YLC’s fabulous dating guru Claire Duffy on her summer of love, the therapy of column-writing and why it has been awesome to become a kick-ass Swedish woman.
And so we have arrived at the end of my little summer column of lovin’. It has been surreal at times, when complete strangers approached to ask what was happening with the guy I wasn’t allowed to write about (it fizzled out), thank me for blowing the whistle on the technicolor-dream-underpants situation (someone had to), and on one occasion insist they knew one of the men I wrote about (they didn’t).
It’s been a little bit therapeutic: when I first started, I thought to myself that I wouldn’t be able to write about my great Unrequited Love because it was altogether too serious and tragic – then last week thought ‘meh, it’s actually kind of a funny story…’ Most of all it’s been loads of fun pretending to be Stockholm’s answer to Carrie Bradshaw, albeit less Manolo Blahnik heels and more scruffy Converse trainers my mum tries to throw out every time she visits.
I’ve realized that, terrifying though it may be, I quite like being a kickass Swedish woman.
I like feeling free to start a conversation with someone who has caught my eye (“feeling free” and “having the guts to do” being entirely different things, of course) without being trapped by any ridiculous, archaic notions of men liking to do the chasing. I’ve enjoyed feeling in the driver’s seat a little dating-wise, deciding whether or not to ring after a date rather than sitting by the phone wishing and hoping. When your only option is to wait for the guy to call, if he doesn’t it’s difficult not to feel rejected even if you were hoping he wouldn’t. In Sweden, the ball is in both of our courts: if there is no second date, it is equally because he didn’t call and I didn’t either. Mutual rejection - the real gender equality.
While many ex pat women (myself included) are initially aghast at the lack of dude attention when they move to Sweden.
“It’s like I stepped off the plane and became invisible!” wailed an American friend.
But after this summer I’ve decided that – once you get used to it – it’s most certainly preferable. A little while ago, I joined some Swedish friends for a drink. The group included an American friend of a friend who was visiting Stockholm.
As I was mid-flow on some funny story or another, the American suddenly interrupted me to announce that my nails (painted fire-engine red) were turning him on.
I was so taken aback, I just smiled awkwardly and tried to pick up where I left off.
“No, I’m sorry,” he continued, digging his grave, “you’re going to have to put your hands down if you expect me to hear anything you’re saying.”
“No, you’re going to have to bloody well listen properly,” I shot back, and the evening didn’t really improve from there.
I’m quite confident that there are plenty of American men more than capable of hearing what a woman is saying regardless of the colour of her nails, but it struck me then how much I appreciated that such irritating objectification is rare in Sweden.
I definitely recommend online dating as a worthwhile option. It’s a giggle, you never know who might just pop into your inbox, and most importantly, it skips over the slow and subtle dance of the seductive Swede that so bewilders us ex pats. I enjoyed my little foray into it, and may well give it another whirl in the future, though for now, was finding it a bit time-intensive (after accidentally sending a ‘flirt’ to a guy I’d already dropped contact with because he was a bit odd, I seriously considered starting up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them all), and, for me, a little bit clinical. Cynical though I may be, I believe in something amazing appearing organically in my life when I least expect it, and instinctively I sense it won’t involve an Excel spreadsheet.
A few columns ago I quoted Greta Garbo as Queen Christina, explaining to her Chancellor that she wouldn’t die an old maid but a bachelor, and I think that sums me up for the time being. I may or may not die a bachelor, but, for now, I’m rather enjoying living as one…