Is there affection without sexual attention in Rome?
As the famous line from When Harry Met Sally goes, ‘guys and girls can’t be friends’. Italian men are famous for their gregarious way of approaching foreign women on the street, in bars, clubs, the metro, just about anywhere. A southern Italian guy who I work with agreed wholeheartedly that with alpha and omega there’s always something flirtatious going on, or there will be.
But why then do many of us foreigners have male friends at home? We think back nostalgically to a time when male and females could get on without being hit on. Every day I see groups of Italians in mixed groups, what’s different? Maybe because we are foreigners we have the reputation of being seemingly easy and looking for a good time in Rome. And maybe we are, there’s nothing wrong with a little fun.
What happens when you stay on in Rome? I’ve personally been overjoyed to start working somewhere only to have a business meeting with the boss turn into drinks at a surprise romantic location with a horrified me realising I’m on a trick date. I had a group of expats and one Italian guy who would all hang out together a few times a week. There was a lot of ‘harmless’ flirting with one of the girls for months, hinting he thought open relationships were great and that his girlfriend lived far away. Then right around the time he found out there was no chance with our friend, he mysteriously stopped coming around.
My Roman boyfriend, his friends and boyfriends of friends all proclaim, ‘how ridiculous, you can’t declare such a general stereotype about a whole nation. We are after all a modern complex European culture.’ Why then, after having met someone nice that just so happens to have male genitalia, most immediately reply ‘they’re just coming on to you’. Spot the flaming paradox.
I’ve had lots of advice about dealing with this dilemma; tell them where to go! Flirt and use it to your advantage! Just ignore the problem and hope they get the hint! After being chased down by a moped when I tried to evade a randy pursuer, something tells me a hint might not occur to Italians.
So what’s the verdict for traversing the minefield that is friendship with expat ladies and Italian guys? Are we doomed to just have girly groups? Perhaps I’m being hypocritical. After all myself, and many of my friends ended up dating the beautiful specimens that are Roman men. Maybe we can’t have it all. I myself have turned to expat guys for male friendship. I’ll leave you to decide.