Thursday, July 23, 2009

A great thing about living in Rome? Being single doesn't suck.

Of course there are times I wish I had an amazing man in my life. However I feel less pressure here to be “coupled up”.

There are no commercials for, E’Harmony, etc. You walk into a bookstore and there isn’t an entire aisle of relationship books with titles like, “How To Find A Man,” “How To Keep A Man”, “How To Get Married after 35,” etc. etc.

In the States we move so much and many of us live far from our families. Is this one reason why being part of a couple is so important? Too many people think something is really wrong with you if you’re over 35 and never married. It’s better for a woman that age to be divorced. I'm tired of explaining that for my demographic, college educated, professional, black woman, my situation is the norm so stop bugging me about my single status.

My Italian single girlfriends are not sitting at home wallowing over Cathy cartoons (is there an Italian version?). They travel, have dinner parties and while they would like to date don’t seem to be having meltdowns about being 30,40, or 50 and single. They are part of something bigger, their families. They’re not alone. And while they have to deal with some concern from their moms, being single is not the number one topic of conversation when we get together.

One year in L.A. my core “posse” all had boyfriends at the same time. I never saw them. I met one of my closest friend’s boyfriends only once during the year they went out. They hung out with other couples or just the two of them.

I notice here couples and singles mix more. I get invited to dinner parties and aperitvi all the time by my married, or in a serious relationship, friends.

I don’t obsess about being single in Rome like I did in the States….probably because now I actually have a life. I’ve been more social in the past year and a half than the previous 10 years.

Men flirt here even though nothing will come of it. I’m not talking about crass remarks or anything like that. I’m talking funny, witty comments. In Los Angeles I was completely invisible. I’m not exaggerating. Thank god I had to go to NYC once in a while for work or I would have felt like Jabba the Hut 24/7. Los Angeles is truly no country for old ladies. In all the years I lived there I can count on one hand the times someone flirted with me. One guy was British and the other person was a lesbian film exec who was trying to convince me to go out with her despite me telling her several times I was straight.

I’m not saying I need outside validation to feel good about myself. But when you live in a culture where how you look is, to be blunt, considered ugly it’s tough. Add the age thing and it’s no wonder so many of my peers are getting Botox, hair extensions, eye lifts, brow lifts, tummy tucks, etc.

I’m appreciate living in a place where men from the ridiculously good looking, to the geriatric (gramps you gotta be kidding me. No, you are not trying to mack), to the butcher who calls me Ms. Hollywood, flirt.

Before move to Rome I felt as sexy as a cardboard box. Although I haven’t gone to the other side and started dressing like Cleopatra Jones meets Sophia Loren I notice I don’t leave my house looking sloppy anymore. I will put on lipstick just to run to the bakery.

So yes, I’m still single but at least now I don’t feel like this:

One of the best opening credits ever. "You have NO messages." Ha.


Megan in Liguria said...

Love it! :)

yvonne said...

Girl, you've hit the nail on the head re: why I'm seriously thinking of not just living my increasingly hostile hometown, but the country.

The way most people in the US drop their single friends when they couple off never ceases to astonish me. I have three good friends who've bucked the trend and they're like unicorns to me. I've never done that, and don't understand why anyone would volunteer for it. Are great friends so easy to come by? Not in my book.

I envy you the wealth of casual, harmless flirting you're experiencing in Italy. As a single, 39 year old black woman on the East Coast, I get plenty of attention--almost all of it negative. My friends overall are baffled by why the majority of the men who approach me seem to be unable to differentiate between flirting and something that looks like a potential rape about to happen. My black female friends who don't drive get it completely--few men feel they have to approach black women with brown skin and nappy hair with respect or kindness.

This line resonated with me: "But when you live in a culture where how you look is, to be blunt, considered ugly it's tough." So many of the men I meet here in the States--the good, the bad, the ugly--love to tell me that I'm attractive despite the fact that I'm not blonde, or thin, or white, or possessed of long, flowing locks. Shouldn't they get a medal for finding me attractive anyway?

Um, no. ;->

But aside from all the "Why are you still single?!" nonsense, I wish people here were interested in a fuller, more well-rounded life in general, coupled up or not. Whenever I'm in Europe or Latin America I think, "Ah, this is where someone like me makes sense!"

Love the clip! Are you as appalled as I am by the thought of a third Bridget Jones movie? It's almost as scary as the thought of an Italian version of the Cathy comic strip. ;->

GigiSxm said...

great post, i hear ya! sounds like i need to move. Think being single in the US is bad? try it in SXM, where the pickings are slim to none.

