I’ve Been Busy Lately: Where I Am When I’m Not Right Here

These past two weeks has been a whirlwind of all things Italy. I’ve been talking with some people about my book, I’ve had WRITER’S BLOCK AGAIN but it’s okay because i’m hopeful that I can overcome it with some wine and maybe a mini vacation. I was lucky enough to do an interview with very sweet and brilliant italian filmmakers where we discussed fascism, the emigration of Italian youth, gender inequality,homosexuality, and religion (and nobody yelled at me! Hooray!) I did an interview for a tour guide that is coming soon, and another interview with a lovely fellow blogger. PLUS! I got to have this conversation with my in-laws:


Me: Hi! How are you guys?

MIL: GOOD! How are you? What did you eat today?

FIL: You ate shit!

MIL: SHUT UP! What did you eat today?



ME: Okay, Okay. Yes, we ate shit. Yes. So, anyways, what have you been doing?

MIL: Nothing. The same. What have you been doing?

FIL: What HAVE YOU NOT BEEN DOING!? When are you going to make a baby! MAMMA MIA! THIS IS TAKING FOREVER! I’ll be dead before you two have a child! WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING OVER THERE!?



ME: Uhm, yeah, we’re uhm, busy with work and stuff.



Both together: MAMMA MIA! OH DIO!

Francesco (blushing and getting all embarrassed because sex is naughty and he was raised catholic): Okay, okay, well nice talking to you guys. We have to go…



Me: Okay, great, bye guys. Have a good day.

MIL & FIL: Oh, okay, Ciao!

Me: Vi voglio bene

FIL: Oh! Uhm, uh, uh, me too!

MIL: huh????

Francesco: Awe!

Me: Okay bye.

We hang up and look at each other. Shrug, and go back to what we were doing.



Interview With Filmmakers Who Brought Us The Documentary, ‘Italy, Love It Or Leave It,’ Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer 

I Was Interviewed For A Tourism Book. An Excerpt Can Be Found at The Ramble by Gigi Grffis Here

I Made This Embarrassing Video Of A Paragraph From One Of My Books



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Italy, Love It Or Leave It: Live Interview With Filmmakers Luca And Gustav

So, one of the best things in the world about this blog is that I get to meet incredible, inspiring people. This morning I was fortunate enough to interview two guys who are trying to give hope to the younger generation of Italians by telling them through their films that things can change and that people care about Italy and are fighting to improve it. These guys are using art to hopefully educate and bring change.

Italy, is a real country, with real problems that has resulted in a mass emigration of Italians to other countries in search of a future and a better life. This documentary asks the question, “Should we stay in our country and fight for it, or leave it?” It’s insightful and something that anyone who has an interest in Italy, whether it be their roots, their love for beautiful vacations, or the food, would enjoy. Check it out!

A Real Look At Italy

A Real Look At Italy

In this video I did a LIVE interview (I’m so bad at this stuff, I know, I know) with the film duo, Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer, who brought us the wonderful documentary, Italy, Love It Or Leave It?, a film about young Italians emigrating from Italy and the many problems that Italians are trying to overcome in their country. SPOILER ALERT! If you HAVE NOT seen the film, skip from 38:20 to 42:09!  Click Here To Watch The Interview

Watch Their Movie Trailer Here: http://youtu.be/NnyFhSi5tPc

You Can Buy Or Rent Their Film Here.

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What To Wear In Italy In The Summer

Every year I get a lot of questions from readers who are taking a trip to Italy about what they should wear. In the summer, it can be a lot more difficult for Americans to blend in. We are, often, a people of comfort. Half of the US stopped putting on real clothes a long time ago, wearing only yoga pants or gym shorts with flip flops. There’s nothing wrong with comfort, but if you’re looking to fit in, you certainly won’t do it with that outfit.


1) Never wear flip flops unless you’re at the beach or near water (a pool, for example).

2) Booty shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top is not considered an outfit unless you are a prostitute. You can wear booty shorts with a real shirt, or, a spaghetti strap with pants. If you’re entire outfit is skin tight and tiny you’ll stand out as a foreign human, and possibly a hooker.

