If This Was In Naples It Would Be Full Of Shit

“I have to put this on Facebook! The Grand Canyon is amazing!” My FIL is obsessed with FB. He’s been carefully planning every post to “make my friends jealous.” Naturally. He tries the posts out on us, asking our opinion on the impact of his words. “Good morning friends! Good morning from Utah!”

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon with F and Oli

He is really enjoying the US. He’s impressed that people don’t litter. And efficiency! Man! “Things here are fast!” Standing in front of a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon with his 2005 digital camera stretched in front of him, “If this was in Naples it would be covered in shit. Our people are practically monkeys.”

My MIL rapidly came to Italy’s aid, “that’s not true! Italy is the best country on earth!” My FIL scoffed, “Really? Then why so much corruption? Why the economy? Why is the money gone?” He waved his hand dramatically,” Why is our country covered in garbage? We are monkeys! WE ARE MONKEYS! ”

This argument continued for twenty, thirty minutes. It ended with her pouting, and him brooding. They settled, sort of, on the idea that Italy is beautiful and the food is good. But that’s where the “positives ” end, according to my FIL on that particular day. He changed his mind at least 72 times throughout the week.

I have a deep appreciation for culture. I’m proud that I hail from an ancient blood, a line of warriors, scholars, longtime rulers of an old world. Pride is great. But nationalism and self-proclaimed superiority is terrible. I struggle with it when it’s Iran, or Italy or the US. I hate the line, “God bless America,” which brings an image to mind of an overweight Jesus on a cloud wearing a trucker hat with “USA,”burned into the outsourced cotton and he’s giving the finger to the rest of the world, especially the middle east, because seriously, fuck them, as far as American Jesus is concerned.

My FIL mentioned that he loves how people dress casually most of the time in AZ and Utah. “It’s so much more comfortable! You can feel good!” He gestures to his outfit, explaining that the constant need to impress or be judged is hard on people in Italy. “I’ve never liked that much.” I watch him talk in my rear-view mirror and, honestly, I’m not even sure I know who this man is. In Italy, he’s obsessed with appearances. He’s always yelling at me because Francesco’s shoes are dirty (it’s somehow my problem?), and because my outfits are not colorful enough (because my job is to dress like a peacock and then strut through Cassino earning his family stars for my steller outfit?). Looking good is more important to him than enjoying life, often citing, “what would people think?” as a reason for having the least amount of fun possible. Making an impression is everything to him. I had no idea that deep down the pressure to be accepted by the community weighed so heavily. The thought that he’s molded his life around impressing other people makes me sad. It’s sad.

Fitting in and doing exactly as everyone else does comes from tiny community mentality. The idea that you only had your community and without them you could potentially die. Back in the day it was the same way in the US. If you were outcasted, who would you trade with for food in the event of a crisis? Who would help you deliver your babies? Who would give you water in time of drought. Fitting in could literally be your lifeline in a small town. Also, fitting in was a huge part of fascism in Italy and the older generation still has the fascist culture that presses for people to conform above all else.

My FIL is an old school, southern man. As much as I love learning about traditions and watching them, I’m not always all about living them. I’d like to think of myself as progressive, and  racism, sexism, bullying, or fear tactics give me icky feelings. My MIL once said of her husband, “my husband must control everything, and he believes that he is the center of the world that revolves around him. My mother didn’t believe that men should be the boss. That is why my mom hated him and he hated her.” According to my FIL, men rule, and they should rule with authority and fear. Men don’t do things like the dishes. Real men sit at the table wearing a bib, getting crumbs all over the floor, banging silverware on the table while waiting for their food. “Real men” sound a lot like toddlers.

I was the most nervous for him to be in the US. Him and his rigid, Bella figura or death mentality are so exhausting in Italy and the source of so many arguments. “In Italy, you will learn to be Italian. You can’t be like you are in my house.” BUT he fucking LOVES the US like nobodies business. He’s having a blast! He loves that things are “clean, orderly,” that people are, “polite,” and that they “do what they should do.” He likes that there is rosemary randomly grown in places that he keeps foraging. He’s come home with bushels of it in AZ, and even Las Vegas.