"I'm tired of explaining that for my demographic, college educated, professional, black woman, my situation is the norm so stop bugging me about my single status."

That's my mantra. lol!

If I'd dumb it down a bit I'd have a man! but i shouldn't have to, so i don't.

KimB said...

Ragazza, once again you articulate great truths about things that so many of us feel or have felt. I can understand your sentiments so clearly and am so glad Rome is a healthier place in this regard.

I was just thinking about those Bridget Jones opening credits a few days ago. BOY did I identify with that scene. (the rest of the movie and snogging Hugh Grant and having to decide between two handsome suitors, not so much, although I loved the movie. But that opening scene . . .well I think there are lots of us gals out there who died laughing in recognition!!!)

KimB said...

P.s. Yvonne, you've got me curious. What's your "hostile" hometown?

regina di roma said...

What a great blog, happy to have found you. We're in Rome too and look forward to following your adventures in :)


Skywalker said...

Truly sounds like fun. Here in the states it is that way...but after watching Bridget Jones, Will and Grace and other rom/coms (generics) I didn't feel so bad to be single and when that happened, I did find a guy.

Take the pressure, have some fun and take whatever comes your way. Great motto

gibber said...

Love this clip. so funny (and love the foot know we all do that!).

erin :: the olive notes said...

ha! this is great. i definitely started stepping up the dressing while i was there too..lipstick to the bakery? check.

Tracey said...

Great post & you are so true. I lived in La-La Land some years ago & never felt worse about myself in my life! Not till I moved back to the Midwest did I finally feel human again. Your Italian life sounds so great, simple, yet satisfying. You go gurl!!! (LOL!)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

megan - grazie. :)

yvonne - oh my god. I so agree. What is up with the backhanded compliments "for a chocolate girl, you're cute". grrrrr That nonsense will have to be a post of its on. I've got lots to say about it. ha

Yes I am very scared about Bridget Jones 3. I love the first one and own it on DVD. I could barely sit through number 2 and hear number 3 is going to be about Bridget trying to get pregnant at 40. sigh.

gigi - I understand. Two christmases ago I went to all these huge family parties in SXM and the only single women there were me and my widowed aunt who's in her 60s. Dating on an island that small must be tough. I was thinking of moving there full time a couple years ago. Then I remembered I'm related to at least 1/3 of the native SXMers, 95% of the people are married and my aunts were all up in my business. I wouldn't be able to leave my house without my parents hearing about it. ha

kim b - I saw the movie opening weekend at the Grove in L.A. with three girlfriends. We were laughing so hard at the opening credits tears were flowing. I have had many a night like that (minus the Celine Dion part).

regina - ciao. thanks for stopping by. Hope you're enjoying your time in Rome. With this heat I do wish I was some place cooler today, like the North Pole.

skywalker - my attitude has definitely improved. I'm no longer a sad spinster. haha

gibber - the foot kick is priceless. Perfect choice of song too. Really the whole movie is fantastic. One of the best modern rom coms.

erin - I have to write a post about that. It's not like anyone told me to step it up. I felt compelled to. :)

tracey - Grazie. L.A. is a trip isn't it? I imagine it must be a fun place to live in your early 20s. 30s and up? No.

marla said...

Wow, great post, and so true!

Especially about the "invisibility" in LA. I had to get out of there! And it's not that I define a successful life as meeting a man and getting married, although sometimes I do believe that it would be nice to be in a partnership, but I feel like the seven years I spent there were the biggest waste of my time. And the longer I was there, the older (and more invisible) I got. Horrible!

I'm now on the East Coast, and the attention I get is, as Yvonne said, largely inappropriate, and though I'm ashamed to admit that at first I was stunned to get any kind of attention, after being invisible for so long, now I'm wondering if I need to live in Paris or Rome to be around other women that are comfortable enough in their own skin to be happily single, and couples who are able to exist as individuals and not morph into this impenetrable unit (or unicorns as another commenter mentioned) and also around men who are mature and secure enough to know how to flirt appropriately with women and without making me feel dirty.

gibber said...

OH! And piers morgan (ick) was talking about susan boyle and how he as glad that she wasn't some "stick insect" figure. I almost fell out of my chair. Did he just quote BJD or is that really a common phrase!!

J.Doe said...