3) Guys, I say this always, but please, burn the damn gigantic pants and the basketball shorts. Burn them. KILL IT WITH FIRE! It’s just not sexy. You’d be surprised to know that women actually like to see your ass a little, seriously, so stop hiding it (having it pop out of the top of your size 400 pants doesn’t count).

4) Ladies, match your bag with your shoes.

5) Everyone, get some cute sunglasses. Get a light scarf to accessorize.

6) Throw your Nike “comfy” shoes in the garbage. If you need comfort, get a show that also looks good with clothes.

7) Ladies, you’ll be surprised to find that “summer boots” are in. Wearing short shorts, or skirts, with light colored slouchy boots. They are less hot than you’d think and they look pretty cute.

8) In Milan they do bright colors but for the most part you never see women walking down the street in a bright pink dress. Think neutrals, white, or navy blue. Guys, let your freak flag fly! For some reason the guys dress more vibrantly. However, you can stick with neutrals as well.

9) Guys, you’ll be excited to discover that converse are a stylish “all ages” shoe. Get a pair of white ones for the summer and you’ll fit right in. No, it doesn’t matter if you’re 50.

10) Guys, think, light slacks (that fit you) and a v-neck t-shirt from American apparel. Super cute.

11) Ladies, think flowy dresses, shirt dresses, booty shorts, slouchy boots, big sunglasses, linen blouses, or v-neck t’s. Of course, there is also House Of Ossimori. Wink, Wink.

12) Guys and Girls: Your daytime clothes and your nighttime clothes are different! Change before dinner. Ladies, put on some heels, guys, put on some loafers. Feel free to wear black. Black at night is always in (and you won’t see a lot of little shorts for dinner time ladies, put on a dress or slacks!).

Below are some fun summer pictures of my friends and I running around. I wanted to show basic/casual style so it’s not super fashionista or dolled up. What am I missing? What would you guys add to this list? Put it in the comments below!

Italy What To Wear

These loose one piece things are a thing in black and neutral. Although, its usually older women but Im old on the inside. And my apostrophe isnt working…sonofabitch!

What to wear in Italy summer

A nightclub in the south.

what to wear in italy

Showing some color

What to wear in italy

My husband in his typical summer outfit. His friends tell him that he dresses like a gay boy. I will take that as a compliment, thankyouverymuch!

what to wear in italy

This is in May so it was still chilly. These are casual day clothes.

what to wear in italy

Another woman working it.

Another Italian woman working it. (She’s the only Italian in this picture, everyone else is a tourist).

It is July. Notice the scarf.

It is July. Notice the scarf.

My 60 year old MIL. She still dresses really cute. Age isnt an excuse to strap on the Nike runners and large pants.

My 60 year old MIL. She still dresses really cute. Age isnt an excuse to strap on the Nike runners and large pants. Notice her bag is white and navy to match the dress, she’s also wearing white and navy shoes. Ladies over 50, Italy is your time to shine! Squeeze into something sexy and show off the goods. 😉


NEED More Inspiration? Check Out My Pinterest Page! It’s loaded with Italian and European style pictures. You can’t go wrong with anything there, for any time of the year. Below is a sneak peak of some of the great things you’ll find there. I hope it’s useful!




origin unknown


origin unknown



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Are Italians Good At Sex?

Sunday Dinner in Sicily

Sunday Dinner in Sicily (Photo credit: Christina Saint Marche)

I was just looking at my stats and aside from things like, “zebra sex” and “Italian mother in law good sex” and “kill that nanny with a pan” one of the most common search results to bring people to this blog: Are Italians Good At Sex? What are Italians like in bed?

I haven’t been with all of the Italians in Italy to make a scientific assessment, but I do hang out with a lot of them. I can give you the rundown based on things I’ve heard from people who have slept with Italian humans or from talking with my friends in general. If you have a personal story to add, please put it in the comments below. My world is obviously small so I’d like to know what everyone else thinks.

1) My experience: My husband was sickeningly romantic and confident and that totally did it for me. Think, holding my umbrella in the rain, cooking amazing meals for my friends, singing and dancing to old Italian classics. He left poems on my dresser in the morning, he took me on adventures (notice how all of this is in the PAST TENSE. Where’s my fucking romance FRANCESCO!?). He was also kind of creepy and intense, i.e. chasing me through a piazza with a guitar after a fight and telling me sweet/creepy shit like “you’re mine.” That totally weirded me out in a sexy way and it won over my lady parts. Anyway, he has a gross following of European women (who I’ll beat to death one day) who are weirdly obsessed with him so clearly the romance stuff works for many.

