10/25/2012 12:17 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST

BRB: My Long-Distance Ex-Boyfriend's Disappearing Act

This picture taken on February 9, 2010 in Paris shows the internet homepage of the dating agency website AFP PHOTO LOIC VENANCE (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)
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This picture taken on February 9, 2010 in Paris shows the internet homepage of the dating agency website AFP PHOTO LOIC VENANCE (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the things keeping me in Italy for so long (I moved here about 10 years ago) has nothing to do with pizza, pasta, fashion or wine. It's the proverbs. I love them, I pore over them and I make note of the moments I live them out.

I recently lived two of them out simultaneously and intercontinentally, which shows you the reach these sage little riddles have. With the correct pronunciation, "Moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi,'" should almost rhyme. Literally, it means that your wife and your bulls should come from where you come from, and the closest English translation is probably "Stick to your own kind."

Well, I tried.

I decided during a prolonged stay in Canada recently to try out a Canadian guy for a change. Different from the average Italian, for sure my Canadian guy would be less likely to be vain, or on a diet not permitting carbs in the evening, or wear smaller jeans than me, or spend more or equal time in the shower or bathroom in general as I do, or be so metrosexual that he could be considered "just gay enough" to wonder about...

Anyway, the most incredible thing happened -- and I do mean that in the most accurate definition of the word -- something I just could not believe. The result was actually another proverb!

"Tutto il mondo e paese."

Literally: All the world is a small town.

Translation: Things are the same wherever you go.

You see, the men I have dated all of my adult life, well, they have this tendency to er... disappear.

I have lived through this disappearance act so many Italian times, and eventually (with the help of red wine and rebound trips to Sicily where everything is hotter and more intense) have survived each one, but this Canadian time just really pissed me off. It was one of my own bulls and this still happened?! No, no, I just couldn't accept it.

It all just went down so quickly. We met, hit it off and I was honest: "I sort of live in two places and I don't know what I'm doing, but I think that If I meet the right person, things will work themselves out," I remember saying. So we started seeing each other for a while and when I had to return back to Italy, we continued things online, knowing I'd be back in Canada after a couple of months.

One day, everything was fine and we were chatting online, as you do when you're far away from your guy. It was pretty late my time -- six hours ahead of Toronto -- and he wrote this:


"?" I wrote. I moved to Italy before Internet slang even existed. I know certain ones in Italian, but not in English!

"Be right back," he responded.


As I said, it was late, so, I went to bed. In the morning, I thought for sure he'd have sent a message, but niente. (That's Italian for "nothing.")

That day, I thought, "That's strange... maybe he had some sort of a problem?" But the days kept rolling on and so I sent a sort of playful message. Niente. Then I thought something terrible had happened, so I scoured his area newspapers for his obituary.


So I asked some Canadian guy friends: "If someone writes 'brb' to you, how long does that mean?" The answers ranged from two minutes to a day or two in the most extreme cases, but never, ever, EVER in the course of my informal survey did any Canadian friend respond with "never."

I then did what I do whenever I have a question: I Googled it.

My "Why men disappear" turned up a blog post that really spoke to me; it wasn't male-bashing or outrageous, it just gave four very reasonable answers as to why my Canadian guy might have disappeared (save for one, but you'll understand that in a minute), so I copied it and started writing him an email.

X, Hi -- you know, after having just done a Google search of obituaries featuring your name, I realized that maybe I should just ask. I was going to just call, but I don't have your number in this phone and I'm way too impatient to wait a couple more weeks until I get there.

I mean, the last time I heard from you, you said, 'brb.'

As you can imagine, I have surveyed every guy I know and 'Be right back' didn't mean to any of them, 'I'm now going to disappear for, well, at least three weeks.'

In my online research I found these explanations for your apparent evaporation, if death is actually being ruled out (and in that case, I do sincerely apologize for disturbing the grieving process of the reader of this email).

Why do we disappear? There are a couple of reasons:

1. I met someone else and at that point you have become insignificant in my life and I don't want to have a big dramatic fallout.

2. This was clearly more serious to you than it was to me and I'm taking it as casually as I can, and that means not calling when I lose interest.

3. I think you're a psycho and I want you to go away... fast.

4. I'm a chicken shit and simply not mature enough to have an 'I don't want to see you anymore' conversation... so being the weenie that I am, I just fade away and hope you will go away quietly as well.

I'm not trying to create drama, I just feel like you owe me at least an email with one of the above numbers pasted into the subject line and I would be satisfied with that.


P.S. I'm really hoping you don't choose number three. Obviously if that were true, I would have just randomly shown up at your work one day looking for an answer to my question.

Now, that was almost six months ago and I've never heard back.

I still don't have a clue what his reason for brb-ing was, and this experience has only made my feelings of initial distrust in people grow stronger, but it has also given me the opportunity to really reflect upon my Italian proverbs and I've come up with a hybrid of my own that hopefully one day, will be useful to all people of any nationality:

"The whole world is one big, small town filled with lots of wives and bulls, and although they all look different and speak differently, be assured they are all pretty much the same."

In Italian, I've decided it will be written like this:

"Il mondo è un piccolo, grande paese dove si trovano tante mogli e buoi che nonostante sembrino diversi fra loro, e parlino fra loro diverse lingue, è sicuro che sono tutti uguali."

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