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We are thrilled to be part of SELF Magazine’s #13for13 New Years Resolutions for a Better 2013 Hangout On Air: FINDING LOVE IN THE NEW YEAR!
Joining us was Jamie Reidy, author and editor at The Good Men Project, and comedian Phoebe Robinson aka Blaria.
We’ll talked about how to find love and enjoy your love life in 2013. CLICK HERE for the Hangout Page where you can watch the hangout, or tweet us any questions after the fact on using the hashtag #13for13.
People love to declare that romance is dead. I don’t think it is. I think it’s alive. It’s just changed. Instead of taking someone to the sock hop and giving them your pin, you declare that you’re “in a relationship” on Facebook and surprise them with a Starbucks latte. Maybe I have low standards for romance though. If you don’t believe that romance still exists then google “wedding blogs” and come face to face with smiling young couples wearing fake mustaches in their wedding photos and take your cynicism elsewhere.
Dating: Still Awkward, Even After the Apocalypse!
One of the first pieces of fatherly advice my Dad imparted to me as a freshman in high school went something like this: “Caitlin, boys only want one thing. To get in your pants. Make sure they know that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and if they don’t like that you kick them right in the…”
Every time my Dad would tell me that he’d have a different slang word for “balls.” “Kajoobies” is a personal favorite. He would also add: “I know this is what boys want because I was one!”
The holidays always make me realize how many great guys I have in my life–and I don’t just mean my dah. My Mom is one of my best friends but I’m a total Daddy’s girl. Not in the sense where I bat my eyelashes and get whatever I want, but in the sense that to this day, I take everything he says as the gospel truth. This complicates things when he jokes around, which is often. Same goes for my grandfathers. My Dad taught me more about love than I could have ever learned on my own by trial and error and forget all those “self-help” books.
Whenever my Dad would give me the “boys only want to get in your pants” speech it always ended the same way. When he was done instructing me on how to kick them to cause the most physical pain, he would look me in the eye and say: “Remember this. No boy, not a single one, will ever love you as much as I do.”
The past three months have been dedicated to completing my thesis, one of the last things I have to do to earn my MFA degree. The experience has been maddening, exhilarating, confusing, gratifying and about a hundred other emotions. And while “love” isn’t the cohesive theme holding my project together, I can definitely see how writing a thesis is a lot like finding a good relationship.
First drafts are like first dates—unpredictable. Some first drafts are great. You’ve finally got all of your ideas on paper and you can tell that there’s potential to create an even better second draft, third, fourth, etc. until everything is smooth sailing. A good first date is a lot like that—if it goes well, you’re likely to go out again, and again, until dating turns into a committed relationship.
At a party celebrating my 33rd, surrounded by married friends talking about honeymoons and Preggie Pops, I gulped red wine and hoped the hot Nordic IT consultant in my office I’d taken two weeks to get up the nerve to invite would show. As the night progressed, and Sven didn’t, I realized: it was my ninth consecutive birthday without a boyfriend.
I switched to vodka and wondered how that alarming statistic had managed to escape my notice until now.
Waking up alone the next morning, I decided: this will not happen again. No more self-organized parties, not another year of one-off dates and two-month textlationships to nowhere. This would be the year I’d kick my single status to the curb and find someone who’d take me out for a nice fish dinner at 34 – a proper boyfriend.
Dove sei tu, luce, e il mattino
Ed Note: We are re-publishing this Guest Blog in honor of John J. Fallon who passed away on May 2 2021. You can read his obituary here.
In 1940, I was 16 and living in France, surrounded by family and friends. I was just the right age to think of life as a love story. I was a romantic, a practical romantic. Love, like life, should not be so fickle. What good is love that is changeable? What good is love that wilts in adversity, that endures only for a night or a week? I wanted a love that never dies, a love that’s constant, passionate, erotic, exotic, energizing, thundering like the ocean waves. I would find love one day.