2) The categorization of “girlfriend material” and “one-night-stand material” is present but where an American guy might treat a one-night-stand like a prostitute (because they were raised by monkeys, apparently), Italian guys still usually lay on the sweet stuff. My guy friends, for the most part, are reputed as being uber slutty. However, I’ve yet to see them treat any of their “conquests” poorly. There is usually drinks, a bite to eat, sweet-talk, holding hands, stroking their hair, coffee in the morning, lounging in bed. It’s a process. The downside to this is that American ladies might see the sweet gestures and think, “He’s super into me!” But he totally isn’t. He’s still doing the “wam bam thank you ma’am” but in a slow, dramatic, Italian way. “Thanks for lending me your vagina! Let’s take a break, coffee anyone?” So, if you’re in Italy just to sample the men (there’s nothing wrong with that, women’s lib and all that!) at least you know that it will be a full experience, like having a male hooker for free, I guess.

3) Are Italian Men Good At Sex? All guys are different in every culture so I’m sure there are some Italian guys that suck in bed. However, very few cultures in the world do pleasure like the Italians and in my experience that absolutely transfers into the bedroom. A few of my friends that have “done it” with Italian guys have walked away delirious, whispering, “best sex of my life,” with a stupefied grin stamped on their face. The consensus from women I know is yes, Italian men are gifted in the bedroom department. Their reasons are usually similar, the guy took his time, he was passionate, made her feel amazing and important, excellent kissers, soft, sweet, sincere. Their direct competition is the French, who are also reputable lovers. I do have to add though, that one of my dear friends said that she finds Italian men to be too egocentric for good sex and after the initial hookup they become very self absorbed. So, keep that in mind I guess.

4) Italian women? I have one guy friend who has been very “multicultural” in his sex life and he said that his best sexual experience was with an Italian woman. However, he’s the only one that I know who has given the Italian ladies a rave review. The church is very, very strong in Italy and from what I understand the women tend to be a little prudish. Also, if you stick your willy in an Italian woman, supposedly, you have to beat her off with a stick or marry her. This is what I HEAR from guys, I haven’t had sex with any Italian women so how the hell do I know? I’ve asked a few of my Italian female friends to write articles here because I want to know what they think about the whole thing. My husband said that Italian girls are “too weird, too clingy, too desperate to marry and they are brainwashed to constantly try to please the guy so they don’t seem to enjoy things for themselves.” Although, I feel like even in the US women can often get too focused on making sure a man is happy to “keep him” and they’re not demanding enough. So, there’s that. Italian guys, or girls who like girls, what are your thoughts? Give me your experiences below.

5) Are Italians cheaters? Yes. Statistically, yes, the infidelity rate in Italy is very high for both men and women (but slightly lower for women, also, don’t flip your shit Italians, I didn’t create your statistics), however, it’s also very high in France and a number of other countries. It tends to be lower in Anglo Saxon/ Celtic cultures, but not by very much. If you’re worried about getting freak-nasty with someone and them cheating on you, just put a GPS chip in their pocket, it’s totally not crazy at all and they’ll probably be thankful that you’re tracking their every move. Technology fixes all problems.

6) How do I make the sex on Italians? I get asked this question a lot from young guys studying abroad. I guess the same way you make sex with other people. You just pull down your pants and gesture towards your privates until something happens. Just kidding, that’s happened to me twice and I didn’t have sex with them, I ran away screaming, “WEINER! WEINER!” (that did happen). It’s the same as having sex with anyone. Go somewhere with locals, ask them out, be nice to them, and maybe it will lead to sex and maybe it won’t. That’s pretty much the gist of it. I’m unaware of any secret tactic for getting laid in Italy. Chase them with a guitar? Stop being a wuss and just go ask someone out. Here’s what NOT to do, don’t just write your number on a pad of paper and drop it in front of them while they are eating at a Mexican restaurant. Also, don’t sharpen knives in the Turkish Kabob store while you sing someone’s name. Don’t talk about your mother and how she does your laundry, and don’t walk up to anyone in a club and casually rest your privates on their leg while they dance. Nobody likes that. NOBODY.

