My Croatian Dance Card

Dance card 1887Lace and ribbons and embroidery on dresses, feathers and ribbons in hair, delicate gloves on a woman’s hands holding a fan, and a Imagedance card on gilt ribbon with a pencil, oh, where did we stray from such pretty things? Okay, okay, okay – our lives are not a Jane Austen novel.  Mr. Darcy is highly unlikely to enter many of our lives with his estates complete with in-home sculpture gallery but, there are things about gentility that just are so…so, well, gracious.

In my 10 months on OKCupid there have been backhanded invitations – Francisco’s ‘come, meet me in Curacao and Bonaire for the week’ and Dominique’s plans to come to the States in conjunction with his work as a photojournalist and go on a week long road trip Imageacross the Great Lakes to Michigan and back, Roland bringing his kids for Christmas (until Roland in the Skype video didn’t vaguely resemble the Roland previously sent in JPEGs and, while not quite Cyrano de Bergerac it was seriously not the same man), and an invitation (sadly) by a married man to come to Egypt all expenses paid, well, you get the idea.

When did men stop being men? I mean courting and wooing and taking care of things that make a woman (even if she is like the 2014 version of Enjoil perfumes’ ad) feel like she is in competent, capable hands? And, least you misunderstand these questions as my maintaining a tether to the 1950s I can assure you I am a modestly feisty feminist.  But really, when did doing things for a woman cease being pleasurable for both parties? Is this the real reason that men know longer know who they are because the lines have become so blurred over something as simple as courtship?

About a week ago my “dance card” for Croatia got its first notation – a formal request for my company, and I am delighted.

“Prvic, Kapri, Murter, they are all wonderful, how you feel about taking a canoe around Kornati islands?”

ImageSea kayaking? YOU, my friend, have a partner any time!

“That would be fun”

I would love to – truly (even if you haven’t formally asked me yet)

“:) I am asking you now, would you come over here to this country, I will take you out the sea…”

Then, yes, I would be delighted. You are the first on my Croatian “dance card”

This follows with proposed fishing for our meal (pray do not make me gut the fish!), cooking them with sea stones ‘brodetto’, drinking cold sparkling Croatian wine, and eating freshly dug wild asparagus (presumably also grilled) brodetto. Knowing how intense the Mediterranean sun can be I mentioned the need for SPF 50 for my pasty white girl skin and he countered with Kantarion oil + olive oil (would an American man even know of such things unless he was gay?).  I think my years of sequestration from the sunlight are about to come to a crashing halt! You wouldn’t think that I’d be so genuinely excited about sea kayaking (or canoeing if such be the case).

Here’s the truth, relocating to anywhere (least of all a foreign country where you don’t speak the language VOLUNTARILY) at midlife is not for the faint of heart. Now add visa applications, supporting documentation such as a business plan and partners (I am blessed to have found truly amazing ones with complementary skills and work ethics who speak English faultlessly), selling a lifetimes worth of things (precious and not so), Imagehaving not a clue where I will live but clearly needing to find a place, arranging the transportation of the things I wouldn’t dream about parting with – yet knowing that their transit will be four to six weeks, and wondering “what am I going to sleep on”?, what do I pack to set up a modest household (with some achingly familiar talismans so I am not completely swamped emotionally)? And how fast can I make all of this happen? It might seem that I am worried about these things – I don’t worry, annoyingly, as friends who have known me for any length of time can testify – but the list of things requiring my attention grows longer with each day.

Generally speaking, I admit , I am not the most practical person. The things I give priority to sometimes will make a person stare in disbelief (no cell phone, no landline by example) but to function at life you must have a tick list, even a mental one, and acknowledge and deal with interdependencies, and do things which have to be done, some sooner than others while some apparently (through others’ lens’) such as decorating the yet unknown environment of my new life (which even as I write this I know reads as ridiculous) less so.  But Maxim (he spent 15 years in the States, his real name is Mladen) came to know how nuts Americans can be about this kind of “stuff” that a proper Dalmatian would never waste their energy over – his familiarity with my culture has become a Imagewelcome buffer to his.  If I ask a question he has a solution without overtly ‘fixing’ anything while he liaises within his community and network to secure answers for me – like finding a really good tapetar to build a tufted ottoman for me to sleep on (and, yes, I used the proceeds from eBay sales of my other things to already purchase a length of blue mohair velvet woven in Italy the same shade of the deepest blue of the Adriatic) while I wait for my bed to arrive in my shipping container (something that can double as a bed for guests when they come to visit).  I never thought I, of all people, would admit that I rather like that a man would step into to do these things to help me.

Maybe that is the real reason I need to move to a country where I don’t speak the language; a yet un-learned life lesson. I am finding it is really something to be utterly vulnerable, it forces me to trust and give over power to other people, to not be so independent and ‘cat-like’ as a former boyfriend once chided me in anger (over not needing anyone, just like a cat, least of all him).

That I can attach escapism for my overworked brain to an old-fashioned and proper invitation to go on a date, it is a welcome haven. Just randomly thinking about exploring my new home, a country kornatiadorned with a jeweled necklace of blinding pearl white, emerald green, lapis and azure, with the scent of sea salt and pine and cooking those fresh-from-the-sea fish on stones with a man who, regardless of whether we have some amazing romantic connection, is being a wonderful friend to me before I arrive makes me pause – and breathe.

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