I believe that the structure of any relationship, of establishing trust, of migrating toward rather than pulling away from another is based upon tiny imperceptible nuances of behavior as well as ‘acceptable’ standards. Some people just ‘fit’ together with ease, others find a way of working through to meet someplace in the middle, some compromise better than others. Still, there is the level of self-esteem we cultivate within us which tends to set the bar a bit higher (hopefully) for people entering our lives. I do not believe that culture or religion or geography or age have so much to do with this as the individuals involved – a natural harmony that is easy to feel as well as to recognise in its absence.
It’s no secret that I aspire to make a move to Sweden. As a quasi-realist I recognise the total impracticality of shipping 30 years of my worldly possessions via slow boat and then being hit with any related import duties on my fantastic collection of 18th and 19th century antiques. No, I am selling most of this before leaving the States. Given the wonders of the Internet I am able to poke around Stockholm online to source ‘replacements’. I am currently nominally sick to my stomach over my inability to have negotiated the purchase of two such pieces – one, a slightly damaged (could always be restored) Gustavian-style five arm (non-electrified) chandelier and the other, a very practical, early 19th century bracket foot English mahogany butler’s writing bureau with the original brasses and key! As anyone could see from the photos, even without knowledge of my specific decorating aesthetic, these two pieces would have been amazing in the same room, my living room ‘to be’ in Stockholm. In the United States, specifically Boston or NYC, these two pieces combined would have a retail cost someplace considerably north of $10,000 (as I discovered a nearly identical chandelier is priced at $28,500! at Belevdere Antiques they also have a similar writing bureau in stock though it is Swedish); yet their final combed price with 22% auction commission and a ‘whatever fee’ of $60 USD each would have brought their grand total to $364.50 USD. Yes, you read quite correctly, THREE HUNDRED, SIXTY-FOUR DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. Now, some of you antique freaks are likely screaming at your computer monitor “WTF! WHY DIDN’T YOU BID??” let me explain. For starters to bid it was requisite to have a Swedish social security number, which I wouldn’t have been able to secure in time for the ending time this afternoon and their offices were closed when I discovered the auction late yesterday and so would have been impossible to come up with a Plan B; the second half of the reason has more to do with my opening paragraph.
You see I DID actually reach out to a man in Sweden that I had met through OKCupid some months ago and with whom there has been a very nice dialogue. He has done some remarkably thoughtful things (such as sharing advertisements for jobs) so I asked him if he would do this favour for me, and in exchange, as he is recently divorced, he could use the bureau until such time as I got myself to Stockholm. It was a practical, logical solution in which everyone would win – and he could have been a hero to me. To be fair, I proposed the structure of this be such that gave him the amounts I could spare for each item and even strategically framed the “how to” to improve my chances of success. I figured out what I could afford, plus the fees, and gave him the amount and told him that I would transfer the funds to him via PayPal IMMEDIATELY at the close of the auction.
My rationale in purchasing these being that I was going to need a place to write, to store some of my clothes and, for romantic evenings cooking and cuddling with my potential lover that a chandelier with candles was going to be incredibly ‘practical’. But, despite that I am so transparent, and that this lovely man seemed very interested in exploring some kind of a relationship with me, something was off in his willingness to do ‘my bidding’ as it were. I don’t think it is being American or being Swedish, and I would like to believe that it wasn’t even about the time involved or the technical logistics of my transferring the money, but I am sure it is about trust. Trust cuts both ways. From my perspective to prove I trusted him enough to assist with my migration, I was willing to hand over the money “in good faith” in advance of actually having physical possession so that he would assume zero financial exposure. I figured in the event that he absconded with the chandelier and the bureau, it would be relatively inexpensive in contrast with something potentially much more costly later on. But the Skype dialogue made it quickly clear that this wasn’t within his comfort zone. He wasn’t inclined to bid on the pieces without my arranging the money to be sent to him in advance, (as if I had a crystal ball to determine what the end bid would be and the amount I would owe him) and, as he doesn’t have a PayPal account, I couldn’t even (easily) transfer the funds to him post auction; a logistics nightmare.
I have to recognise that when it comes to extending ourselves for other people, or levels of trust, that not everyone is easy with entangling their lives with others to the same degree I am. There will be other auctions, and other chandeliers and desks and chests of drawers and carpets and art to decorate my new home and I just have to let go of the ones that got away. (Though my frustration at not ‘getting the look’ for a pittance borders on apoplectic.) I also came to realise two other things from this experience – that although damn inconvenient to live minimally again once I arrive in Sweden, as with most of my life, I need to do these things myself and, this man is so clearly not the right man for me.