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Then I Had A Nervous Breakdown: A Collective Post By Some Of Italy’s Best Known Expat Bloggers


 By the blogger who brought you, Married To Italy

 There’s living in Italy (queue the mandolin and beautiful people serving copious amounts of delicious food and wine)… and there’s LIVING IN ITALY (queue the honking cars and 10 kilos of pasta weight). One can be very very different from the other. In one scenario, you are Diane Lane in that stupid Tuscan movie that everyone loves so much. In the other scenario you’re me, getting yelled at by the neighbor every day, “a couple your age should have a child, not a dog!”

Why does Italy look so glorious through the veil of a newly divorced American woman who has enough money to do nothing except restore a Tuscan villa? BECAUSE SHE’S NEWLY DIVORCED! She can dream about that sexy dude in the white linen suit without having to get the inevitable Lambrusco stains out and talk to his mamma every day. She hardly speaks or understands any Italian, so she can pass every day in blissful ignorance of the stuff people are saying about the way she dresses in town. She has no concept of what a “brutta figura” is, so she doesn’t notice when people judge her for speaking directly.  She still thinks that lack of boundaries is charming!

There’s a lesser known sequel to ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. It’s set a few years later, after she is remarried to that sexy Italian man and is welcomed into a traditional Italian family.

It’s called ‘Screw This Place’.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My marito is awesome. I have no idea what I would do without him. But, as I think many people will agree, marriage is not just about the love between two people…  you want to know what it’s REALLY like to be married to an Italian?

Let’s examine that dream image you have in your head. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you find yourself face to face with a gorgeous, tall, dark, swarthy Mediterranean piece of eye candy (that’s you, my love)… his white shirt unbuttoned and flowing the light breeze of a sunny Italian morning. You’ve just entered the kitchen after a night of delirious love making to find him preparing a breakfast of fruit and wild berries with a little vase of freshly picked flowers from the Tuscan hills that are practically rolling right out of the living room’s open doors.

Really let that image settle in…

and then follow these simple instructions for me…

1. Remove the hills and replace the view out the window with an old lady hanging underwear on a clothing line and yelling at you, while peering into your apartment as much as possible so she can judge your subpar cleaning methods and un-ironed sheets. That whole Tuscan hill thing is bullpoop. Tuscan hills make up less than 8% of the land mass of Italy; the residents of Tuscan hills make up 6%, more than half of which are living in a dense town or city; half of the less than 1% of Italians living in detached villas on the top of a rolling Tuscan hill are a gender which you are most likely not interested in… or are married already. So get over the idea that you’re going to meet some gorgeous Italian who just happens to own a luxurious villa perched upon a hill.

Please, let’s be realistic. Remove the hills, replace them with a nosey neighbor, and we’re a little closer to accuracy.

2. Get rid of the sun. “Sunny Italia” is a myth that only applies to the southern half of the country, and even then not necessarily in winter.

Keep in mind, Rome is more or less the same latitude as New York. Six months out of the year my sunny Texan self has to endure days and days of endless grey storm clouds, nebbia, and general yuckiness. So, yeah, take away the sun… but then take it away for EVERY winter FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. This is where seasonal depression enters, and as the years pass you start to become a bitter, bitter person.

Keep imagining your scene… but with the nosey neighbor instead of hills, and the clouds instead of the sun…

3. No sooner does that light breeze pick up the corner of his shirt and start to pull back against his chest… than his mamma comes bolting through the door with a scarf to wrap around his neck and a stern warning about the drafts!

Italians have an intense fear of any sort of air movement, and it is said to cause all kinds of ailments. For sure, your dreamy Italian man would not be caught half-naked in any sort of breeze. His mamma will have felt the air movement ahead of time and noted from her balcony that your patio door was open, rushing over to offer her help in this time of crisis.

She will have “knopened” the door (that’s when the person knocks WHILE opening the door), because there are no boundaries when it comes to La Famiglia. Everything that you imagined to be appropriate up until now is completely thrown out the window. It is not only socially acceptable for a family to be all up in each other’s business, it is encouraged and even desired! A family that is not all up your grill probably doesn’t like you very much.

