The last time Julia de Villepin ‘celebrated’ Valentine’s Day, she found herself turning as red as the roses she received. Out of anger and embarrassment. “He offered me a big bouquet of flowers. I appreciated the gesture, but I was ashamed; I hate being spotlighted.” Clearly, her man should have known better. A French expat from Bordeaux, south of France, Julia is someone who cherishes her personal space. It is not just the ‘modern sensibilities’, but also her background that has played a vital role in making Julia the self-styled cynic that she is today when it comes to romance. “I come from an aristocratic family in France with its own conventions and definitions of savoir etre. Expressing any signs of affection there is considered inappropriate. Love has to be discreet, private and worldly,” she says, adding that, growing up, she never saw her parents hold hands. Breaking it down further, she explains that a model member of such a family would find a “nice, pious, hard-working guy”, get married, go on a honeymoon and have a child nine months later.
This template of relationships has not found much favour with Julia, largely because she has also witnessed the consequences of breaking away from it. Divorces in her family are poorly viewed, so when her mother decided to part ways from her father, she did not have it easy. “I have seen her suffering. She has always told me, ‘The only person you have to count on is yourself.'” A reason why Julia would rather be lonely alone than be lonely with someone else. That does not mean that she hasn’t had her own trysts with serious relationships. “But somehow I know from the beginning how it’s going to end. I have started building my castle with very high walls and, day by day, I have seen the spikes growing on those walls,” she says.
If she frowns upon conventional relationships, Julia is equally critical of the ones that are a quick fix. While this generation doesn’t define itself through an idea of a ‘couple’ anymore, she does feel overreaching does not help matters. “People want to achieve more, they become more picky and less patient. They want it to work from the very first day and forget that a relationship has to be built over time.” Loneliness, or a fear of it, can give birth to the need for companionship. Julia is sceptical of these bonds. “If you try to find someone to give you the love you cannot give to yourself, it is doomed for failure. I cannot hurt someone just because I don’t want to be alone. People should introspect more instead of blaming their partner.”
It is not difficult to guess what Valentine’s Day would mean to Julia. “I guess people need a reminder to be nice and kind to their beloved for the greater enjoyment of the restaurants. A good occasion to do ridiculous decorations with red hearts. I find V-Day retrograde and cliché. I am not a princess and I don’t expect men to be princes. Your life is not a movie.”
Today, as a Hotel sales executive, Julia has her career clock ticking just right. We ask her if romance has been a casualty of ambition in her life. “Is ambition the only thing that can take you away from love?” she throws the question right back at us. Being completely possessed by wanderlust, Julia feels the need to be on the move at all times. When she is not ‘moving’, she is to be found at work. “At least hard work pays. Hard love doesn’t.”