Some of our friends drove down to Cassino to see F and I, while we were staying at his parents apartment a few weeks ago before the holidays. The dudes went out to do some running around and they left us women at home to continue drinking and talking shit. Me, my australian friend, and a Florentine friend were sipping wine and cocktails in the living room in front of the stufa chatting about cultural differences between our respected motherlands, and of course men. One thing that all nations have in common is the need to talk about the opposite sex on occasion. It’s shit-talk that binds us. So basically we were trying to hold the world together. Peace on earth exists because of us.
Australian Woman: I really do love F. He’s lovely. I’d love to marry an Italian guy from the south one day. I love how family-oriented they are and the large meals and the close family. It’s really lovely.
Italian Woman: Really!? Are you-a sure about-a dat? I wouldn’t be-a so sure-a.
Australian Woman: [In a cute australian accent that I don’t know how to write in convo] Really? Well, why not? Because of the south? I know that the north and south have their differences.
Italian Woman: No. I mean yes, but no. Italian men-a in general. In my opinion dey expect too much from-a women. There are exceptions, clearly, but most of them just expect their wife to do too much.
ME: I think you have to be careful in every country. American men can be cold, aggressive, and kind of monkey-ish. The key is to find one that is really “weird” in the sense that they’re not “typical” in any country. F is weird and he’s pretty awesome but I watch a lot of his male friends with their partners and it’s really a lot like watching a mom with a son, it totally freaks me out and seems incestuous. The men expect a lot and the women feel a lot of obligation it seems. Most of my Italian female friends don’t want to marry their boyfriends because they say they aren’t willing to be “his mother.” In fact you can see that in the nations marriage statistics now. Italian women are not getting married anymore. Now they’re traveling and partying. Women should party more. Men should cook and clean more. And they should start giving birth, too. Everyone wins!
Australian Woman: What do you mean?
Italian Woman: It’s a problem in Italy that mothers do too much for their boys and so very few men have no responsibilities growing up. Sometimes they are treated like princes. When they get married they expect to be treated the same way by their wives. Before, in my parents generation it was normal but now women have careers and options and they’re not willing to cook, and clean, and raise childrens alone. But as I said, there are exceptions. There are a few men out there who are not this way.
ME: Do you have a brother?
Italian Woman: Yes.
Australian Woman: Did you notice a difference in how you were treated growing up?
Italian Woman: Yes. I was given responsibilities around the house for example. My brother was never expected to do anything. I’d help cook or clean and he’d sit around. It was considered normal.
Australian Woman: Ah, yes! I had an Italian boyfriend for a while. I remember being at his parents house and he would just sit around and do nothing. He never helped his mother clean up or set the table. Nothing. I remember thinking that it was the strangest thing.
Italian Woman: That’s normal in many Italian families.
ME: Ah! Same with my in-laws! My F’s sister was expected to help and do chores. F never had chores around the house. He was also allowed to stay out until midnight while his sister who was five years OLDER than him had to be in by eight p.m. because she is female. Now, in her own family, she works and so does he yet she does all of the housework and all of the cooking.
Australian Woman: NO BLOODY WAY! In my family we all had to help out. Girls and boys, everyone! And in a marriage there is no way I’d do it all by myself. That would drive you mad! That’s incredibly sexist, isn’t it?
Italian Woman: Yes, in the south that’s not so surprising about the earlier curfew for the girl. It’s still a little traditional in some parts of the south. But even in Tuscany the men typically rely too much on their mothers and are not expected to help very much. I have a friend who bought an apartment recently. He didn’t build a kitchen in it because he said he didn’t need it since his mother would bring over his food. He can’t even make coffee in his home because he didn’t install a stove. In 2013.
ME: My mother would let me starve. I’ve heard these types of stories before and I’ve seen it a lot too. I have a few friends who own business’ yet they live at home and their mums still do their laundry, cook all of their meals, etc.
Italian Woman: Yes. It’s common. But I think it’s the problem with the mothers. They like to do these things for their boys but the problem is that they are not teaching them to be independent. How can they be a good husband if they are raised like this? If the man lives alone for a long time, travels a lot, or lives abroad they are not usually like this. But the ones who live at home or near their mothers and they don’t travel…I wouldn’t marry one of them. I wouldn’t date one of them.
ME: Do you think they really like to do it or do they do it because it’s how they show love according to society? My suocera does these things too because she loves her family but when I talk with her about it she hates it . She says, “Italian women we have to do too much. I work full time. I cook. I clean. I raise the children. We do it all and in the end we’re insane because this is our life. Too much expectations and the men do too little.” However, she doesn’t want her son to feel “unloved” so she continues to do it.
Italian Woman: That is a possibility. It’s changing. Italian women are smarter and are not interested in this position of maid and mother anymore. Men are changing, too. When men move out of Italy for work now and move far away from their mothers for at least a few years. Once they become independent I believe men from my country can be really great husbands and fathers. But, I would never be with a man who never traveled or who has lived with his mother. For example, so many men live with their mothers until they marry. This is normal in Italy. But it never gives them a chance to become independent so they go from the house of their mother into the house with their wife and they just assume that the woman will do all the laundry, all the cooking, do everything, like his mother. We don’t have this problem with women. Women, it’s assumed that they are independent, they even move out younger. My advice to you [to my Australian friend] would be to find an Italian man who has traveled, lived outside of Italy for even a year, and who lives in a different city than his mother. Then he is probably a great man. Otherwise, I would be very careful.
Me: F moved away for a while and he’s very modern. We do everything 50/50 unless he’s at his mother’s home and then he’s nearly useless. But most of our friends who moved out for university are very modern and different, too. That seems pretty true. If F decided that he was a prince and stopped helping I would just let him live in his own filth until hepatitis set him straight. I have shit to do. Cannot do the maid thing.
Australian Woman: Well now I’m bloody scared!
Italian Woman: Yes. Well, welcome to Italy.