Remember: good intentions are expressed via meddling; love is shown with force-feeding.

So now you’re closed up in this tiny apartment, it’s doing that freezing-rain-fog thing outside, and your dream man’s mamma is offering to cook up a little pork for lunch (yes, it’s 9am, but it’s never too early to start discussing the next meal). He turns to you… gazes into your eyes… and says, “my mamma’s arrosto maiale is the best!”.

You can now start to see how that dream you had can easily slip into a nightmare if you aren’t careful. While my rant here is somewhat sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek (one might even say bitter), the point is this:

Even with the most wonderful Italian man in the world at your side, it will be a constant struggle to recognize, communicate, and really understand why these cultural differences are so appalling that they’ve been classified as a form of shock. If you don’t realize now that the dream you had in your head is just a wall blocking your view from reality, you will very likely hit that realization at full speed. You may even (to borrow a phrase from Misty) “freak the fuck out”, a sentiment with which I am QUITE familiar.

Sometimes it’s so ridiculous that if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Every marriage requires work, but I believe that a cross-cultural marriage with an Italian also requires a healthy sense of humor.

And an occasional meltdown.








‘M’ is a 30-something (something low) American Texpat, living and working in her husband’s tiny hometown in the province of Reggio Emilia. Her blog, Married to Italy, is home to her rants and raves and serves as her therapeutic search for hilarity amongst the chaos.






By Rick Zullo of Rick’s Rome

The problem with Italian bureaucracy is not that it’s so dense…which it is, but I guess that could be said for most bureaucracy anywhere in the world.  No, the endearing feature that gives the Italian brand of red-tape its own special degree of aggravation is that nobody seems to know the procedures, least of all the people whose job it is to do so.  While you might think that this would produce some degree of compassion among these employees, the fact is that many of them appear to gain pleasure from their own incompetence.

On four previous attempts to submit my residency application, the civic employee who was charged to help me and my fellow stranieri did little to hide her contempt for my type; which is to say anyone who interfered with her rigid schedule of coffee and cigarette breaks.  She found any and every possible excuse to thwart my efforts with no inclination towards actually assisting me in the matter.

Nonetheless, I was optimistic on my fifth attempt.  I had my forms filled out properly, my tax stamp from the tobacco shop affixed in the right location, a certified copy of EVERY PAGE of my passport (yes, even the blank ones), and a sample of my blood for DNA analysis.  Everything was perfect, no doubt.  Proudly, I presented all of this to the pathetic little underling, trying to conceal my satisfaction.

As she leafed through my papers, an evil grin slowly emerged from the corner of her mouth.  “Signore, mi dispiace, ma quest inchiostro non e’ nero.  E’ scuro, si, ma mi sembra una tonalita’ di blu.  Deve rifarlo.”  Sir, I’m sorry, but this ink isn’t black.  It’s dark, yes, but it looks to be a shade of blue.  You must redo it.

And then I had a nervous breakdown.








Rick Zullo is an American expat living in Rome. Born in Chicago and raised in Florida, he came to the Caput Mundi in 2010 and forgot to go back. When he’s not exploring his adoptive hometown or writing for his blog, he spends his time teaching the world English, one Roman at a time.  Rick is also the author of the silly little eBook, “Live Like an Italian,” available on Amazon.  Visit Rick’s blog at rickzullo.com, or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.




 by M. Elizabeth Evans of Surviving In Italy

 My first year in Italy was pretty rad so I wasn’t ready for things to be less than ideal.  It wasn’t until I became serious with my husband that I really started to struggle. I was thrown into a southern Italian family and an Italian friend group with the assumption that I’d be accepted and in no time everyone would love me and we’d all be buddies. I was an idiot. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about shooting myself or at least getting addicted to heroin as every day I felt more and more like a small voice in my husband’s ear instead of three-dimensional person.

