A and I were at one of my favorite local bars. We were sitting at the little table on the patio that I’ve made into my personal office. I take meetings there, get most of my writing done there and that day, I was having some sort of prosecco fueled, existential awakening there.
Despite an almost 20 year age difference, A and I were experiencing a very similar dating crisis. As she vented and we discussed, I found myself blurting loudly (as you do after a couple glasses of wine) “OH MY GOD. MAYBE IT NEVER GETS BETTER.” We stared at each other for a moment before cackling desperately. Ah, masochism.
In spite of myself and the hopeless trifecta of circumstances I’m in, I’ve recently come back from a self-imposed dating hiatus. So now I’m just trying to find a guy that I like to spend time with who is also interested in spending some time with me, maybe hold hands a little bit, eat some food sometimes, I don’t know. Now, I’m not that great, but I’m definitely a passable human being. And a passable human being shouldn’t have such a hard time finding other passable human beings to kiss. So, perhaps out of vanity, I’ve got to think it has more to do with the aforementioned hopeless trifecta of circumstances.
Everything they say about millennial dating is true. It’s pretty fucked up. Dating as a millennial who is also a temporary expat makes things a little more difficult as the phrase, “why bother?” often comes to mind. And dating in Florence? The city where almost everyone is suffering from peter pan syndrome? If there were an emoji whose expression depicted budding nihilism, now would be the perfect time to use it. But as I consider myself a devout romantic, I still put in a little effort from time to time.
A good friend of mine who often affectionately refers to me as “half dude” most recently used the phrase last week when I dismissed a recent breakup with an, “It’s cool. I’m over it. *I’m not giving him the satisfaction* was the last guy who actually hurt me and I’m not doing that again anytime soon.”
“Yeah,” he said, “that’s cause you’re like, half dude.”
This time he wasn’t referring to the way I high-five his poop jokes or the way I shamelessly crush plates of buffalo wings. This time he was referring to the way I date.
I pride myself on being a sexually liberated, independent woman. I don’t need a boyfriend. And to be honest, I really don’t want one right now. But for the sake of self-awareness, I had to ask myself, was I hiding behind that? Was I using the state of the Florence dating scene to detach myself, running from real connections when I found them? As a 23 year old woman who has every intention of living in as many cities as possible, a relationship is nowhere close to being on my radar. I’m in a sort of metamorphic period of my life where it feels good to be alone. It feels good to be selfish and do what I want when I want. But the romantic in me sometimes craves more than flings that just pass the time.
You know those almost supernatural moments when you’re sitting in a poorly lit bar, leaning towards another person, shamelessly showing them a secret part of your soul? For me, that’s what life is all about. It’s the part of Florence I fell in love with the moment I touched down here two and a half years ago. The transient nature of the city demands vulnerability. If you want to create any kind of lasting connection with people, you’ve got to put all your cards on the table.
But that’s the opposite how we date now. The majority of us are skeptical about connection, not trusting it’s genuineness. “He said he’s going to call, but I doubt it. We’ll see.” We opt for things with certain brevity or things that only evoke a lackluster interest in order to avoid any real investment of self. And when so many people around you are doing it, it’s hard not to be sucked into that mindset. Even I, the most horrifyingly romantic, spread-the-love- flower-child of all time found myself getting wrapped up in it –if for no other reason than self-preservation. But the closing of another open mind and open heart isn’t the way to combat the shit state of the dating world.
Last year, I sat with a boy on a bench in the middle of New York City and he said to me, “You believe in magic and true love – all the things people just don’t believe in – so wholeheartedly that just being around you makes me want to believe in it too.”
And maybe that’s the trick. Maybe it’s not about surrendering to the idea of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them.’ Maybe it’s about showing them how it’s done. Reminding them how good vulnerability can look on a person. Connecting however you can and whenever you can without fear or hesitation and taking those connections for what they’re worth.
Hell, I don’t know. I’m only 23. Maybe it never gets better.
But then again, I’m only 23… maybe it does.
And isn’t it pretty to think so?