As I said last week, Cherrye Moore gave me much food for thought in her recent posts. Well, today, I’m going to try to tackle the subject of what expat girlfriends mean to me. I encourage you to go first and read her post, as it’s thoughtful and represents a different point of view from what I think mine might be (or maybe not – I won’t be sure until I write it out!)
Cherrye’s question to her readers was this: Why do you think someone would move to a new country and reject any connection to their home? Why would someone choose NOT to be friends with people from their home country?
I’m just going to dive in and see what I come up with. Join me, won’t you?
As longtime readers know, I split my time between Rome and Montpellier. While Montpellier is my primary residence, Rome is my home; I spend several months a year there thanks to the endlessly patient and infinitely understanding Cal.
My friends in Rome are known to you as the Gay Mafia. Because I moved to Rome alone, and because I’m not someone who makes new friends easily, I was perfectly happy to allow Marco to invite me into his group of friends, and there I stayed. That single decision defined my experience of living in Italy. I certainly assimilated faster than anyone I know, and I must confess I adored every minute of it.
I’m a selfish person by nature, and I love that my most precious memories of living in Italy are mine and mine alone. Without being able to put everything into a comparative context, I was able to live fully inside every moment and for me, that made all the difference. I didn’t want to meet people who could burst my bubble of Roman love, and shied away from the jaded and self-aware Americans I saw at English-language movies and bookstores.
In the same way I did with Marco in Rome, when I moved here to be with Cal I let him introduce to me to his world; his friends became my friends. And there the similarities end. Whereas in Rome my best friends are all gay Italian men my age, here they are all married English women, a bit older than I am, with children of widely varied ages. (One of the women is Scottish, I’m sure she’d want me to point out.)
Being with these strong, competent, funny women on a regular basis has defined my experience here – and, as in Rome, in the best possible way. I won’t get into exactly how or why, lest I sink into yet another rant about Montpellier; it suffices to say that I have benefitted greatly from having their perspective, both as women and as expats, as part of my world view during this time in my life.
On paper, I share nothing in common with either the Gay Mafia or the Montpel Sisterhood. But they make my life richer and more fully lived, and the bond I share with them is real and unshakable.
So, to answer Cherrye’s questions, I think perhaps the American women whom Cherrye has learned do not want to hang out with their fellow countrywomen simply don’t feel that a shared passport creates an automatic bond, although I can’t say that I have rejected people from my own country outright since moving overseas. I simply don’t feel the need to seek out American women in either city; to me, my American girlfriends are the ones I have in the States – another group of amazing women, for whom an ocean between us means nothing when it comes to our friendship.
One glorious day, when Cal and I move to Rome, he will trundle off in search of expats, as that is how he rolls. I will be reunited once again with my Gay Mafia. I sincerely hope I will meet the American “Italy girls” whose blogs I follow and experience the kind of friendship Cherrye values so highly. I say, bring it on! The more the merrier.