Can men and women relate to each other as people and create lasting friendship bonds even if there’s not a sexual relationship in place?
When I was 33, I found myself living in Italy. I went for a two-week vacation and stayed for two years. It was my first time in Europe, first time outside of North America, and I was smitten. Despite the struggle to learn Italian, I was suddenly seeing the world in Technicolor. The wine and the men were intoxicating; the people were warm, vibrant and intent on living life to the fullest. I felt like I’d finally found home.
Among the many characteristics that I loved about my single Italian friends was the way they moved together in a sort of gregarious herd. Some were “socially” single, others were “in a relationship” and a few were separated from their spouses. But whatever their romantic relationship status, it wasn’t the big deal like it is here in the United States. What was important was the connection they shared as friends. They could tell you, if you asked, who was with whom or who was unattached, but there wasn’t a social division based on single- not single, married- not married.
The group that adopted me into their circle consisted of about 30-40 men and women, and on any given night, a subset of those would meet at a piano bar near the Piazza Duomo, have dinner at a nearby trattoria or gather in the park on Sunday for an impromptu game of soccer.
Besides being enjoyable, the purpose of these gatherings was to maintain and nurture their connections — which they valued highly. If a couple in the group broke up, whatever drama that occurred stayed between the two of them. Their presence in the larger group remained constant. The over-arching friendship, which had been in place for years and pre-dated the romantic one, was too important to sacrifice for a transitory romance.
Their friendship sustained them through job changes, home changes, family deaths and illnesses and was in place to celebrate successes and encourage them to move forward to achieve their goals. It was an underlying support system that remained solid throughout life’s ups and downs.
My vision for SingularCity, the social network component of Singular magazine, is that it would be like one of those beautiful Italian-style social circles. And I think those who participate would agree that to a certain degree, it is. Yet it’s still a truly foreign concept for Americans to embrace. What, men and women getting together to enjoy each other’s company without sex or romance as the only objective? Most Americans will tell you it’s impossible and I might have thought so too – before I saw it for myself when I lived in Milan.
Now if my charming Italian friends can do it, certainly we Americans can too — if we would just open our minds to the idea and drop those tired, 1950s-era ideas about men and women and their ability to relate to each other on a human-to-human level.
Statistically speaking, we’ll spend more of our adult lives single than married, and single people are close to 50 percent of the population in the United States and growing. Certainly, a solid, long-term social network between us would be beneficial — a social network that stayed intact regardless of gender, who we were dating, or if we were dating at all.
And we don’t even have to move to Italy to find it. We can create it right here. All it takes is the willingness to change our perception about what it means to be single and take the necessary steps to create or join an enduring circle of singular friends — Italian style.
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2014 Singular Communications, LLC.