Ok, folks, I’m serious here, this time I really need your input. So put on your critical thinking caps and give a girl a hand.
Last week, I was thinking about all my NYC girlfriends and enjoying their stories of dating. Apparently, or so they tell me, “everyone” uses online dating sites in the States. My girls on the other side of the pond have a new man on their arms pretty much every night. Even though my lifestyle wouldn’t permit that kind of action, it got me to thinking: (here’s where I get all Sarah Jessica Parker on you)
“Do online dating sites in Italy work as well as in the States? What kind of men are on them?”
I decided to do some “research” in the name of journalistic curiosity. (Sorry, I don’t mean to offend any journalists out there who have actual credentials.)
I signed up for a site, loaded a few pictures of me from my Facebook page, and was trying to figure out all the cutesy little symbols and menus when I was informed that someone “wants to meet you.”
Whoa, baby! That was quick. And I’m not even drunk yet!
I figure out how to message the guy and I send a note: “How does this site work? I just joined.”
We ended up chatting for over a half hour. He was quick-witted, has a responsible and legal job, even has kids, which for me was a plus since all the men I’ve met so far my age don’t have kids and therefore have a really hard time relating to my life with three kids.
I ask, “Are you separated?”
He says, “Separated inside the house.”
I was just about to cue the epic fail horn, when I remembered my mission to my readers, and my own curiosity got the best of me. WTF IS THIS SEPARATI DENTRO CASA THING?
I didn’t ask right then and there. I assumed it to mean that he was legally separated from his wife and that they shared the same house but maintained separate bedrooms and were basically the emotional equivalent of roommates.
Herein, as a foreshadowing of what was to come (which of course my Italian readers and all readers less naive than I am will have already seen coming), I will offer up a phrase that one of my high school teachers, who was a real hard-ass former US Marine, used to say to us all the time:
“When you assume, you make an ASS out of YOU and ME.”
Get it? Get it? Because, I’m here to tell you: it’s true.
Anyhoo, we exchange phone numbers and start texting over the next few days. He’s lovely. Good looking, sweet, charming, smart. Total pitter-patter.
Finally we talk on the phone. At one point, I have to address the elephant in the room.
“So…separated at home. What exactly IS that, anyways? I mean… are you still married?”
“Yes. My wife… blah blah blah blah”
I think this is the point when the Twilight Zone song started playing in my head and my eyes started to cross.
But, being the curious know-it-all nosy brat that I am, I start grilling him.
“But, but, but… wait. Help me to understand this. You can’t possibly sleep in the same bed though, right?”
“Of course we do! Otherwise how would the kids see it?”
Here’s where, had I been drinking any sort of beverage, it would have splattered out of my mouth all over the wall. If it were milk, and if this had made me laugh, it would have been coming out of my nose.
As we delve now into my subjective analysis of this phenomenon, I offer you two caveats:
1) I am American living in Italy. I love my adopted country but am often mystified and intrigued by its ways. I haven’t heard of arrangements like this in the States. I may be wrong. I’m not here to morally judge, either. I’m one person with my own views. So, like don’t hate on me for anything I say, because, duh. I’m not here to beat up on anyone. I just want to figure this out.
2) Um, maybe both were in the above one.
So, he goes on to explain that, “for all intents and purposes, we’re separated.” (Um, ok?) Financially, he tells me, totally two independent entities. (Thus now you can’t tell me that you still live together because you wouldn’t be able to afford your own place, which is the only possible justification I could see for a situation like this.)
I say, “Wow. Because, I’ve been separated and now divorced for nearly two years, and frankly the idea of having to live in the same house with my ex, even though we’re on good terms, well, that just wouldn’t be good for the kids.”
He says, “Well, you have to put your kids before yourself. I can’t imagine not waking up to my kids every morning.”
Now, I’m no psychologist, but when you read that in black and white, it’s a direct contradiction. Put kids before self + my needs come first because I don’t want to not wake up to them every morning = one confused Shelley. But, whatever.
I say, “But if you consider yourself separated, but you’re still married, and she’s still technically your wife, and you still sleep in the same bed, and live together, I don’t understand how that’s separated.”
He says, “Because I love my kids so much that I’m willing to live with someone who I would rather tell to go to hell, but it’s important for kids and their fragile infantile egos to see that mom and dad still care about each other and live together. I mean, sometimes we hug and stuff, just to fake it for them.”
(FYI his children are younger than 10 but older than 5.)
I say, “Well, I think you’re underestimating your children. What you call “their fragile infantile egos” are actually quite acute. How long do you think you can pretend and play this game? I bet you they already understand.”
At this point, I guess my grilling was becoming not such the fun and flirty situation he had been looking for, because he abruptly said, “Let’s change the subject.”
I say, “Why? Does it make you uncomfortable talking about this? Because I’m really curious about how it works. I think it’s a cultural difference. I don’t know any Americans who do this.” (Once again, I’m just one person. I’m not trying to say it doesn’t exist. But I certainly don’t think it’s commonplace.)
He says, “Well, you Americans are too quick to divorce. You break up in such a hurry and divorce so quickly.”
Mah. I don’t know how to respond to that. I mean, I’m divorced at a fairly young age. I was with my ex-husband for 10 years, however, and I’ve never dated in Italy until now. So I can’t really comment on much there.
Folks, I don’t know. Truly. I mean, I don’t have moral objections to couples living their lives the best way they see fit. I don’t think it’s for me to judge ANYONE for how they choose to live their life, so long as they don’t hurt others or impede on others’ freedom or right to live the way they want to live their lives. “Live and let live” so to speak.
For me personally though, I find it really hard to wrap my head around the proposition of becoming emotionally involved with a man who goes to bed with his wife every night, regardless of whether or not it’s an agreed arrangement between both parties that they can see other people. I suppose it would be like getting involved with someone who told you that he or she has an “open” marriage. I have no moral objections to it. But, as a woman who, maybe naively, hopes to find a quality partner who can help me to grow as a person, share my life, hopes, dreams, failures, etc., all that stuff that I think many people hope for in a partner, my question to you and to myself is: How can that be done in a situation like this?
Like so many things in life: it’s complicated.
Maybe that’s where Zuckerberg came up with the relationship status for Facebook.
Sigh. Back to the drawing board, I suppose. I don’t think I’ll be trying anymore online meeting sites anytime soon, however.