moved here, I was so preoccupied with acquiring the language, starting work as a nurse etc., that I didn't have the time or energy to date. Besides, it's pretty difficult to meet people when all you do is go to French classes, babysit and teach children. I met one or two guys during that time, from my French school (had a girlfriend, so no!) and one really lovely guy from church, to whom I just wasn't attracted...October-December was pretty dry in that sense.
Anyway in January, I met the guy that would really "basculer ma vie" as we say in French. J was on the same programme as me, teaching at a university where we had two-week contracts for intensive English classes. Right from the beginning, he seemed really curious about me, asking lots of questions and trying to show how much he knew about Nigeria and Africa in general. Now, I'm a VERY proud Nigerian, and he is a typical European (half French, half Scottish grew up in England), so I was pretty impressed by his knowledge. He told me about how his brother had been born in South Africa, how his parents were really into African music, how he spent two years in Tanzania, and would love to go back there to work after his Masters (his reason for being in Paris). We talked about the unfair privilege sometimes accorded to white people in African societies, as well as the good, bad and ugly about Nigeria. I usually am quite circumspect about these issues, because I know many people are already quite prejudiced against my lovely country, but I felt completely at ease with him...It really was like talking to another Nigerian. We talked about Fela, P-squared, D'Banj and Nollywood all of which he loved with a passion. He took me to see exhibitions about Nigeria (not easy to find in a Francophone country), and showed me an uber-cool "world music" bar where they sometimes played old King Sonny Ade songs! We loved similar books, music (he often sent me clips), wandering around Paris and going to cool places ("weird" contemporary art galleries, clubs, antiques markets etc). Gradually, I fell in love with the idea of being with him, he seemed so...perfect.
Right at the beginning of the relationship, I kind of told him I was just looking for a friend because I wanted to stay in Paris and he was obviously just passing through. He was also much younger than me at 23, I was 27... A few weeks later though, I asked him out and he told me he had just started going out with a girl from his university. I was so sad! Not because I loved him, but because I loved the idea of finally finding someone who seemed to totally understand my culture, my origins, and the unique result of being raised as a child of two cultures. As an aside, I have never dated a Nigerian (not for want of trying!), and it sometimes bugs me to know that I might end up with someone to whom I would constantly have to explain aspects of my culture.
Anyway, even after his admission, nothing changed. I became confused after a while because he never spoke about his girlfriend and we still spent entire days together, even though all the hand-holding etc. had stopped. Eventually, I asked him about A and he told me she was doing an internship in the Philippines (him, biologist, her archaeologist). I decided to be extremely careful around him after that, because I could see things becoming complicated really easily. Around his birthday in May, he asked for a Nigerian meal as a present and I promised to make him pepper soup, fried rice and dodo, clearly proof that he was getting under my skin....I had never cooked for a guy before that. After I got back from the US, we spent another whole day together just talking and wandering round Paris, and then he invited me to a "party" with his uni mates which I was a bit weird about, having decided to stop hanging out with his friends when I found out he was seeing A. I agreed to go though, because it was his birthday. That my friends, is when things started to go awry.
First he sent me a message that afternoon telling me that A had met and was seeing someone else in the Philippines, but ended the text by telling me not to read anything into it! Then he spent the evening texting repeatedly, asking if I was coming to the party...In the light of the new information and behaviour, I decided to go with my sister, using her kind of as a cloak of protection. In the end, she left early because she couldn't stand the hippyness of his friends and because she said she could see he really wanted to be alone with me. Throughout the night he became more and more tactile even though I kept refusing his advances (we hadn't talked and I wanted to avoid any misunderstanding). Next day was the promised meal, and I brought up the text and his behaviour the night before, which he blamed on his drinking and the fact that he really liked me and found me attractive. However, he then said he was planning to try to work things out with A. In retrospect, I should have ended the friendship there and then, because as my sister said, his disrespect towards me meant that he was a bad friend and would obviously not do better as a boyfriend. I didn't listen to her though, so we kept hanging out and things gradually deteriorated. We started arguing over emails, texts etc., even after he'd left for a four month internship in England, the arguments continued.
Around July, I went to see my cousin and honorary big brother in Rome, and he advised me to just live my life and cut off all contact with J. I listened to advice this time, and within a few days was able to realise that even though we had loads of fun together, he would have made a crappy boyfriend. Plus I didn't love him (just the idea), and my sister hated him because she though he was ugly and not up to my usual standards :)
My "history" with J happened over the course of 6 months...until June/July. By then, I was on my way to becoming truly integrated into French society and was beginning to meet more guys. Part 2 coming soon....