 

My MIL in-law likes a few things but overall she hates the US which isn’t that surprising. In Italy my MIL has a bad case of classic superiority complex. “It’s just not possible for a her to be a good mother or wife…she isn’t Italian,” she once said about me. While in the US she’s spent most of her days noting how Italy is decidedly best. “Italian food, is best. Italian style is best. Italian children are better. Italian parents are better. Italian manners are better,” were among some of her larger statements.

Don’t get me wrong, Italy is awesome, but as a friend said, “it’s okay to be proud of your heritage, but feeling superior because you’re good at making spaghetti? Seems like a bit of a stretch…”

On a list of things she’s actually liked: She likes eyebrow threading. “That  dark brown woman! Where did she come from? That brown woman is good at this! With one thread! Nobody back home will believe it!” She made me search for threading on YouTube where she watched the videos over and over again, writing the URL down in a notepad to show her friends back in her village.

She really loved the Swiffer, and our little Bissell vacuum which she bought and crammed into her suitcase to take back to Italy, “The technology is amazing here.”

One morning I caught her with her entire head in the clothes dryer. “It just dries your clothes! Right in your house!” She’s obsessed with affordable controlled air, noting that in Italy her cold apartment is giving her neck problems.

In Sephora the worker put makeup on her and took the time to show her around the store. My MIL was so excited about this that she hugged the woman afterwards. “I think that my granddaughter should come here at eighteen to become a beautician.” I took her to one of those nail salons, the ones with an exclusive vietnamese staff and the suspicious nail pimp who trolls the technicians. The nail technician looked at my MIL’s nails, “who did her nails? This is the worst nail job I’ve ever seen in my life. Tell her not to go there anymore,” she filed her fingernail violently.I agree with this. Nobody are as good as these places called, “Starz Nails,” or “Diamond Nails.”

“The Chinese are so good at this!” She exclaimed as we left with her new shiny red toes. “Vietnamese,” I corrected her. She stared at me for a long time trying to figure out what the difference was.

 

Finding Common Ground With Italian In-Laws

This isn’t a real post. It’s more of a follow-up post to a series of posts that I wrote a long time ago. I felt that I  should  update everyone because I never did for some reason. I don’t want everyone to think I’m still in a war zone. It’s more like a zoo at this point. An angry zoo, not a petting zoo.

Most of you, my badass readers, know about my tumultuous relationship with my in-laws. I’ve written about it a fair amount. Clearly, I’m not bitter. I’ve mentioned it a few times in stories like, “In Italy Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing You’ve Eaten A Child,” and, “Things Have To Be Destroyed Before They Can Be Rebuilt,” and, due to the many comments I receive from you guys sharing similar stories (thank you) or giving me much needed advice (thank you, too), I’ve realized that I have never written a post about any kind of resolution. It sort of existed in a weird way.

So, after Things Have To Be Destroyed Before They Can Be Rebuilt, where: My father-in-law went all bat-shit crazy and said some meeeeaaan shit, my husband punched the kitchen wall, then told his parents to essentially kiss his ass, and we sped towards Florence while he vowed to never speak to them again (but I encouraged him to go back and repair things because I’m nice). Anyway, so, that fight surprisingly fixed a lot of our bullshit. Let me explain. Continue reading

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.

 

It’s Sunday! Conversations That Shouldn’t Happen But Always Do No. 8

1.

Dad: So, when are you guys having babies?

Me: When we’re ready.

Dad: You are 32? What else do you need to do?

Me: Be ready.

Dad: You know, when old people have babies, their babies are retarded.

Me: What the hell is wrong with you?

Dad: What?

 

 

2.

Me: It’s really easy for women to get bladder infections.

F: Yeah, it’s a pretty delicate system you guys have.

Me: It really is! I mean, if you let an unwashed part anywhere near your lady bits you’re totally going to get some kind of death illness. Jesus! Can you imagine how many women died from hoo-haw related illnesses back when men only showered like once every three months? Can you imagine? Like, when guys came back from war probably half of the female population died from bacteria.

F: Uhm, yeah.