Everything that I’d ever been taught was polite was interpreted as rude, I was bossed around, treated like a child. I was the outsider and none of my feeble attempts would help me to fit in. I couldn’t be myself anymore. I was weary to talk because my go-to subjects were always inappropriate somehow. Sarcasm? The hell? Everyone always talked to me with a “knowing” smile. My husband, admittedly, was embarrassed that I was American. Neither his friends, nor his family, took our relationship seriously. I was temporary, I was “fun,” I was disposable. Then they realized that the disposable thing wasn’t getting trashed. Things changed but instead of acceptance it was more like bitter defeat.

Instead of avoiding the people who disliked our union instead we attached ourselves to them. We spent every vacation, every holiday, every other weekend, with his parents whose favorite thing to do in life is criticize. The family engulfed us. They controlled our life in subtle ways and large ones. My husband (then boyfriend) was okay with it, it was “normal,” but for an American, spending half of every vacation with your in-laws is unheard of, asking parental advice for every decision in your thirties is on par with a mental illness. It really got bad when his parents chose an apartment that they thought we should buy, they demanded I become Catholic (which I didn’t) and they fully expect our children to be indoctrinated, something that has already been brought up more than once. A simple, “no” should suffice but it doesn’t so I have to say,“If anyone is going to talk with my kids about masturbation, it’s going to be me, not a forty year old man who hasn’t had sex in three decades,” and that just offends everyone. My husband never wanted to speak up because he felt spoiled and ungrateful to disagree with them.

Nothing was sacred. My mother-in-law would poke at my body and comment on it, I need a new hairstyle, I wear too much black. My father-in-law yells because I won’t fetch for my husband, I won’t clean up after him, I wouldn’t press his shirts (because it’s the 1600’s and his penis prevents him from pressing his own damn shirt?), for drinking coffee in the morning before taking a shower. When we came to the US my in-laws unpacked my luggage and repacked it while I stood by yelling, because, “I’m lazy, disorganized and don’t know how to pack.” They tried to talk my husband out of marrying me. When they came to our home in Florence, my mother-in-law would bring decor to furnish our home, orange and brown, and then reorganize as she saw fit. She would move my hand towels, I’d move thm back. It went on for days, the battle of the towels.

Then, one day, I flipped the fuck out. I started packing my bags about the ten millionth time I was told my place as a woman and how my place was iron and clean (because it’s 1534). My husband married me because I’m not a “typical Italian woman,” so please, stop trying to make me one. My freak out caused a reaction of freak outs. It lead to my husband freaking out and then my in-laws . There was screaming, crying, wall punching and at some point I think someone even threw spaghetti. In the end they realized that they wouldn’t win the battle they thought they were fighting. It’s the little things that make life worth living. In the face of adversary scream, “THIS WAS PERSIA!” and win with boundaries.

The most difficult part of moving to Italy was the communication barrier, learning to laugh at the fact that I’m always “weird,” and becoming part of an Italian family and learning how to put my foot down. The fact that I was willing to stand up for myself made them choose their battles more wisely. Italians are tough, if you’re going to live in peace you have to set boundaries, stick with them, and be unmovable. In my husband’s family it worked. Now, they still drive me crazy, of course, but it’s an amount that I can sanely manage. We’re all happier now and I can focus on the parts of Italy that I like instead of suffering through one nervous breakdown after another.







M. Elizabeth Evans is an American expat trapped between two worlds with her badass husband, his chest hair, and their poodle. She is a writer and partner of House Of Ossimori. Her award-winning blog Surviving In Italy, aims to honestly portray her life in Italy, the sober times, the drunken times, the yelling, food, family, and on occasion her obsession with the majestic Capybara. She’s also terrible at writing Bios. Someone do it for her next time, okay?




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8 Tips To Surviving Your Italian In-Laws

I can see their point.

I can see their point.

