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Older Men/Uomini Anziani

I never thought my romantic life would skyrocket in Florence. my ideal man.

At least, that's what the universe is telling me.

Not to brag, but after a year of living in Florence, I have been asked for my phone number by four (!) different eligible bachelors. All completely lovely. All had a ton of questions about my life and my interests. All invited me for coffee, or dinner, or drinks...

All were over 70 years old.

I was on my way home from a fun evening out last night--my friend Dafna organized an evening at Formaggioteca Terroir in the San Niccolò neighborhood of Florence (an excellent place for an aperitivo, date night, or get-together with friends)--and I was saying goodbye to a new friend, Jacqueline. In my peripheral vision, I could see an older gentleman standing alone, staring into the courtyard of the Uffizi, but I didn't think anything of it until after Jacqueline and I parted ways. He started asking me a series of questions in Italian.

How are you? How was your evening? Where did you go? How was the food? What did you have? Does the place have any specialties? Where is it located?

Let's hit pause. No one is that chatty with a stranger, that curious about someone's passing. Maybe he's lonely, I thought. Maybe he's a widower and doesn't have anyone to talk to. Why is he out this late at night--past 11 p.m.--standing by the Uffizi??

Then, he asked...where are you from? I'm American, I said.

Oh, I thought you were from Florence!?

Boom. There it is.

Despite the hearing loss that older people often have, I would bet my life that he most certainly heard that I said goodbye to Jacqueline in English. So him saying that made me realize...he's hitting on me. After I told him that I was American, he said that my accent sounded Florentine. Dead giveaway, dude--I most certainly have an accent, but there is no way you think I'm from Florence. No amount of Italian lessons would get me to that point--I'd actually have to pursue a dialect/enunciation coach to reach that level.

I'm probably always going to distinctly pronounce my c's, for example. Florentines in particular are famous for what Italians call the c aspirata, part of a collection of sounds typical to Tuscany, the gorgia Toscana. One example of this is that there is a breathiness to words that start with the letter c. Coca Cola turns into something that sounds like "Hoha Hola." Just to say casa, or house, sounds more like "hasa." And I truly believe that no matter how long I'm here, that habit in my speech won't sink in.

I mean, I learned Italian in Milan, not Tuscany. Making my c's that breathy would be more intentional than natural. Teachers at my language school tell me my accent sounds more Milanese than Florentine, which makes sense to me, because who knows what has stuck around from when I was 13? Kids are sponges, after all, so maybe my pronunciation is the souvenir that lives in my body from our Italian adventure in the 90s.

But, I digress. Once I realized my new friend was going somewhere with his compliments, I said I had to go. I was anxious to be home and had a 20-minute walk ahead of me in the cold.

"Devo tornare a casa," (I have to return home) I said.

"E se vuoi un caffè qualche volta?" (And if you want a coffee some time...?) he said.

Lie, Stefanie. LIE.

"Ho un fidanzato," (I have a boyfriend).

"E dov'è stasera?" (Where is he tonight, then?)

"A casa. Ho deciso di uscire con alcune amiche." (At home. I decided to go out with some girlfriends.)

"Capisco. È stato un piacere." (I understand. It was a pleasure.)

"Anche per me, buona serata." (For me, too. Have a nice evening.)

*Note: The above Italian could be grammatically incorrect, that's just how I remember it :)

The thing is, it was a pleasure talking to him. It was nice for someone to show genuine interest. There was a moment on my walk home when I realized that being singled out and interrogated felt special. I'd just like it to happen with someone in their 40s instead of someone who's older than my father, that's all--because regardless of how not into it I was, I don't particularly like the feeling of rejecting someone.

Lesson learned, I guess. Even though I'm gearing up to tackle the psychological minefield that is using a dating site (in Italian, no less!) and have more social commitments than ever on my calendar, maybe my best bet to find someone is just...go to a retirement home?

I have been meaning to look into volunteer opportunities, after all...


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