Me: Your favorite thing about me is that I make you think of things like this all day long, right?

F: Yes. Exactly. I love that we spend all day discussing the sensitive balance of the vagina.

 

3.

F: I don’t get your people. Are they angry? Nobody makes eye contact.

Me: Yeah, Americans don’t tend to stare people in the face for long periods of time unless they are going to have sex or beat each other to death. You know you can measure eye contact by culture. African Americans, for example, hold eye contact for the shortest amount of time before it becomes threatening. Interesting, right?

F: Yeah.

Me: Italians probably hold eye contact for the longest. It’s like they are performing a two-way retinal scan while they speak to you.

F: Ha.

Me: Seriously, you’re probably scaring the shit out of people.

 

 

 

 

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3 Women Of Different Nations Hold The World Together By Talking Shit On Italian Men

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.

 

 

 

Living In Italy: “Your Boobs Suck,” And Other Lessons I Learned From My Mother-In-Law

Hello Everyone! This post is REALLY LONG so I apologize. It’s only part of a longer story that I’m working on but I thought you guys would find it amusing because this shit was ridiculous but in retrospect hilarious and only slightly traumatic.

………………………………….

This is why I drink.

This is why I drink.

Shortly after F and I were engaged, his mother came to Florence to stay with us for the weekend. She was pissed that her bouncing baby boy wanted to marry what she saw as a linguistically challenged, overtly sexual, liberal American idiot and  I can’t blame her. A birthing vagina totally can’t compete with a linguistically challenged one. Despite her negative-nancy attitude, I don’t think that she believed that we’d eventually marry. Rather, I think it bothered her that I believed we would. When the conversation about our wedding arose, I often saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes which meant that she thought she could still deter F,  or at the very least convince him to put the wedding off for another 40 or 50 years. If she said, “Anytime after I die is good! I don’t see the rush…,” I wouldn’t have been surprised. Since we never knew how she would react on any given day, we tried not to talk about it around her if possible. Sometimes she would get only mildly annoyed and pound the dough a little harder than necessary, or sigh loudly while brandishing a wooden spoon at her tomato sauce, but other times she went all out. Other times it was like she was competing in the dramatic Italian Olympics. On these occasions she would scream her guts out and bang pots and wail,  “Dear God why you do dis to-a me-a?”  towards heaven. It was a lot like a movie. It was offensive and hurt my feelings, but more than anything my husband had fully ingested the shame. His mother’s tantrums brought back all of the Catholic guilt that had been ingrained in him as a kid and the words “our wedding” made him visibly uncomfortable the way I assume that confessing to masturbation at 12 did. Even I started to feel naughty at some point but that was less about the wedding talk and more about being physically violated.

Having his mother in Florence, alone, was supposed to be a bonding experience.  “Just try to speak Italian and get to know her,” F  pleaded. He thought that I could actually win her over somehow and then she would magically support us. It was cute. It’s not that I was against building a relationship with her but it was a little hard to open up around someone who begged God to kill you on a regular basis (okay, a slight exaggeration but it felt that way).

Spending time with either of F’s parents gave me severe anxiety back then so I was surprised that the first day was lovely and we actually had fun together, despite the fact that she pulled her eyes taut when she talked about Chinese people and said once or twice that African people need to bathe more than “white” people. But she “wasn’t racist” because it “was a known fact” so it was all good (the fuck?). The three of us had dinner in a cute place and we even giggled together over F’s terrified reaction to a woman breastfeeding in the restaurant. His eyes diverted, face turned a million shades of embarrassment, and then we had to move tables because seeing a stranger’s boob was too much for him, which is funny considering the number of strange boobs that have been near his face in the past. Anyway, things were comfortably awkward for once instead of terrible. The weekend started out nice.

