Several years ago, I met a boy. Not the boy I'm currently with. But hear me out.
I met this other boy in Italy. Not an Italian; a Scandinavian (taller, blonder, didn't live with his mum).
We met under exceptionally romantic circumstances. The sort that inspire Audrey Hepburn movies. We were both travelling through the beautiful country of Italy alone, and met while both dining solo inside a
A charged moment of eye contact and two months later, he boarded a plane in Europe to spend a few months with me in Australia. All we had known of each other was that one dinner.
Fast-forward two years and we were attempting a cross-ocean relationship; me on a webcam in Australia, him on a webcam in Scandanavia. We shared short but special visits where we could, and depended upon the memories of our romantic meeting in Italy to keep the fire burning bright. We were both hooked.
And he was really good looking so, naturally, I thought would marry him.
At every chance I could, I showed off to people about our magical, 'Roman Holiday-style' tale.
All were impressed... "Wow, so you met in an Italian piazza, and he had to leave straight away, but then chased you all the way to Australia?? Does he have a brother?"
The enchantment of it charmed everyone; all except one person.
During this time I was holidaying in Los Angeles (without him) and I couldn't wait to break the news of my new love story to a close family friend who lived there. In his sixties and a film producer, this man had been around the block and knew a thing or two about love and marriage.
As we chatted over dinner at Charlie Chaplin's old table inside a dimly-lit vintage Hollywood diner, I gushed and flushed about my relationship with Scand-man. I even proudly dished out a dog-eared photo of the blonde curly locks and clear green eyes.
Family-friend didn't exactly gush, flush, or look back me with pride. He frowned and took a long hard look at the photo.
"So he's Scandinavian."
"And you met him in a Roman piazza?"
"Yup... isn't that wild??"
hat do you talk about?"
"Well, given he lives overseas, and English isn't his first language, do you still spend hours chatting away?"
I don't think I'll ever forget that moment. It swung at me like an unpredictable left hook from a burly boxer on a vengeance mission.
"His English is very good," I contested. Family-friend sensed my defensiveness.
"Hey kid, I'm not saying he's not right for you, just take an old guy's advice... it doesn't matter how bright that fire burns, it eventually simmers down. And when that happens, you gotta have something left to talk about. And I just want to make sure you do with this man."
Something left to talk about.
While Scand-man charmed me upon a fairy tale of romance, chased me across oceans, and happened to look like he'd stepped out of Valentino's latest catalogue, what family-friend said worried me. Because we really had not that much to talk about.
I had been suppressing the realities of our stilted conversations for two years, and was frustrated to realise we had very little in common: different views of the world, different tastes in music, different plans for the future, different interests.
He was very religious; I wasn't.
He was a professional jazz musician; I couldn't stand the self-indulgent rubbish.
I worked in a newsroom and always wanted to discuss the latest developments; he didn't watch the news.
I wanted to live in Australia; he wanted to live in Scandinavia.
And once we'd exhausted the many hours reminiscing every last detail of our perfect meeting, there really wasn't a whole lot left.
While family-friend didn't mean to unleash the poison that was quietly menacing around the edges of our romance, I'm glad he did.
It was hard to break up with that man. Not just because we had written two years of history, but also because I was approaching 30 years old and I wanted so badly for a relationship - any relationship - to work out.
But we both needed something to talk about.
So two years after me met, we broke up in our traditional style: via webcam. It was an upsetting time for many reasons.
Nearly a year of ridiculous attempts at dating later, I met B.
It happened the old-fashioned way: at my work Christmas party. He strolled over
to say hi to a work friend we both knew, and I glanced up at him. He had cute hair. That's the first thing I remember. I've always been a sucker for cute hair.
As I listened to him talk, I also noticed he had a cute, but soft, American accent. Bonus! I love a cute, but soft, American accent. My friend could sense some sparkage and the conversation began to shift to myself and B.
Me: "Whereabouts in the States are you from?"
B: "Ah, that elusive state called Canada."
Me: "It's a faux pas to call a Canadian American, isn't it."
He smiled. He had a lovely smile. We chatted for the rest of the night and somehow ended up on the topic of reincarnation. Cute and spiritual. More bonus.
B asked for my number and got in touch right away. None of this, "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen", Aussie bloke nonsense.
We planned a first date and, as usual, I found things to fret about. For one, we hadn't met in an Italian piazza. I also knew he worked in the finance industry, and I had only ever dated artists. I simply did not date finance guys. Ever. I had always been judgmental to assume they were far too money-driven for me, and I had always found that a turn off.
I also knew he was far too young for me. I was 28, and I picked him to be no more than 24.
A 24-year-old who works in the finance industry and probably polishes his beamer every Saturday morning before parading it up and down Bondi beach.
This really isn't going to work.
But he had cute hair and a cute, but soft, Canadian accent. And he had already revealed a spiritual side. Ah what the hell.
He took me to a great Thai place in Sydney's The Rocks. I wish I could remember what we talked about, but there was simply so much conversation, every syllable and topic blended into the next. It was effortless. Cliches aside, It was like I had known him my whole life.
At one point that night B began rubbing the side of his face and I asked him if he was ok. He replied with a gentle smile, "my jaw is hurting from so much talking."
And later in the evening he shifted uncomfortably in his seat and said, "Nat, I have to tell you something."
It turned out this wouldn't be the first time he would scare me with those words. The second time, it was to break it to me that he owned a pet snake.
But this first time, it was something else. It was time for me to shift uncomfortably in my seat.
"What do you need to say?"
"I'm often told I don't look my age."
Oh fark. He's a 21-year-old finance guy.
"Oh. How old are you?" I faintly asked. And this night had been going so well!
WTF? The 24-year-old was actually NINE years older than me? His ridiculously youthful appearance made me look like a washed up old hag.
"It runs in my family, apparently," continued B. "My mum, sister, brother, we all look really young."
Wow, some genes to have.
So, after flipping my fixation to whether I could date a man nine years older than me, B and I continued to see each other. There were drives to the beach, movie premieres, and long nights listening to vintage music.
And we haven't stopped talking since.
Sure, there's more to it: there's attraction, passion, major sparkage. I still get butterflies when I hear his key in the door, or hear the phone ring and hope it's him. He's funny and smart and kind and sexy. It's all there.
But as family-friend had pointed out, if this thing is going to go the distance, we'll always need something to talk about. And for the first year of our relationship we were continually late for everything; nattering away while he was tying his shoe laces and I attempted to apply lipstick onto moving lips.
I have been amazed to discover that me, who manages to find boredom even in the most thrilling of circumstances, never gets sick of listening to this intelligent and funny man speak.
I could sit with him in any location,
in any corner of the world,
and we'll always find something to talk about.