Tales of A trailing Wife - The Dating Game!
No, I am not looking for a new lover. I am talking about an activity that I have been engaged in for many years. Finding new friends! I am talking about anyone changing their environment either through moving to a new city or country, or changing their relationship from a partnership to being single. Once the initial shock and adjustment to the new situation has settled, we humans like to connect. In today's society that is not easy. For some reason it is viewed as a weakness if you desire contact and along the way we have been made to feel needy for this most basic human desire. No matter which country I am in, meeting new people is more difficult and I am finding it harder and harder with each move. Not sure if it has something to do with age, having no small children around me as an ice breaker or the fact that my expectations have at times been unrealistic.
I have gone through different stages in my expat life. I remember one period of locking myself into my home fed up of having to say goodbye to another best friend and not wanting to meet any new ones. I recall being quite rude to some newcomers in the compound telling them that they are nice enough, but that I had made enough friends to last me a lifetime and did not need any new ones. I am not sure what made them determined to get to know me; maybe it is that human push and pull reaction. Luckily for me these "new kids on the block” ignored my flippant request and have become some of my closest friends spanning many years. These same friends that I was not letting into my life dropped everything, moved mountains to help me in my hour of need a few years later. Although we live in different cities around the world, new technology has allowed us to stay in each other’s lives.
Back to my subject. Dating. Whenever I ask a new acquaintance how the dating is going, they look at me with wide eyes. I then explain that getting to know new people in a new environment should be viewed as a dating game. This immediately makes them smile and breaks the ice. I tell them not to take it to seriously, that it takes a couple of rounds to establish a connection or NOT. I recall the time of our move to Singapore, relying heavily on the incredible free application called SKYPE. It kept me connected and I never bothered to leave the comfort of my new armchair with my computer on my lap. I have friends in every time zone so could spend an entire day online. A cup of coffee with a girlfriend in Australia, lunch with someone in the USA and a sundown glass of red wine with Africa or Europe. Who needed new friends I kept trying to convince myself. I am leaving soon anyway. Eventually, knowing human contact is more satisfying, I forced myself out of the house, reluctantly accept every invitation that came my way, knowing full well that all that small talk can be so very tedious.
Nevertheless, slowly but surely, after all this tip toeing around each other trying to figure out if she is crazy, kind, arrogant or just shy, it's time to try the" should we meet for a coffee or wine?" You swap phone numbers. You wait a few days. Don't want to seem to eager. Then you send a text. Yes a text. These days I have found it to be a more convenient and "safer" way to communicate. No reply. You wait another few days. No reply. OK, she obviously did not mean it when she agreed we should meet. No big deal, been there, done that. Go to next function and see "future prospect" with a broad smile and a very friendly greeting. Another great conversation, another farewell with a promise to get together. Again messages, no replies. 6 months later at yet another social function we decide to send a text to each other right there and then. Now we get is, we had the wrong number. Wrong country code! Thank goodness. Thought my usual instinct had let me down! This turned into a very special friendship I would not have wanted to miss and that will last a lifetime no matter where I land up next.
I love telling the story of being picked up on the local bus here in Sanremo. It was a hot humid summers day; everyone was tired and holding onto his or her bags after shopping at the market. A dragonfly found its way into the bus and everyone started to panic. Without thinking I said out loud in English, don't worry, it's not going to hurt you. How do you know said a voice behind me. I turned around and told the lady that we were bigger than that poor dragonfly and just needed to open a window. She smiled and asked me where I lived. It turned out that we were practically neighbors. She asked me if I had any friends. When I said no, she replied she also had no friends (here in Sanremo) and would I like to come for coffee that afternoon at 4pm. Back home I told my girls with excitement about my invitation. WHAT? You are going to a total strangers house? You always told us not to trust anyone, you might get attacked. I told them not to worry, I was younger and stronger! That cup of coffee was the best thing that could have happened to me. I would need another new blog post to describe how much this special friendship enriched my life by sharing expatriation and travel stories. Their generous help with the local bureaucratic tribulations is priceless.
Whenever I second-guess myself, I remind myself that most people are in the same boat. If they do not want to know me they can make an adult choice. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would be very happy if the person would try to contact me. This thought motivated me to make this next call. You would not believe it, but even I, that comes across so confident have my apprehensions. Usually I have been right in following a hunch. For instance my latest "Damsel in distress" phone call to a total stranger. This story is actually quite funny. Thanks to my limited Italian Language skills I was given a phone number by a mutual acquaintance. To my understanding, this lady was lonely and in need of some English speaking companionship. I called and launched into a babble of who I was and should we meet for coffee. There was a long silence and then: "Excuse me, WHO ARE YOU?" Now I wanted to die and stammered, why don't I send you an email with the English/Italia group details called VivaItalia, then you can decide if you want to join or not and quickly hung up. I sent the email and thought no more of it, as I must have scared the poor woman. A couple of weeks later I got a message suggesting to meet for an aperitivo, only to discover this lovely woman had lived in the city for 30 years, was fluent in Italian and very well established and certainly no "Damsel in distress". How embarrassing. She also mentioned she was reserved, not keen on lots of people or socializing. Oh really, I am the total opposite, and loud on top of it! We said our farewells and I thought that was that. Well, believe it or not, she choose to join me on our next social function and we have had more fun and adventures in these past couple of months that I would have ever imagined. Another perfect example how a situation lost in translation can turn into a positive one.
The moral of the Story. Try, and try again. You never know what treasures you find in this dating game.