Around 7:00 in the morning I awoke to a small knock on our bedroom door. I covered my naked ass and said, “come in.” F’s mother flung open the door, dove into our laundry basket, and disappeared. It was like watching a cobra strike at a mouse. That’s seriously how stealthy and fast she is when it comes to laundry. I rolled my eyes and fell back asleep immediately because I do not wake before 8:30. When we awoke later I stumbled into the kitchen to find the kitchen spotless, as if it had been cleaned by elves on meth. F’s mom was working diligently in front of an ironing board, her elbow sawing back and forth with so much vigor that her tiny frame shook. “Buongiorno,” I mumbled. At about that time I’d reached the ironing board and I saw what she was so determined to de-wrinkle: One of my super skanky thongs. Next to that thong were about 10 others that had already been strong-armed into paper-like flatness. “What the fuck!? I yelled in English so she couldn’t understand me. She turned around. “Buongiorno. I made coffee.” I half-smiled and switched to Italian, “Thanks, but, uhm, why are you washing and ironing my panties!?” Francesco entered around that time and saw what she was doing. He smiled and headed for the coffee.

“DUDE! YOUR MOM! BOUNDARIES! Anything that touches my vagina and goes up my ass is off-limits to her!”

He turned, “She’s just trying to be nice, babe.”

Which I understood. I read that absolutely ridiculous yet semi-helpful book, The Five Love Languages, and I understood that some people show love with acts of kindness, but I think ironing my thongs crossed a lot of  important boundaries that existed for a reason.  “My lady bits go there. Please, I’m begging you, tell her to not do our laundry!” I turned to her, “You don’t have to do work here. You’re on vacation! Go relax! I’ll take over from here!” But she smacked my hand when I reached for the iron so instead I drank coffee and sulked while I watched her examine my sluttiest undergarments. “She’s not going to like me if she knows that I own black lace thongs with pearls that run up my bum! You’re ruining our chances of a relationship by letting her do this!” I whined. F just shrugged and gave her suggestions on what he wanted to eat for lunch. Mother. Fucker.

We took her for a walk later that day since it was spring and nice out. I stayed silent and bitter while F and his mother chatted about various things. I watched the pigeons shit onto the cobblestone and was enjoying myself, until we took a turn and  stepped onto a street lined with wedding shops. It became a little awkward for everyone since we couldn’t talk about the wedding, yet, was clearly what everyone was thinking. The mom glanced at one store window full of pink and after a few minutes commented on the “adorable” color scheme.  Oh. Hell. No. When we passed a wedding dress shop with a window packed full of gag-inducing puffy cotton-ball-type gowns, I decided to go ahead and against my better judgment I expressed how much I hated them.

“Me no like it big dresses like that,” I said to Francesco.

“Me either,” the mom answered.

“I do!”, beamed Francesco, who for reasons I cannot understand is obsessed with me in the girliest most over-the-top shit ever. The man has bought me three or four “Jackie O”-type dresses in the last four years with matching Jackie O shoes that I never wear because I’m not classy and I’m not fifty. Due to his love of all things feminine, it wasn’t surprising that he loved the idea of me crashing down the runway in something that should be lit on fire instead of worn.

“You need this covered to here.” His mother said. She motioned like she was slitting her own throat.

“I need a dress that goes up to my chin?” I asked.

“Yes. Because you can’t wear strapless.”

“I want a strapless dress.”

“No. No, no, no! It will be ugly on you.” She scrunched up her entire body and shook her head to get the traumatic image out of her mind.

“Why? Because I have a tattoo?”

“No. Not for that. Oh God! Honestly I don’t know WHAT we’ll do with you. I mean, what can we do!? JUST LOOK AT THIS!”

She lunged forward and grabbed hold of my boobs faster than a frat boy after a kegger. I pushed her hands down slowly.

“Why are you groping me?”

“Don’t do that,” F mumbled to her.

“Why? I say the truth! Look at them! Disgrace!” She pointed to them and hoped that my husband would agree with her.

“Her boobs are fine, mom.” F exhaled a sound that can only be described as half exasperated and half, “I was raised super religious so let’s never talk about boobs with my mom again.”

“FINE!?” She grabbed them again getting a handful. “Look at these! I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW! We have to feed her! She need-a eat-da-a-more- a pasta! She need a eat a more! If she eat more dey get more big!”

I turned to passively pop my boobs out of her grip again. “Listen, even if I gained thirty pounds these are not going to change. They never change. I have gained weight before and these were the same. Always the same.” I gestured back and forth between the two. “SAAAAME.”