You’ve moved to Italy and met a man who is different than anyone you’ve ever known in your life. If you’re partner is anything like mine he’s probably emotional, passionate, loving, a great cook and is embarrassing in the PDA department. They’re also dedicated to family which is usually bittersweet. On one hand, family values are important and it’s something we might lack a little in the US, on the other hand the devotion to parents can be exhausting and a form of contention. In many cases it can be a deal breaker. The lawyer league of Italy reported that the “Mother In Law” is the number 1 cited reason for divorce in the country a few years ago. I would be interested in the view of a man who is married to an Italian woman (I think it’s less of an issue, honestly) but my experience and from what I hear, most problems arise for women who marry Italian men.  As a fellow expat friend of mine put it, “It’s like the mother has a vagina made like a black hole and for his entire life the son is fighting the gravitational pull to be re-wombed.” Yep. Sums it up, but it’s not just the mom in my experience. Sure, for years the Italian mother has done so much for the family that she’s rendered everyone pretty much dependent on her, but to be honest everyone in the family has their own hold on the man of your dreams. In my family, my mother-in-law fought our relationship like a champ, my father-in-law never fought it but he tried to “educate me” on what’s expected of wives in southern Italy (indentured servitude). It took about four years for us to come to terms with the fact that we all had to coexist, I sure as shit didn’t want to be a “nice Italian girl,” and I didn’t want people to touch my underwear or lingerie, EVER. My family is unique (insane) in a lot of ways but many of my friends have confirmed that they’re also “typical” in many ways. After four years or tears and battles, we kind of figured out how to co-exist. Mostly.

1. Don’t be sweet and passive. Women are pretty much groomed to be sweet and passive in most cultures but Italian culture is a little different. People mistakenly believe that all Italian women are dominant spitfires who run their homes but that’s not necessarily true all the time. Italian culture is surprisingly misogynistic (what culture isn’t?) but Italian women are allowed to be more passionate and feisty. Yelling and speaking ones mind is something that happens a lot in Italy and often more than in the US (were people are encouraged to repress ill feelings until they can strategically dismantle someone). If you do the, “yes ma’am, yes sir,” nice, quiet thing, it’s only a matter of time before the entire family decides you’re a freak and starts walking all over you. In my family, my in-laws are really bothered that I don’t nag my husband. My father-in-law especially takes my calm, quiet approach as some sort of mental disability or as a lack of love for my husband. If I loved him, I would yell at him more, probably in public, and maybe call him fat in front of his friends cause that’s a thing. I would also iron his sheets.

2. Follow their lead. Watch what everyone else in the family is doing and try to be useful. They’ll appreciate it. If your family is like mine it probably looks like this: The men sit on the couch being lazy as fuck while the women run around the house like maniacs trying to do everything. Unfortunately, if you have a vagina and you marry into an Italian family they totally expect you to be running around with the women being stressed. I’ve tried sitting it out but I just got yelled at and told that I will be a terrible mother. I AM lazy but also I don’t think it’s cool to wait on lazy fucking men. I’m not a maid. My happy-medium to this is forcing my husband to help out. This in return makes the women scream at their own husbands to “look how useful Francesco is, why can’t you be more like him!?”

3. Eat but never try to cook. Food is important in Italian culture (no new info, I know) and no matter how great of a cook you are, you’ll never be better than your husband’s mother. Forget about it. Just praise the mother’s cooking and avoid cooking for them. Even if your dish is professional quality it won’t be good enough. Praise, praise, praise, but forget about doing the whole, “let’s bond over how we both cook,” thing. Your food is dogshit. That’s it.

4. Set boundaries. A friend of mine put it best, “Italian families see each member as an extension of themselves, there are no boundaries.” In my experience it’s completely true. It doesn’t seem to occur to people that you might not want them to come stay at your house for the entire duration of the only vacation you have for the entire year. They’ll struggle to understand why they can’t just buy you orange curtains that they think would look good in your house. Why can’t they inform you when you gain or lose weight? They are just trying to help! If you’re not Italian, you’ll probably struggle with your mother-in-laws need to rush over and baby your boyfriend/husband when he’s ill, you’ll probably struggle with spending every vacation with his family, and with the family’s overbearing opinions about your decor, life decisions, sex life, choice of mop. You want to be fair and  understanding that family means a lot but being understanding doesn’t mean that you have to be okay with being controlled and dominated. If you don’t set boundaries right away you’ll just become frustrated, bitter, and explode. My rule is if I wouldn’t let my own parents do it, I don’t let them. Being Italian doesn’t get to be an excuse for having no consideration for my lifestyle or culture. If I have to respect them, they have to respect me, that’s it. I’m not saying you should be mean to your in-laws, but I am saying you should be honest with them. Tell them “no,” or explain why you don’t like it when they come over and clean out your freezer while you were in the bathroom for ten seconds peeing. No.

