This weekend we went to see La Grande Bellezza. A film by Paulo Sorrentino, which covers the all too common Italian theme of middle-aged fantastical desire (general praise of “hedonism”) and the incredibly depressing, international theme of “lost love.” The life of the main character basically sums up the lives of a certain dying breed of European, the infamous “Eurotrash.” As described in the Urban Dictionary:
“A human sub-phylum characterized by its apparent affluence, worldliness, social affectation and addiction to fashion. Males are characterized by a semi-slovenly appearance (including half-shaven faces), greasy hair, rib-hugging shirts, tight jeans and loafers worn without socks. Women are easily distinguished by anorexia, over-bleached hair, gaudy jewelry, plastic surgery (particularly breast-enlargement) and their attachment to the male species. Both sexes greet each other with “air kisses,” immediately speak of their last trip (often Paris, Rome, Majorca), spend hours at “see-and-be-seen” restaurants and exhibit a world-weariness and pained sense of irony.”
Going to the movie is a rare thing for us. Our dog is a hysterical wreck so we can’t go out very often, it’s difficult and requires planning and a dog-sitter. We
have had three, our dog walker- the girl we use for short-term visits, and two other women that we use for over-night trips and vacations. One of them has a dog sitting business so she’s usually not available on a whim (understandably) and the other is an American woman who has a garden and two dogs of her own so she occasionally watches other dogs. But these are two different stories. Sort of.
The Grande Bellezza is entertaining. Even someone who doesn’t understand Italian will enjoy it. The cinematography is incredible. Italians are famous for their attention to detail and incredible eye for style. It shows. The main characters life, a writer, was confusion and chaos, and a series of almost dream-like moments. His artist friends, obsessed with mostly bad attempts at being exciting, contribute a great deal of tragedy and entertainment in the characters life. There is a lot of cocaine, drinking, and super unattractive old-man sex. If I wrote a movie about my 20’s (minus the old balls) it would look a lot like the first scene of the movie but if you summed up my entire life it would come down to the terribly ironic moments. We left and I was feeling this very odd mix of inspiration (and accomplishment) with a tinge of depression which is probably how everyone feels after watching it.
We drove quietly through the deep green, sun-soaked hills towards Oliver’s sitter’s house. When we arrived the dog-sitter, a pretty blonde woman, was laying in her hammock outside in the sun, her pregnant-tummy only slightly visible under her oversized striped t-shirt. She met me at the iron double gates with a smile and a look of mild concern in her eyes. “Now don’t feel bad,” she started, and my brain finished with, “but Oliver ate one of my nephews. He killed a homeless man. He lit our house on fire. He started speaking in tongues.” I looked down at Oliver who was so enthusiastic to see me that I almost laughed because I knew he’d done something bad, we were about to talk about it, and there he was tail-a-wagging, eyes all lit up, tongue flopped out from excited pants. “So,” she continued, “he got really sick and pooped all over my rug and the really porous tile. He also peed on the guest bed. Oh, and he wiped his dirty butt on my couch.” Great. This is totally why you have no friends, Oliver. “Oh God…I’m so sorry. I don’t know what is wrong with this dog.” Look down, he’s panting, tongue flopping, tail wagging, feet prancing. He has no idea that we were discussing how bad he was. He really does need to be medicated, like the other dog sitter said a few months prior. “He’s very sweet but is it possible to get him some, I don’t know, valium or something?” I laughed but she had this look of desperate plea which led to an awkward moment where I realized that she was serious. I looked back up at the dog sitter who was smiling, “Oh. And he has poop all over his butt. Don’t feel bad at all. I have two dogs too. I know how it is. But maybe if we have to take him in the future we could use a crate? Does he have a crate?” Oliver you are so embarrassing. “He did but it was huge and F took it somewhere.” Damnit! Where is that crate?! Misty, leave the poor woman alone and run for the car. Now. Run. And then I ran to the car and I was like, “DRIVE!” and we disappeared into the grape vines. I mean, I didn’t, but I felt like it.