She waved her hands in the air like she was fanning an imaginary insect away, “Don’t ask me then. I don’t know. You’re going to look terrible in a wedding dress. You need bigger…Sigh. Don’t ask me.” Then she moved to walk a bit faster than us.

“Is she being serious?” I asked F.

“Yes. She’s crazy. Just ignore her.” He shook his head disapprovingly.

“What’s wrong with my boobs! I LIKE MY BOOBS! I think they’re a fine! Are they really that bad? Do you hate them!?”

“WHAT!? NO! I love your boobs! Fuck! I’m going to kill her. Now you’re going to panic about your boobs for weeks. Great!”

“She just told me I was going to look terrible in a wedding dress because she hates my boobs!”

I’ve always been “weird” in the boob department. I don’t have big boobs and I’ve never wanted them either.  It had never occurred to me until that moment that anyone would ever want me to have different boobs. They are not pancake small but they’re not big enough to notice, but unclothed I liked them. I liked them a lot, actually. When I was a kid I used my breasts to gauge if other girls were deformed. “My God, Jessica! Your boobs have pink nipples! You should get that checked out!” Apparently blogging wasn’t my first stint in narcissism.

I tried not to let it bother me at all but it occurred to me that most Italian women have large boobs. Holy shit! I was probably the first person that F had ever been with that didn’t have huge boobs. Dammit! I pushed it out of my mind for a while until I couldn’t anymore because grabbing my boobs in public to point out how NOT HUGE they were soon became her favorite past-time….

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Things That I’m Doing When I’m Not Here:

The New Years Revolution 

House Of Ossimori 

Italian Families. This Is Not Really What I Meant By, “You Should Play With Your Niece.”

If I had to give any compliment to my husband it would be that he is insanely receptive to things I tell him. I’m not saying that he listens all the time, or always does what I want, but he does take what I say into consideration and he tries to implement the parts that make sense to him. It’s a good quality in a partner and something I really love about his character.

This week has been a long week at his parents house. Speaking a second language all day every day becomes exhausting and your brain, against your will, starts shutting down on you. I have started tuning people out and rocking a lot. It’s not an attractive state and my father-in-law keeps pointing to me and screaming in Italian, “your wife is HANDICAP Francesco, HANDICAP! LOOK AT HER!”

It goes without saying that we adore our nieces, but they could easily drive a Mormon girl to alcoholism. The youngest is one, and a feisty little screamer, the older one is six, adorable, and in a totally normal way attaches herself to F and I pretty much 24/7. I’m happy that she loves us and I love spending time with her,  but coupled with one week at the in-laws, it can be a little much because his parents don’t allow for much privacy either.  At one point I was trying to take aluminum foil from Oliver, our poodle, hold our youngest niece, while my older one followed me from room to room yelling, “aunt! AUNT! What is this?” While she dangled a packaged tampon in front of me that she had clearly taken from my purse. “I’ll tell you when you’re older,” I mumbled and screamed, “FRANCESCO! Please, spend some time with your niece! Stop watching T.V.”My husband and I don’t have a T.V. in our apartment in Florence so when he’s at his parents I can barely get him away from it. He slowly peeled himself from the couch that now had a print of his ass in it.

A few minutes later he came into the room to ask if I was hungry because his mom had made us some pasta. We sat down at the kitchen table a few moments later. “But she’s eating again?” I asked, gesturing to my niece who had already eaten lunch but was seated expectedly next to my husband. “No, you told me to play with her. So I’m playing with her.” Then my niece pulls out a baby bib, ties it around my husband’s neck, then begins feeding him his pasta and his wine. She even paused in between to wipe his face while my husband sat back in his chair smiling gayly while he chewed. He was clearly impressed with himself for finding a way to continue his vegetated state while simultaneously entertaining our niece and getting me to shut up.

Seriously, by “play with her,” I didn’t mean, “turn your six year old niece into a personal servant Francesco.”

“You said play with her, you didn’t way how I had to play with her.” He smiled and continued chewing.

Touchè