I knew what I wanted. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. From the day I was fifteen my family had picked the man I should marry. He owned a farm in Corgoloin. I knew I could not love him.
Then Italy declared war on France. It was June 11, 1940.
This was Hitler’s madness reaching into Italy and France, and into our lives. I had lived all but the first two years of my life in France – but now we Italians had become the enemy. The Vichy government who had laid down their arms before the hated German occupiers were now to deport Italians because Mussolini allied them with the Germans. Four months after the Germans entered France, we were on board a train on our way back to Italy through Germany.
I would live throughout the war in Italy, the land of my birth, but not my childhood home. I found work in the Mayor’s office of my new little town of Rezzato, in Italy. I was happy, enjoying my work, helping the people.
Life was quiet, tranquil – except when the bombing and strafing came. The darkness of the town dimmed our spirits. It was as if everyone were hiding; no one wanted to be seen. Then the flares lit up the whole town. We were easy targets. When our office was bombed, I was hurled through the glass door. I still have a scar under my right arm. But I was there in my little town when the lights went on again.
We lived and we prevailed.
By the spring of 1945, the Allies had won the war in Italy, and the Germans were reeling under the constant surge of troops, guns, tanks, all equipment of war, and the endless waves of air assaults. They were beaten on all fronts. It was unconditional surrender. The World War was not over. In the Pacific, Japan was holding out.
But the Americans were already at the magnificent Italian mountains at the Swiss border. Their mission was completed. They stopped to rest in beautiful little cities like Merano, Stresa, and Bolzano. There was great jubilation.
I was in the Mayor’s office when the Americans came into my town.
That’s when I met John.
After months of fighting the Germans throughout Italy, my division – the 88th Infantry Division, Fifth Army Campaign – joined up with our beleaguered troops pinned down at Anzio and two weeks later, together, we entered Rome. The Eternal City was the first Axis capitol to fall. It was June 4, 1944. It was a day of great jubilation. It was a morale-boosting success. But we still had a year of work ahead of us.
My division stayed in Italy for a time. My broken knowledge of Italian proved especially useful when I visited the Mayor’s Office in Rezzato. Before I got to the office, my friend Edgar Weimar stopped me. Now, he looked particularly happy.
“There’s a beautiful girl in the Mayor’s office. She’s one of the secretaries there. Her name is Gina.” Then he said it again, “John, she’s a beautiful girl. You’ve got to meet her.”
I looked at Edgar and tried to figure him out. When we were in the barracks in Camp Gruber in Oklahoma, instead of coming with me to our Thursday night choir practice, he stayed to help the new soldiers who were mopping up our barracks. He didn’t have to. He was just a nice guy.
I said, “Edgar, if she’s so great, why are you selecting me to meet her?”
He said, “John, I have a girlfriend back home in Texas.”
I said, “OK, Edgar, but let me talk to her all by myself.”
I had official reasons to go to Gina’s office. The soldiers billeted in the Palazzo Finaroli needed a meeting place for talks, movies, as well as training sessions, and a sports center for outside games. The town had both, but the Mayor’s permission was needed.
That was how I became part of Gina’s story.
I was struggling with my Italian. Even as Gina was speaking Italian, I detected a touch of French, which I had studied in school and had used during the short time I had been stationed in North Africa.
“Parle francais?” I asked.
She burst out in a torrent of happy words.
I didn’t understand a word of what she was saying.
“Parle doucement, s’il vous plait,” I said.
I had many reasons to go back to the office. I always made sure to go to her desk. I mixed a little business with my visit. I didn’t want the mayor or any of the others to think I was disrupting their business and using the time of a busy secretary.
Visiting Gina in her office, however, was far easier than visiting Gina in her home. Gina was the only daughter of a father who was missing in the war, a strict father who would not countenance a soldier courting his daughter. We were watched by Gina’s mother and Nonna as we looked at some of the many books and magazines that she had. In two days, we knew we had a lot in common. She spoke a little English with such a beautiful accent. Conversation came easily.
