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Roma(nce): The curious case of a first glance introvert

Article & Pictures by Leila

When I'm asked "What's your favorite city?", I always answer "Rome!". Yet I've never been there. I only know the city from postcards sent to me by my aunts, from influencers posing with their gelato in front of the Spanish Steps and from movies like Eat, Pray, Love. So far, it's just an idea in my head – or rather an illusion formed from familiar clichés.

For two months, I want to test if I only love the idea of Rome or also the city with all its facets? Is it a coincidence that Roma finds itself in romance?

Recently I had a discussion with friends about introverts and extroverts. Can we all be divided into these two categories? Who is the most outgoing person we know? Who is the calmest? We decided to rate each other on a scale from one introvert, to ten extrovert. They struggled with putting me in one category, ranking me with just one number. The conclusion: when you first get to know me I am a four, later an eight.

Shyness has always been my cryptonite. When I think back to my school days "the shy one" was my label – and I hated it. I hated it, because it was used as the equivalent to being boring. People, who get to know me now, still tend to perceive me as a calm, cold or reserved person in the beginning. Even with the same person, I can switch: one minute I can make someone feel like they are the only person in the world for me and in the next second I cut them out of my life and never give them another thought. Throughout the years, I often felt misunderstood, because people only see the surface. I myself have always been a fan of people whose familiarity you have to work for.

Now alone in Rome, I don’t have my friends, my support system around me. I can hardly rely on somehow ending up at a party and magically having friends. I am not in Hogwarts and I am not in the Room of Requirement. I have to step out my comfort zone and make the effort to approach people myself – inviting people to join me for dinner or going to a flea market together. Then I always wonder how I come across this time. There are days when I think "Wow, I'm cooler than Zoe Kravitz" and others I feel transported back to 6th grade and just want to defend myself with "That wasn't me, that was Patricia“.

One night I meet a girl named Pepa for dinner at Peppo Ristorante, my favourite pizza place in Trastevere. I wear flared jeans and a red leather jacket and I feel confident that night. Pepa has a wolf cut, tattoos and studies fashion design in Valencia. However, she comes across much calmer than I would have expected her from her photos. She reminds me of myself in that moment. I really like it – I think I am attracted to first glance introverts as well. We sit outside, in front of classic italian checkered red tablecloth, order a bottle of red wine and hear the waiters cursing in Italian, arguing over the football match between AS and Lazio. Pepa is sweet and humble and really interested in my life – me on the other hand, I am (besides being sweet and humble of course) so talkative that night. Seems like Rome makes me more of an extrovert.

Over an Aperol in a bar in Trastevere, I talk to another acquaintance about my contrasts. I explain to him that I am sometimes intro- and sometimes extroverted and that it feels like I am nothing really. Even my closest friends have difficulties to understand me and that I sometimes don't understand myself. The words he said are still echoing in my head. He told me: "You can be many persons! In one situation you are like that, in the next you are like that. It's exciting!“. I don't think he has the slightest idea of how much confidence he gave me with that. For him it was probably just a sentence, for me it was the biggest lesson I take away from Rome and at the same time one of the nicest compliments ever.

Why do we always feel the need to divide ourselves into categories? I want to be in multiple ones and I want to be able to switch them when I feel like it! I am introverted and extroverted. I am shy at times and confident at others. Fearful and courageous. Impulsive and hesitant. Warm and cold. As long as I am authentic.

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