Living in LA (Orange County) is a definite slap in the face to anyone not in their 20s that isn't long legged, with long blond hair, blue eyes and a model shaped body. No one (male) wants anything to do with you. It's unreal really which is why Southern California is known as the plastic capital of the world - and I'm not just talking credit cards.
P.S. That Bridget Jones clip is so funny

J.Doe said...

This was cut off from my previous comment:
That bridgit jones clip is so funny because it rings true.
NO messages

Lenox Ave said...

You said it all. Get a life, enjoy it and don't sweat these things. This post is full of WIN! Every Woman needs to read this.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's as bad in the SF Bay Area, but I get what you're saying. I have never felt as beautiful here as I did during my 2-week vacation in Italy. Go forth and flourish! I may have to follow suit! ~Rose in Cali

Ms. Violetta said...

I live on the West Coast of Canada and it is a mini LA here. If you are not some kind of young athletic barbie then you are invisible and considered un-datable. I joined a dating site and that was a huge hit to my ego. I had men tell me I was too old, or too fat. Now, I don't consider myself either of those two things but it still hurt me. I've come to terms that its best not to try and seek this stuff out. I'd like to say that I can adopt your approach but I'm not there yet. It is because I crave connection and not just from a man. There is something to be said about having a circle of friends to sustain you when you are single. Socializing is so different here. Hard to explain but it is so difficult to just casually set something up or feel like you are getting too much in someones personal space. I tend to drive two hours just to stay with my parents and hang with my Mom. Gosh, I didn't mean this to be a therapy session but dang it if it ain't the truth.

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Sweet!! I definitely appreciated the fact that Italians go out in groups and not just coupled up. So much more fun when there are 8 or 10 of you! And although I ended up getting 'coupled' off the bat when I moved to Rome, still our group outings were a really equal mix of couples and singles... and well into the 30s and 40s.

yvonne said...

KimB, I'm in Philadelphia, PA. Lots of wonderful pluses, but increasingly not enough to outweigh painful daily interactions. I've traveled quite a bit and lived abroad--but I'm sorry to say my hometown is the place where the general populace tries to feed on my carcass.

Marla, I'm seriously planning a move in two years or so. If you're going on any scouting trips to Rome or Paris, call me! ;->

Ms. Violetta, I'm still gasping at the comments the men on the dining site made to you. Oy vey!

My dating site experience was that almost every man who approached me online had checked every ethnicity and race except black. I'm sure you know what a pain it is to click 18 boxes online and skip just one. Anyway, the men were always surprised and apologetic when I expressed no interest in dating men who weren't generally interested in black women--but were willing to make an exception for me. ;->

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

marla - exactly. It's hard to explain that weird sensation to women who haven't lived there. First you think it's just you, then you leave and realize, no, something is truly off about being a single woman of a certain age in L.A.

gibber - I have no idea. I thought I also heard that phrase on SATC but could be wrong.

j.doe - Yes So. Cal is very different from the Tri-State area. re: the clip, it did ring true the first time I saw it. Uhm perhaps too true. ha

lenox ave. - grazie and thanks for stopping by!

rose in cali - perche no? I know how much you love it here.

ms. violette - I tried the Internet dating thing when I lived in the States. Not for me. I'd rather be rejected in person. I'm very thankful for my circle of friends here. I was lucky to have a great group of friends in L.A. but I rarely saw them. I spent a lot of time by myself. While I do need some "alone" or I get was the extreme. Here there's more balance. I still have time to myself to write, clear my head etc. but I don't feel lonely.

shelley - I like it too. I wonder why it's done more here. Because people live closer to each other? Are Italians more social? If you live in an apartment you need to get out more/spend time in public spaces?

yvonne - same thing happened to me Online. I have not interest in being the exception.

Viajera said...

Wow! I will have to show this post to my single girlfriend. That's the only way she'll believe that such a place exists in the world. Seriously, it's the same here in Canada: Everyone seems coupled up and the singles scene is a meat market.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Great post, and a sad commentary on our U.S. society. There were aspects of what you wrote in terms of when I was living in Russia, as well. I think we are such a consumer-driven society that a mate is something we're urged to "buy" as well.

Glad you're enjoying life there so much!

KimB said...

Love Lenox Ave's comment!

Ragazza, do you SEE how what you write rings true with so many of us? We can't WAIT until we can SEE YOUR MOVIES!!!!!!

Monica said...


Thanks for writing this. Like Yvonne, I live in Philly and it's tough especially for a chick brown skin and kinky hair.

There are times when I feel downright invisible.

Good, old-fashioned flirting is a lost art.