5. Set boundaries again but this time with your husband. And again. And again. And again. It’s important to get your partner on board with what you need and how you feel but sometimes that can be difficult. It was difficult for my husband to set boundaries with his parents because he’d never, ever done it before. If they’re fine with their mom going through your laundry hamper or coming over to re-fold your laundry, it doesn’t mean you have to be okay with it. Tell them how you feel. Trust me, if you don’t you’ll become resentful and start screaming things during fights like, “What!? Hungry? Call your mom over! She can whip out a tit!” Another issue is that the concept of age is different in Italy. Thirty is ancient to an American but very, very “young” in Italy. My family really struggles to allow my husband to make decisions for himself because he’s “too young,” and my husband often feels like he can’t handle large decisions because they’ve convinced him that he’s too young and I’m like, FIFTEEN YEAR OLDS IN MY COUNTRY MAKE BIGGER DECISIONS! FOR GOD SAKES JUST CHOOSE A MIXING BOWL! That happened at Ikea once when we were first dating and no shit he called his mom to help him get “the right one.” It’s not like this now. After he initially stood up to them it became second-nature and now we’re a team and we hold hands and scream, “NO YOU CAN’T….” at his parents and it’s awesome.

6. Learn to shrug off criticism. There will probably be more nagging and criticism than what you’re used to from your in-laws. Just accept that they probably dish out the same amount to their own children, know that the rest of us are dealing with it, too, and laugh. You really have to have a great sense of humor. Sometimes it’s difficult, I know, about the ten-millionth time that my ma in law told me that I dressed terribly and am always “a mess,” I started to feel really bad.  After a while I realized how hilarious it was and just started to laugh. It helped that my husband jumped in and set some boundaries.

7. Don’t try to fit in. You’re not Italian. Even if you speak Italian fluently, dress Italian, look Italian, you’ll never be Italian. There will always be things about you that noticibly sets you apart and that’s probably why your partner married you to begin with. I know it’s a stupid cliché but really, truly, just be yourself. Eventually, after years, you’re weird expat shit will become endearing. Probably. I’ll let you know when that happens.

8. Love them. I know it can be difficult even if you’re not an expat, but try to love your in-laws even if they are annoying as shit. I promise you that I can win the contest of “who had it harder” and I still manage to love mine. I try to remind myself that our problems are part cultural, part insanity, and part them just trying to be good parents to their son by protecting him from the evils of the world (ME). My father is an immigrant (Iran) and he’s every bit as batshit crazy as they are and his weird way of “loving” is offensive and downright boundary-crossing (in a different way, he sends my husband pics of them together at midnight with “miss you” under them but that’s another story) but I know that he means well. When they drive you crazy just try to remember that it probably comes from a good place, or fear, or tradition, or brain-washing and it’s not personal. Except when they grab your tits and tell you they suck and then ask everyone in the bridal shop how “she’ll possibly find a dress because look at how small her boobs are!” That shit is totally personal.

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Francesco Goes To The Pool OR My Italian Husband Is Adorably Weird

Francesco has decided to get in shape which he doesn’t really need a lot of because he’s already a babe. He went out and got a gym membership and has been pretty dedicated, going every night. The gym that he signed up for has a large swimming pool. He’s been dying to get near it so he can splash around and remember his more wonderful days when he was young, single, and banging foreign girls on the slides after closing. In preparation of remaking the childhood classic ‘When Fuzzy Dolphins Mate,’ he went shopping for some swimming gear. So far he’s purchased:

1. Goggles

2. Earplugs

3. A Condom to wear on his head

4. A Speedo

When I told him that people don’t really wear head condoms here unless they are joining an olympic team or trying to have sex with a whale he glared at me and barked that I sounded like “deh stupid American types who cares too much what others think.” He has a point, it is ridiculous to care, he’s right. It’s stupid and doesn’t matter at all what anyone wears, ever. Then again, think about the children. They’re splashing around just having the best time ever when a man cruises by in a speedo that probably has an Italian flag on the butt, and the kid screams because he’s just spotted an Italian stallion (part wild animal) in a banana hammock that leaves none of the man fuzz to the imagination. It’s really about protecting these poor, sheltered, protestant children.