The Mating Ritual & Stages of Getting to Know Your New City

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If you know me, you’ll know it’s not often I quote All Saints. But if I was to say:

“Sometimes I feel like my only friend
is the city
I live in – the city
of cities
lonely as I am, together we cry we cry we cry
at least I have his love,
the city, he loves me…”

would you be humming in unison, or thinking for the love of god someone give that girl some Prozac?

Long-standing convention has it that cities, like ships, are dames. Quaint as I find the notion that English affords the feminine gender to two inanimate objects out of half a million, I have to disagree. (A cidade in Portuguese, la ville in French, la cuidad in Spanish, la ciutat in Catalan, la città in Italian – yep, you’re all wrong.) The city, at least in the case of Barcelona, is most definitely a dude.

I know this because we’ve been in a relationship now for almost a year. True, we jumped the gun somewhat, and moved in together very quickly. I didn’t know his friends, couldn’t speak his language and had serious doubts about the carnivorous shopping habits of his mother. And don’t even get me started on domestic hygiene issues. In many ways, it’s been the typical first year of any relationship.

Interior of the Sagrada Familia

Every good side…

Sant Jordi inside the Sagrada Familia

has its dark opponent.

The first flush

Ah, those truly halcyon days. We met at all hours, frantic frenetic, neither of us wanting to hang up first. I tripped about the Gótico, camera in one hand, mobile phone in the other, cooing merrily at his medieval architecture, beckoning backstreets and unusually deep sense of history. He was unchartered new terrain. I told myself his dark, brooding nature was an attractive idiosyncrasy and I’d have no qualms taming him out of it.

He cooked clams in Romesco sauce and I swooned. Of course, that could have been the Cava.

The 6-month mark

We hold hands less these days. In fact, public displays of affection are limited more and more to being sardined up against each other on the metro and the odd grope from a resident sleaze. Of which there are many. He loves me, he loves me not. He’s stopped wearing aftershave. I sense he’s a little colder. There are days I think he’s just plain rude. I engage my elbows and learn to raise my voice to make myself heard.

Christmas is fun but slightly subdued. I accept his gift of a shitting log with a smile that’s more grim than amused. Still, the dancing is good.

Our first major fight is over a tube of toothpaste in a supermarket. His harpies surround me, cackling in Catalan, disputing who came first in which queue. There are days I am ready to pack it all in.

Flowers left at the shrine of El Santet

I never promised you a rose garden

Our 1-year anniversary

My one year anniversary was in April. Am I settling? This is what I find I keep asking myself, usually around four in the morning. If I bail, will I ever find anyone else? What about the sea and the sand and the and and and?

I don’t delude myself for a minute. No hoary hand-in-hand on the pier for us – some bling young thing will have caught his eye a long, long time beforehand.

In the meantime I learn compromise. ‘Compromiso’ is also ‘commitment’. In one week’s time we’ll mark Sant Jordi with roses and books instead of rings. There are serious long-term trust issues, but the geography of his body is solace.

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