Dating: To be friendly with someone
Between getting to know someone who 'gets' you and getting to know their family - immediate and extended - you learn to let joy find you
Now securely in my mid-30s, I've become less obsessed with the semantic specifics of the word 'date'. I want to steal it away from heteronormative and sexual lexicons. 'To date' has a certain connotation of a state of being. To be dating someone involves the performance of certain courtship rituals.
My mother often used the term 'to be friendly with', which, in retrospect, has a delicate ambiguity about it, which I now prefer. To go on a date, in popular culture, can sufficiently connote both dread and excitement; frustration and despair. There's the fear of putting oneself out there, of attempting to get to know someone while allowing them to gauge aspects of your personality.
Last evening, we revisited Picchio, the lovely bar in Bolzano where the man I married recently had taken me for drinks after our first dinner 'date' in Eppan. It was a peculiar evening. Neither of us had known for sure that we were on a date. We had met a week before, after an art event near the residency I was at, and we'd ended up having a great conversation. It was spontaneous, easy, and what I remember most was the quality of his attention. He listened to me talk as if each word that came from my mouth was pure gold. It was not something I was used to... being listened to by a man with so much eagerness and then having him respond to me with the appropriate amount of humour, like he 'got' me.
When we were at Picchio on our first date, we'd spent the two hours there seated on the bench outside. We spoke with so much ease. I hesitated to finish my second glass of Lagrein because I was afraid our 'date' would be over if I did. I wanted to drag it.
I could see he was tired. He'd spent the whole day labouring in an apple field. But I was leaving Italy in two days. I'd probably never see him again, and I'd always wonder what could have been. Nothing happened that night. Not even a kiss. We were both too cowardly to make a move. I had been warned by our mutual friend, in fact, that he was not the kind of person who made a move.
And yet, it was perhaps the most perfect date I'd ever had in my life. A year and a few months later, I married him.
We've been to Picchio only twice since our first time. We went last night to remind ourselves, I think, of the beautiful chemistry that exists between us. We were both trying to come to terms with the uncertainty and instability that has been characteristic of our life together. Marrying each other, like I'd once said, was a way of 'unsettling'. Every now and then, it can get really frightening to realise that we have no plan. We have no idea where we will base our lives. It's exhilarating, often, but because it's counter-intuitive to what we've been conditioned to pursue — a relatively planned life.
Since the first week of October, when I arrived in South Tyrol, in Tramin, his village, I've been inexplicably happy. I continue to maintain my feminist rage against patriarchal systems, I continue to write controversially, but I have to confess it's possible that I've never been happier. It's very difficult to point out exactly why.
I've been living in a town where you could count the number of people who speak English, and yet, I have found myself no longer being anxious about making conversation, about attempting to find ways to get people to like me. I find that it is easier to just be. I never thought I would find so much comfort and joy in living with in-laws. I never actually ever imagined having in-laws in the proper, legal sense. And now I have inherited this big family full of amazing, generous, kind people — and all are amazing cooks.
Since this morning, I feel like I've been 'on a date' with my father-in-law. We've road-tripped from Tramin to Munich, and I feel like I'm getting to know him even better one-on-one, just like a few weeks ago I felt like I got closer to my partner's Aunt Monika; and to my father-in-law's sister when I accompanied her to forage for rose hips.
Sometimes, I think I have the best father-in-law in the world. Maybe I'll reserve another column to wax eloquent about what that's like and what it means to suddenly have another father. For now, though, I'll get back to my date.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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