I’ve been offering little glimpses into my life for the past two years. I started blogging three years after I’d lived in Italy so there was a lot that happened before that, many backstories to the shit I talk about now. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been telling little stories here and there from before I met all of you. This post is particularly important because it introduces F’s parents into the picture. Many of you know my turbulent relationship with them but not many know how it started. Here we go.
I met Francesco while drunk, interviewed him like an asshole on our first date, and then to follow the pattern of WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME, I invited him over to my apartment for our third date along with every woman from my program. I thought, “If he can handle a room full of women he’s probably worth sleeping with. He did well. He arrived with ice cream in hand from an artisan shop because he’s manipulative and exactly as planned, everyone fell in love with him right away. ” We had our first kiss that day and it was very, very romantic. I’ll never forget it. He sat in my living room with his chest hair majestically blowing in the cross winds from my open windows. He was talking with one of my best friends who is also an engineer when he turned and said to me, “Where is your bathroom?” I gestured for him to follow me. We passed the bathroom and he was all, “Is this your bedroom?” and I was all, “yeah,” and then he walked inside, turned, grabbed me, and kissed me for like two seconds. I backed away, said, “okay, so, the bathroom is over there,” and ran back to the living room to mouth “he kissed me” to all the girls because I’m twelve years old. He left about twenty minutes later. We were so in love.
On our fourth date he took me to a pizza place near his “new apartment” and told me that if I was interested in dating someone only for sex I could go elsewhere because he was interested in a relationship. What? Yes. I found this incredibly sexy because I have low self esteem and anything difficult must be valuable, right? And I need to have valuable things to show I’m worthy. You know, basic psychology and shit (and a little bit of exchange theory). I nodded and tried to process how I was going to be in a relationship and move back to ‘Merrrrca soon. On our fourth date we totally did it and it was awesome. Two weeks after that I dumped him because he was being a monkey. He tried to win me back by chasing me through the Duomo Piazza with a guitar. I screamed, “why are you doing this to me?” While running very, very fast. Then we got back together a month later (but not before he slept with other people who were WAY, WAY UGLIER THAN ME, and stupid, and smelled like cheese, I hope). We were a hot mess those months yet I fell in love with him anyway because we kind of just “got” each other despite all the bullshit. We’re not similar. We’ve always fought and annoyed each other. Love, for me, hasn’t been about getting along perfectly, never fighting, or having the same interests. For me being with my husband has been a journey of deciding we would make it work together and being persistent in making it work. I think the decision to stay together was the most important step for us because husband’s are annoying, if things were tentative I’d never have moved forward. I had to decide that “this asshole is MY asshole,” hell or high water and only then was I willing to work on myself and force him with weapons to work on himself so we could be awesome together. Never underestimate what you can do with a ceramic bowl, ladies. Sure, our “honeymoon period” never came and it probably never will but if it does you’ll know because I’ll have nothing to write about. I’m off topic sort of. Shit. As I was saying…
Five months into the relationship we’d both said the “I love you,” thing and we were trying to sort out how feasible it would be for me to stay in Italy longer. I had no idea that pretty soon I’d find myself in an Italian version of The West Side Story, only everyone was dressed really well, eating spaghetti, and drunk. Also, there were cupboards slamming and frying pans flying. Basically it was Romeo & Juliet, only modern, with graffiti, and swearing. You get the idea. It started when Francesco became really fixated on the idea of me meeting his parents. I said no the first five times. I wasn’t interested in meeting them because I’m anti-social and scared of people, but also because I didn’t speak any Italian at that point AND because I still thought I’d be returning to the US sooner than later and I naively thought that I might get attached to his family. “No need to form a relationship when we have no idea where our relationship will be in a few months.” It was cute that I thought I would “form a relationship.” I finally agreed though when he promised me booze and parties. “We’ll go out with my friends there. You can bring a friend! It will be so fun!” I was such an idiot.
I asked my roommate along with me to settle my nerves but I was terrified on the drive down to his mini hometown. I desperately wanted his parents to like me. I put so much pressure on it that I caused a stream of panic attacks, practically overloading myself to a mental place where it would be impossible to function. When we arrived my throat completely closed up. When their front door swung open I couldn’t even squeeze out a “buonasera” to his parents who studied me silently. The mother lingered behind the father, she looked at my shoes, and slowly went up until she met my face and forced an awkward smile. His parents looked like they were in mourning. They showed my friend and I to one room, F to another, and almost immediately the three of us said goodbye and went out to meet his friends for drinks and general trouble-making.
The next day we had lunch with his parents. We ate in near silence for the first twenty minutes. His parents didn’t ask me any questions, nobody spoke to me, though they spoke a little to my roommate and Francesco. Sure, I could have started the conversation but my biggest challenge with learning Italian has never been that the language is difficult rather that I’m too scared to speak to people. I’m not talkative in general, I don’t often talk about the weather or my hair, I have no idea how to have conversations about normal things. I’m similar in English but in Italian it’s even worse because not only do I do not know how to say, “Bonobo Chimpanzees resolve tribal conflicts with sexual gratification,” or “unicorns would make excellent body-guards,” in Italian, but I’m also pretty sure that no Italian I knew at that time would want to hear it. So we silently sat at the round dining room table, course after course. F nudged me a few times demanding I try to speak but other than, “this food is delicious,” I couldn’t manage it. I drank wine as if it were water because I hoped that it would loosen me up and inspire me to speak. At the end of dinner I tried to help clean up to show that I was a decent person but the mother scolded me. I sat back in my chair knowing that I was totally fucked.