A while back I wrote an article about dating in Italy, and not surprisingly, it was one of my most popular posts. As a result, Google now sends such inquires as “how to pick-up Italian girls” to my site. Further investigation into my site’s statistics suggests that I have a disproportionate number of male readers in Italy who are keen to make the acquaintance of eligible women from the former Soviet Union. Not wanting to disappoint the king of all search engines, I feel obliged to follow up.
But writing about this topic is tricky for several reasons. One reason is that the protocols are changing so fast in this increasingly globalized, interconnected world. The traditional roles that were standard only a generation ago are already grossly inaccurate when applied to present-day Italy. For example, Jessica recounts childhood stories that she heard from the old women in her Sicilian hometown who spoke openly about their husbands’ extra-marital affairs. For them, there was a certain virtuous pride in not being asked to perform the “dirty work” of pleasing their own husbands. What’s more, a woman might have even bragged that her husband had the most beautiful mistresses in town, as if that somehow reflected positively back on her.
Not so today, of course. Dating in Italy is not as simple or “quaint” anymore. Italian women are no longer willing to assume such a submissive role in the relationship—they now have “palle,” too (if only figuratively).
Meanwhile the men, understandably, are in favor of hanging on to traditions. And don’t assume that the traditional roles are all negative. On the contrary. As I mentioned in an article that I wrote for the Italian website, Sul Romanzo, there is a certain brand of chivalry in how Italian men treat women. This approach would almost be impossible for an American expat to replicate, but I can’t help but admire it.
Confusion abounds. Add to this the relatively new frontier of online dating and you have the recipe for a total disconnect—and a subsequent drop in birthrate. Fellow Rome blogger Shelley Ruelle wrote a candid piece about the realities of online dating in Italy on her site a few months ago. As she suggested, these websites are more often used as a means for married men to find a mistress, rather than for two people to find love, romance, or a relationship beyond the bedroom.
But I confess that I have always been skeptical about the Italians embracing this new technologically enhanced method of looking for a partner. Italians won’t even buy a sweater online, so how could they possibly utilize online dating in its intended way? Partners, like sweaters, must be examined closely, touched, and smelled before an opinion is formed. An Italian would never trust an advertised version of any commodity, so why should a lover be any different?
When it comes to inter-cultural dating, there are also the perils of language mix-ups to watch out for. A while back I wrote a blog post about one such incident when I misinterpreted the “friendly” tone in which Jessica invited me to F#*% OFF! Suffice to say that you have to re-scale your criteria for taking offence. For an American woman’s perspective on this, check out the post by Laurel, fellow Floridian and Italophile who asks the very valid question, “Why are you yelling at me?”
So again, I continue to be astonished by Google’s faith in my content. How could they possibly believe that I’m “an authority” on Italian dating? I mean seriously, what have I done to deserve first-page prominence just below “connectingsingles.it” and “catholicmatch.com”? Then again, perhaps their search engines are smarter than I realize. If the goal of dating in Italy is to find a beautiful, intelligent, sweet Italian wife, then maybe I’m an expert after all. (Hopefully this last comment will send a little “dirty work” my way this evening).