Let me help you freak out really quick because I know that’s what a lot of you are going to do right now. You’re thinking, “What the fuck did you just say? Italy isn’t special?! How dare you! How dare you. If it’s not special than leave!” Yes, I’m an asshole, yes, I swear, and yes, sometimes I write critically about my second home: Italy. Now, that we’ve totally lost it, let’s get to the post.
I started blogging in 2007 with my other blog Dirty, Filthy, Things. It was a blog where I wrote (and still occasionally write) about my life, my childhood, and social problems. I studied sociology in college, have been in and out of activism for most of my life, and I care deeply for anyone or anything that can’t stand up for itself. Sometimes way too much. Writing is cathartic for me, it’s something my college psychologist recommended in order to better deal with my anxiety, depression, and otherwise “crazy,” cyclical thoughts that go round, and round, and never stop. Haven’t tried it? Try it. Scribble out that crazy and you’ll feel a million times better. Writing gets things out of my head, away from my body, so I can calmly live without it eating my brain. I also know from experience on both ends that writing can help other people make sense of their world, it can change people, it can change the world. The internet is both amazing and terrifying for this reason: Ideas spread quickly. It’s good because it gives the world the ability to connect, to understand one another, to work out problems, to work on ourselves, to make the world better, but it also gives a platform to assholes (like ISIS or the KKK) who spread ideas that are not progressive, are rather rooted in hate.
When I blog in DFT, I sometimes write critically about the US, about gender inequality, racism, the porn industry, about my dog, and the problem with assholes owning dogs, I talk about the right to choose, and social injustices that people of color face on a regular basis. I also talk about my mom, how she has worked as a stripper, a construction worker, and a nurse in her life. Or my father, the immigrant business man, who banned tank tops from our house and forbade me to talk with male store workers because “we all know what men tink, Misty.” I talk about the dichotomy of my upbringing: Rich and poor, white and brown, protestant and muslim, conservative and hippy-liberal. I write about these things to have a better understanding of them, of myself, and to give other people with similar lives something to relate to, or people with difference lives something to laugh at or appreciate or inspire or to make them cry or call their parents and say, “thank you for being normal.” You’re welcome. Also, to lend a voice to issues that need to be addressed out loud as a form of support, and in hopes of changing things for the better. I won’t lie, it’s also nice just to vent once in a while, and even that can be useful at both understanding myself, and the world in which I grew up: Somewhere between the US and Iran. And later Italy.
I moved to Italy in 2009 for art school. I stayed to start a design company with my friend Jessica. We both fell in love there and then stayed even longer to be with our partners. After growing up with my dad, though we’re close and I love him, I never wanted to marry a foreigner. That shit is hard. It’s hard for the kids who get lodged between two worlds they never really belong in, and it’s hard for the parents who are always a little bit stuck in misunderstandings. It’s also good. One (who is drunk) could say I’m “well rounded,” on top of being completely fragmented.
ME in Sperlonga (Not Sperm-Longa…apparently) with Francesco in 2013. Gorgeous and so fun.
I began blogging about Italy just to process the difficult things that were happening in my life. The frustration of cross-cultural dating, of in-law problems, and to document really embarrassing, funny, or wonderful days that I had so I wouldn’t forget about them. Life is short. I’m scared of forgetting even a moment, be it terrible or fantastic. The longer I lived in Italy the more I became interested in social issues, politics, and economics. The same things that were relevant to me in the US became relevant in Italy because it was my new home and I planned on living in Italy possibly forever. If it’s my home, and I want it to be a great place for my children to grow up, I’m going to address social problems. I’m going to complain about flaws in the system, in the culture, things that we as a society could do better. It needs to be talked about or it can’t change and the entire point of being alive is to leave the goddamn world in better shape than how we found it.
Talking about problems can make them go away. And that’s why I have and always will on occasion turn a critical eye on any place I call home, or any part of my identity. It’s an obligation I think we all have in existing in the world. Italy is beautiful, amazing, I love it so much, but it isn’t perfect and she isn’t special. I’d no sooner call Italy perfect than I’d wave an American flag and scream AMERICAN NUMBER FUCKING ONE! It’s the same thing, only a different zip code. Both seem ludicrous to me. Every country has it’s beauty, and every country has it’s dark-side that could use a little bit of fixin’ so the world can be that much more badass. And so I can analyze myself later on to see where I need to improve, grow, or grow-up (and I always need to grow up).
I realize that “better,” can also be subjective. I won’t deny that I can approach things from a completely ethnocentric, egotistical, asshole perspective of a know-it-all American (which is exactly 1/2 of my identity). The irony doesn’t escape me that I’m from a country that was colonized by a country that gave the world the “We are all that is right in the world,” imperialism for the “good of the people who don’t know any better.” But then again, so did Rome, the Persians, the Greeks, the Turkish, the Arabs….everyone. Basically everyone is just a “know it all,” asshole at the end of the day.
It’s really the way we all approach the world, with a myopic view, narrow-minded, comparing things to the only things we know. This is also why nobody is really “right,” when discussing certain things in any country. Even locals, Americans in the US, or Italians in Italy, are not great at discussing their own culture or issues because they/we tend to base everything on our own damn friend group and family. And this is why I think dialogue is so important.
I try my best to acknowledge that I’m just as narrow-minded as everyone else, and attempt to avoid it by using statistics, news sources, and interviews as the backbone of any social commentary that is not an opinion/bloggy piece. Sometimes I’m successful, and often I’m not (depending on how distanced I am from the topic).
The important part is just getting it out there for others to see, react to, think about, relate to, or argue against it (ideally like an adult). Others would disagree. David Sedaris once said something along the lines of, Foreigners are the lowest form of life in any country. So my job as a foreigner is (as many see it) to shut up and just enjoy the goddamn Tuscan sun. I do that, too. I enjoy all of the things that Italy has to offer which is vast and plentiful, but I also feel an obligation to Italy, as I do to the US, to write openly and honestly and at least acknowledge the unsavory (like violence against women, like race issues, like homophobia, or the terrifying resurfacing of anti-semitism in Rome). And really, why must the world be so one-dimensional?
Like most foreign nationals, I choose to love Italy despite it’s flaws, not because I pretend they don’t exist.