It turns out that it is not that easy to date someone who lives on a different continent from you. First of all, there’s that word – dating, the very nature of which implies that you have someone with whom you go out in the world and do things. You’d think dating someone you’d go out to dinner, see movies, go to parks on nice days like today (it’s 60 degrees out and gorgeous), but when the two of you are on opposite ends of not only the Atlantic Ocean, but the North American Continent, all bets are off.
I didn’t expect it to be a problem when we started – yeah, it’s a “long-distance relationship,” but there’s still the phone, email, skype and even La Poste. Maybe we won’t get to see each other every day, but I’d rather be a girlfriend than not, and I’ll be home by August anyway. Besides, I have all of Paris to distract me.
Right. The situation is not so easy breezy when you’re having a bad day and all you want to do is see your boyfriend – but you can’t, because he’s 10,730 kilometers away. You can’t call him either, because it’s 5am in Seattle and besides the fact that he’s probably asleep, the long-distance charges on your cell phone would be ridiculous. Then you realize that because of the 9-hour difference between time zones and your conflicting schedules you can’t even talk to him voice-to-voice until Saturday. This is when it sucks.
Being boyfriendless because you’re single in Paris is fantastic – there’s a never-ending supply of amorous French boys to take you out, you can go dancing and stay out all night without anybody worrying, you can give your phone number to any cute boy who asks for it. But what happens when you’re boyfriendless and not single? When there’s supposed to be one particular American boy taking you out, waiting for you when you come home from dancing with the girls, glaring at the boys who ask for your number on the street – and he’s not there?
I spent four months being single in Paris, and they were fantastic. I spent my weekdays dancing all night at Sciences Po parties and le Queen, and my weekends splitting bottles of wine with French boys with names like Alexi and Jacques (I kid you not) who gave me flowers and wanted to touch my hair. All of those complimentary French boys combined can’t compare with the one boy waiting for me back in Seattle – but the situation we have here is the pits.
There’s a pretty extensive “Weepy girlfriend” club at Sciences Po – at least once a week the subject of the boyfriends left behind crops up in one of my classes. I am never the instigator of these conversations, but I always end up joining in. The girls are different every time, but the lame conversation is always the same:
Sigh, I miss my boyfriend.
Sigh, me too, where’s yours?
(Insert random U.S. or Canadian city). But he’s coming to visit me!
Oh yeah? Mine too? When’s yours coming?
(Insert random week and month)
Sigh, yours is coming before mine – lucky girl!
The cities vary, as do the names of boyfriends and dates of reunification, but nothing else ever does. The recurrent nature of these conversations is due in large part to the fact that nobody ever wants to hear some girl moan about missing her boyfriend while she’s studying abroad – unless the listener has a boyfriend of her own tucked away at home and can’t wait to get through the obligated sympathy comments to moan about her own.
Things are a lot easier now than they used to be – international telephone calls are expensive, but Skype is free, and if you happen to have a webcam, you can pretend for a few minutes that you’re actually in the same room. Despite all your best efforts though, you’re never actually in the same room. If I had a euro for every time I’ve heard “I was webcamming with my boyfriend the other night, and…” somewhere at Sciences Po, I could…um…buy another webcam.
What can you do, though? There’s an empty spot next to me where a boy is supposed to be, so instead of calling him when I’m having a bad day, I flirt with the bus driver, pause a little longer than I should watching the French boys play soccer in the jardin des Tuileries, develop an inappropriate crush on my vie politique professor and devote entirely too much time and energy to finding Rachael a French boy. There’s nothing else to do – except wait.