“No, you’re wrong,” a friend recently told me. “Italian girls are easy too.” I countered with a sceptical look. This was news to me. And I’d certainly met un sacco di gente who would be equally incredulous.
“So why is it that I’m always hearing about the girls here being so difficili?” I ventured, trying to get to the bottom of the disparity in opinion.
“They’re difficult, yes, difficult to meet, difficult to get to know.”
I nodded. That I had heard. While female students studying abroad here rarely complain about a scarcity of Italian men, their male counterparts lament the seeming absence of Italian women on the prowl. “Where are they hiding?” a friend from home, studying here for a few months, threw his hands up, a third in jest, two thirds in frustration, when I met him for a drink.
Well, for one, he certainly wasn’t going to find them in the studenty Irish pubs he frequented for their 5-euro pitchers. But even if he did zone in on the “right” places, the “Italian” nightspots, he would only be able to admire these beautiful women from a distance. And not because he’s American, but because Italian women generally don’t go to bars to meet guys. They’re just out for a drink with good friends, often in a mixed boy-girl group that has been tight for ages, known in Italian as a collettiva, and so they are impossible to approach. Not that they wouldn’t chat to a colleague or someone they’d been introduced to at a party the previous week, should they run into them, but meeting strangers for potential hook-ups, dates, and relationships is not on the agenda.
In Italy, there’s a “way” to do most things, a come si fa and a come non si fa, and meeting boys at bars falls neatly into the latter category. In the States, a single girl dresses up, goes out with one or two girlfriends on a similar mission, scans the bar/club/lounge for someone she finds attractive, and then proceeds to smile at and make seductive eye-contact with said guy until he moseys on over and buys her a drink.
The possibilities are then endless, though admittedly limited both to the types of guys at bars and to the scope of their intentions. Here, on the other hand, to meet each other, an Italian girl and an Italian guy need to be properly introduced by a mutual friend or acquaintance, they need to be presentati, presented to one another. Apparently, even a potential mate need be recommended. Once the proper introductions have been made, I imagine the possibilities are endless for them as well. This difference in customs may not seem significant, but while we foreigners complain about how hard it is to meet people in our respective countries, Italians have it that much harder. They have to wait to be introduced. They have to wait to be met.
In college these days, girls putting out at frat parties ruin it for the rest of us because guys, not having to take girls out on dates anymore to get laid, simply don’t bother with the “effort” of dating while at school. (You’d be shocked at the number of coeds who have never been on the classic dinner and a movie date.) Similarly, we foreign girls ruin it for Italian women, and just as my Jewish friend Audrey gets upset every time she meets a nice Jewish boy who’s got an Asian girlfriend, I imagine Italian women are none too pleased. My first Italian teacher here, obviously in frequent contact with foreigners, understood the problem, and, being in the unusual situation of having a boyfriend as well as a bevy of male friends, had taken upon herself the crucial responsibility of introducer, of matchmaker. Little did she realize that her nickname, Miss Match, did not bode well for the matches she was making!
At the end of the day though, it’s all well and good to talk about meeting people not in bars, but these nightspots have become collectively designated as contemporary meeting places not without reason: people were having trouble meeting each other elsewhere. For the most part, gone are the days of dance halls and small, tight-knit communities, in which you married your high school sweetheart or the boy next door. And while Italian guys think it sucks that Italian girls are so hard to meet, it’s not exactly peachy for the girls either. Indeed, they, just as constrained by the “wait to get introduced” custom, tend to begrudge the fact that the foreign girls who invade their city don’t have to play the game by the same rules. Then again, at least they’re not widely known as “easy,” even though, according to my friend, they are, once you’ve surpassed the difficulty involved in meeting them.