Then, I asked her to the Officers’ Dance that Saturday. She could go, but only if she were back by eleven and accompanied by her seventeen-year-old brother, Tino.
An Officers’ Ball was magnificent. The dance floor was well-decorated and the music was romantic. When Gina and I got up to dance, the soldiers’ little dog followed us around. Tino was happy – he loved eating the pistachio ice cream. Gina and I were happy in the joy of our new friendship.
I talked about my family. I told her how honest and trusting my father was. Gina said: “It’s hard to be honest and truthful in war time.”
At eleven o’clock precisely, despite my clumsy handling of the jeep, Gina and her brother were back home. That’s how I got to know Gina.
Then, without warning, I received orders to report to a division that was preparing to go to war in the Pacific. I had thoughts that when I would be going through the Panama Canal on the way to the Pacific, I would be as close as I’d ever get again to my home in Brooklyn, to my parents, my sisters, and all who loved me. The thought that was most in my mind was that I was leaving Gina.
I didn’t know how to say good-bye. I couldn’t promise anything about the future. I was standing in front of her, looking into her eyes. I put my arms around her. I held her close.
I turned slowly. I walked away.
I didn’t look back.
Gina Carries On…
After John left Rezzato, I knew that he was in a camp in the south of Italy preparing to go to the war that was still raging in Japan. He sent me a letter and a gift that was delivered by a mounted soldier, one of his friends still at the Pilazzo Finaroli. When the war was over in Japan and World War II had come to a close, he was sent home to Brooklyn. He sent CARE packages, which we were happy to get.
But then the packages and letters stopped.
After what seemed a long period of silence, I heard from John again. He wrote letters but with no sense of what his intended relationship was to be. Sometimes he wrote in French. Those letters were limited by his vocabulary in French. Then he wrote in English. I took his letters to Mme. Laupert, my English teacher, to have her read them for me. I wanted her to tell me not only what he said, but who she thought he really was. She was a lady of discernment.
At one time after reading one of his letters, she said to me, “I would say he loved you. But I have to search into the words and his writing style. His letters sound like the expression of love of a philosopher or even a Protestant minister.”
I was not completely discouraged by the lack of expression of that lusty love that sometimes can be overpowering. But if he had been more ardent in his expressions, I’m sure I would have felt better.
Meanwhile, I was enjoying my life. I had moved to Zurich in Switzerland to study nursing. I was able to discover and express myself. I graduated, was offered a position, and was happy to take it. Now I had some money to prepare for my future.
A suitor appeared at my door unexpectedly – unbidden and unannounced. He was the man my family had wanted me to marry back in France before the war. He had a large vegetable farm. He was a man of substance. My family had emphasized who he was and all the bonuses there would be for me when I became his wife. But it sounded as if I were being introduced to a business venture instead of to the romance and happiness I anticipated that should come from marrying the one I loved. And suddenly, here he was in Switzerland.
I tried to see him in the best light possible. I enjoyed the two days I spent with him more than I thought I would when I first saw him and he showed all the innocence of a little boy off on a holiday. I felt sad because he was so far from being the man I wanted to marry. I told him as kindly as I could that I was not the one for him. I went with him to the train. I kissed him goodbye. I could kiss him even if I wouldn’t marry him.
John had written more. Somehow, it seemed like love. I knew we hadn’t seen each other enough to be sure.
And then it happened. John had his mother write to my mother to invite me to visit and stay with his family in New York. So he had waited for me. We both had waited.
We were married in Brooklyn three months after I arrived in the United States.
John & Gina Fallon are the authors of A REMEMBRANCE OF WORLD WAR II: AN ITALIAN-IRISH ROMANCE.
Whatever your take on Cook to Bang, I think Mr. Walker is getting at something true—there’s a very real connection between matters of the table and matters of the heart.
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