Catalogue of the outside world

When she was 10-11 years old, her parents, both medical doctors, went to Algeria. For her it was a country in faraway Africa, and her first question was: Why are children not allowed to go with their parents? She could not imagine living without her parents and felt sad about parting with them.

She lived for 2 years in her parents’ absence with her grandparents. They loved her dearly, but sometimes she would cry at night when thinking about her mother. From time to time, they received parcels from abroad with unheard and unseen things, like practically transparent underwear made of nylon! Or clothes that do not get wrinkled. For her Algeria seemed to be a country with incredible and beautiful things.  

When the parents returned, they brought a lot of presents for their children and relatives and said that they bought most of the things not in Algeria, but they ordered them through catalogues from France. This procedure of catalogue shopping was not quite clear and difficult to imagine for her, but they brought those catalogues with them. They turned out to be very thick and large colourful books with fascinating pictures on very thin pages. That was a real wonder! The catalogue had photos of everything – clothes, household appliances, even wallpaper and curtains, and everywhere – beautiful people. 

She did not want to be interrupted while enjoying the photos, so until the time she had a room of her own, she seldom looked at the catalogue pages. But afterwards, usually at night, she would spend hours, looking again and again, secretly looking at the forbidden world.

She did it at nights because she did not want anyone to know, she felt ashamed about this kind of stupid wasting of time. She thought that she would not be able to explain to her parents why she did it. For her it was clear that she was attracted by attractive people demonstrating attractive objects, and that did not require any explanations. She also knew that her parents used the catalogues in real life: they selected some goods which they bought. She often asked herself a question: What would you select from this page? It was always a hard question, how to select the best from the best.