Taylor said...

Oh Wow, I love this post! I can definitely relate to feeling the pressure to couple-up like it's some measure of our self-worth. Like Viajera, I live in Canada and dating here is hard: if you don't fit the mould (and don't let the multi-culti propaganda fool you, there IS a mould) then you're pretty much invisible. Today a man on the subway actually offered me his seat and I was so shocked. First time in years. It wasn't so much the idea of a man offering his seat to a woman, it was more the fact that he looked AT me, rather than looking past me or through me. It must be amazing to now live in a culture that encourages intimacy and connection. You're for sure living part of my dream! Years ago when I visited Capri I was on a shuttlebus with a large group of Italians, and we were all packed in cheek by jowl. But rather than being seeming uncomfortable with the close quarters, I remember the Italians were loud and lively, throwing jokes back and forth, good-naturedly begging pardon for elbows in backs and armpits in faces lol. I'm comparing that to my rush hour ride every morning, each of us in our self-contained little ipod bubble...I swear, here in NA, we're such LONELY people (cue the Beatles...)

WineGrrl said...

I heartily agree...sometimes LA just seems toxic for single women of all stripes who don't fit a certain, ahem, mold.

I know I am generalizing here, but French/Italian flirting is (for the most part) flattering and basically harmless; American flirting is like something out of a Tex Avery cartoon--only not so funny!

Lola said...

As a single mom of 40 living in Rome, I couldn't agree with you more. Vacationing in California for 3 weeks was such a culture shock in that sense, NO ONE WAS FLIRTING WITH ME! I kinda felt stigmatized...

I totally appreciate that about Italy, single status is not a burden, it's... freedom.

Ciao bella, we should hook up sometime soon.
Lola xx

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

viajera - it is tough to meet people once you're older. I'm not sure about the single's "bar" scene either.

jen - good point. In my 30s I was worried about not being able to check off everything on my "list." It drove me crazy and stressed me out.

kimb - grazie millie cara!

monica - flirting is a lost art. I wonder why.

taylor - Culturally maybe things are just different in North America. In the Caribbean people flirt as well. The invisible thing is annoying because it's not just about flirting but common decency/manners. So if you don't look like Pam Anderson Lee the guy in front of you thinks it's okay to not hold the door. WTF?

winegrrl - I haven't experienced American flirting in almost a decade so I can't even compare the two. Sad but true. ha

lola - I can't wait to hear about your trip. x

ieishah said...

i live in barcelona, and just finished a 7 city trip through europe, east to west. i did the first half by myself, and the second with my boyfriend. i'm now in ny for the rest of the summer visiting family (first time in 2 years my feet have touched u.s. soil!), and ir just feels so weird. first, when i tell people about my trip, they're like, 'BY YOURSELF??' lol! like, 'why would you even think of doing something by yourself when you have a boyfriend. that independent spirit of feminine adventure and discovery? girl... not even in new york. second, everyone is always talking about race. and it's not just the fact.. it's the tone... it's like i'd completely forgotten that being black was supposed to limit me. it certainly doesn't abroad. great, great post!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ieishah - I love to travel to big cities by myself. I too get the "You're going alone?!" thing. I wish more black americans would travel...those who have the means and scholarships for those that don't. I find we can be just as, if not more, ethnocentric as many Americans. The world is getting smaller and with the global economy we will get left behind if we don't understand other cultures.

Linda said...

I'm late commenting on this post but, I have to say I love how you sound so content. It was when I began feeling the way you do now when I met my now husband 11 years ago. I wasn't looking for a boyfriend and was not the least bit concerned about my singlehood. I was strictly enjoying being me.

Sometimes when the marriage gets testy (as it naturally does/will) I think of those days when I enjoyed being single.

PS: this is not to say "aww now you are going to meet that special man". Just continue enjoy being you.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

linda - no worries...I knew what you meant. :)

west by south said...

I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved this post! I am 50, look so much younger thanks to good family genes, never been married and no children...though nieces I love more than life itself! There was a reason I loved living overseas...and a reason why I plan to again one day. THANK YOU!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

wbs - you are so welcome!

BlogMasterPg said...

Great post!
I'm working to show the italian popular Culture to all the world 8 but expecially to U.S.) and that's a great post about the traditional stylife in italy about relationship.
my English isn't right as yours, but i hopwe, a day becomes a good english writer...
I live in Perugia and I'd like to meet You - for a coffee - !!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

blog - grazie...glad you liked the post.