Jennifer Farber, Fotis Dulos, and the True Scope of a Suburban Tragedy | #missingkids

Though she was generous, picking up the tab at dinner at times, the only way you would’ve truly keyed into her family’s wealth would be to note she traveled by cab or black town car. The subway was for the US Open, where her dad’s company had a box. Among those she didn’t know, she could be aloof, even haughty at times, toggling between nervous girlish energy and a hailstorm of clever ripostes. “Emotionally, Jennifer could be awkward,” explains the ex-boyfriend. “She had a hard time connecting.” Luft says, “I think a lot about Hesse’s line from Demian: ‘I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so difficult?’ Jennifer and I had discussed Hesse somewhat recently, and Thomas Mann—how do you empathize with, and not envy, the Hans Hansens of the world, when you’re more of a Tonio Kröger?”

Farber found her voice in an MFA program at NYU. She was particularly turned on by Stanislavski-inspired writing exercises, sometimes following the steps in An Actor Prepares. “It was as though a veil had been lifted, for Jennifer and for some of the rest of us,” says Luft. “The self-censoring mind got out of the way. It really clicked for Jennifer. She could perceive what was her honest writing and what wasn’t. She found her own rhythm and voice; her people came to life.”

Between 1994 and 1999, Farber finished four full-length plays. “For more than a decade she wrote regularly, with passion and focus,” says Luft. The two friends, and others, cofounded a theater troupe, Playwrights Collective, which put on picnic readings in Tompkins Square Park and at a café on Avenue A, salons in living rooms, and, at real theaters, Farber’s surreal comedies mixed with memoir elements. One of her plays, The Red Door, is about a young woman on the eve of her wedding who is visited by men she’s dated, had fantasies about, or wanted to date; her father keeps popping in, telling her it’s time to get married. It was a way of addressing her own longings, anxieties, and confusions about whether she was ready to be in a committed relationship, and with whom. “At core, almost all Jennifer’s work explores the need to be loved and known as one’s true self,” adds Luft.

Farber’s feelings about men seem to have been tangled up, or one could say tightly knotted, with the way she defined herself. She often had a boyfriend, no matter how much she felt let down by relationships. “My contented self proved much less vibrant than my previous, covetous self,” she explained. Farber craved stability but sometimes held herself at a remove, unable to truly connect without feeling like a fraud. She was often attracted to preppies (prep culture was cool back then), like a boyfriend she describes wearing “black tasseled loafers, khakis, and rumpled Brooks Brothers shirts. He always looked as if he had just gotten out of bed.” She tried to mold herself into the character she imagined another boyfriend, even more conservative, would want her to be: “I was a master at acting, at feeding him lines he wanted to hear: ‘How’d you do on the back nine?’ ‘How’s your Jansen Fund doing?’ ‘You look great in that shirt, we’ll buy you another one.’ I elaborately celebrated his petty victories: a filed prospectus, making good time on the LIE, the arrival of his American Express gold card.”

She didn’t need to get married like some sort of modern Lily Bart—Farber’s trust was quite vast—but she wanted to, in the same way that all of us wanted to back then; we were the first generation of women to expect to get married, have kids, and also work, even though not as many of us ended up with careers post-kids as the two-parent working families of today. “I want home, family, fresh-cut flowers,” she wrote. About a year before 9/11, Farber moved out of Manhattan. The scene was on its way out anyway, after it was sold to Americans on HBO’s Sex and the City. Now everyone wanted the young female writer’s lifestyle of dates, parties, and belly flopping on Pratesi sheets while pecking at a laptop. On TV, the martinis and stiff scotches women drank back then had been replaced by more telegenic pink cosmopolitans, and our black knee-high leather boots remade as Manolo stilettos in primary colors. Seeking a quieter life, Farber drove cross-country with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

In 2003, a year after her dog had passed away, and without a serious boyfriend, Farber was at the airport in Aspen when she ran into Fotis Dulos, whom she knew as one of the Euros populating Brown back in the day. Born middle-class in Istanbul as part of the Greek minority in that city—who prefer to call the place Constantinople, the name of the city during Byzantium—Dulos moved to Athens when he was seven. In a piece of person writing, he once said, “By the time I was in my late teens and approaching the end of my high school years, I knew I wanted to get exposed to societies and cultures beyond my own country. Greece which is demographically a very homogenous country had become my home, but I felt an overwhelming need to be immersed in an environment with more cultural diversity.” Dulos was not as well-heeled as the rest of Brown’s Euro crowd, which included a family member of long-deposed Greek royalty and other high rollers, but he developed a taste for (or, one could say, a fixation on) the finer things in life. He and Farber had chemistry when they met her first week of Brown but didn’t see each other much after that.

Now Dulos had an MBA from Columbia University and a job as a manager at the technology consulting firm Capgemini; in the U.S., he said, “I met people from every corner of the globe, and it excited me beyond belief.” He was gregarious, clever, athletic—and considered himself quite the catch. “Everything with him had to be the best: the best ski equipment, the Porsche,” says the friend of Farber’s. He was early to the 2010s wellness trend of wealthy guys treating not only their cars but their bodies as well-tuned machines. Farber, who was a competitive squash player in high school and a runner, found him very attractive. “Serendipity cast its spell,” she wrote, with “this young man I’d always liked—we had a special chemistry together, always, something special and precious and we were careful to be careful with one another until lightning finally struck.”

Perhaps from Farber’s perspective, it didn’t hurt that the media was also in the middle of a “fertility panic” after economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett published a book about the wisdom of women marrying in their early 20s and then starting a long career only after their children were teenagers, which, Hewlett argued, was a feminist move and economic boon. Now society was fixated on the question of when women should have children, not the Sex and the City-era question of whether life was better if they did not have them at all. What was a woman if she wasn’t a mother? You could end up Carrie Bradshaw, which wasn’t the worst fate, but also didn’t seem particularly satisfying. Farber wasn’t on a desperate hunt for a husband, but she was aware that she was in her thirties and her childbearing years were coming to a close. And Dulos, then in the middle of a separation from his first wife, an attorney, was interested in a committed relationship. Not only that: He wanted a big family, and he wanted it soon. The couple moved to central Connecticut, more than two hours from Manhattan, where Dulos began his home-building business, the Fore Group. Instead of taking ordinary loans, he borrowed millions from Farber’s father at a low interest rate. Farber’s parents wanted to support them. Hilliard Farber was an immensely successful banker, and Farber’s mother, Gloria, is prominent in educational philanthropy. (Gloria’s brother founded Liz Claiborne with his wife, a company eventually worth a billion dollars.) Her dad in particular was the kind of old-school patriarch who took pride in helping Dulos and Farber succeed. Dulos seemed committed to his work. “I love creating structures that complement their surroundings, enhancing them,” Dulos wrote. “Mostly though, I love working with others and bringing their vision to life, giving them a place to call home. Home for me is being with my loved ones.”

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