I tried to adequately apologize before leaving because I like her a lot as a human and I was like, “Judge my dog, not me, I swear I’m nothing like him. I would never pee on your guest bed! it’s genetic! He’s a product of Italy, not me!”. When I got into the car with Oliver I told F what happened. “You’re surprised? Really? He’s practically a canine Dennis The Menace. So, our dog-walker quit two weeks ago, I think this one is finished. Now we really need to train him. I feel really bad for them but I really can’t say I’m surprised babe.” He said matter-of-fact. I shrugged and laughed,”You know, we are a hot mess.” He smiled, “But Italy is beautiful, look at the hills, eh?”
Life is a movie. La Grande Bellezza
“Struggle is proof that you haven’t been conquered, that you refuse to surrender, that victory is still possible, and that you’re growing.” -Walden
Dolphin Dog: Adorable dog named Grizzly who swims with Dolphins on the reg. If you’re having a shitty day this will surely cheer you up.
Woman from Milan Who Offers Her Virgin Ass As A Reward For Someone Who Finds Her Lost Cat. “My grandma gave me that cat,” she says in the ad. I’m sure the ad is totally granny approved. If granny was a prostitute.
Amazing Photo of Nude Mother and Her Two Daughters. Say what you will, but I love it. My conservative husband (that’s right F, CONSERVATIVE!) shit himself and was all, “Oh MY GOD! Why are they all naked!?” But I think the photo is amazing and you will too if you don’t suck.
For Laughs: Great Pinterest Board Full Of Funny Stuff. I wish I would have made up some of this stuff.
Every once in a while my in-laws come from Cassino to Florence to visit us and stay at our apartment for the weekend. This past weekend they came on Saturday and left on Sunday, a short visit, and I have to admit a pleasant visit (for those of you who read M.E. regularly, you’re totally shitting your pants right now. I know.). Usually when they visit I find myself crying hysterically in the bathroom or I spend hours thinking of interesting ways to murder my husband. This time I decided something that I should have decided a long time ago: I do not give a flying fuck. I made my husband clean and prepare the apartment for them, I refused to be bothered or stressed because Misty is tired. When they arrived I said hello and was polite, but I did minimum hosting which means I only handed out water and made sure my dog didn’t bother anyone t0o much. Everyone was fine and it was mostly not weird until someone had to go and ruin it for everyone.
We were all gathered in the living-room, my in-laws, F and I, drinking coffee when the attention turned to Oliver who was being his usual-self, attacking and enthusiastically humping Mr. Oinky his new stuffed pig, in his bed. Then, as though he was trying to make me look bad, he stopped, panted, lifted his leg and PISSED on Mr. Oinky. Right on his head like he was all, “take that bitch” after a disappointing exchange. After all my work with this dog I’d still managed to raise a canine version of R Kelly. Everyone exchanged uncomfortable glances and I leapt up to express clean while I explained that he had never done that before (which is entirely true) but it was too late. Obviously, I had a raised a freak and there was no getting around it.
Later that evening we were invited to dinner at a friend of the family’s house who also lives in Florence. I realized a few things. The first thing being that I love how people do table spreads here. I mean, the entire table is literally overflowing with food. The second thing is that now that I’m married everyone is really interested in my vagina and concerned with how much action she’s potentially getting.
My in-laws, my brother and sister-in-law and the hosting couple, almost at the same time, leaned in and started asking questions. When are you guys going to have a baby? When? WHEN!?? Someone demanded that we have more sex. Have sex every day! Everyone seemed so excited about us having sex that I was kind of waiting for it to be suggested that we make a baby on the dinner table. No really, do it now. NOW. NOW!
I said, “well make one when we can afford it unless you know of a way to make it live off of air. Also, babies pee inside of you. THEY PEE INSIDE OF YOU! Speaking of pee, I should not be a mother. Did I tell you all what Oliver did to his stuffed animal today? Really, you don’t want me to reproduce.” And I think they all agreed so maybe the thing with Oliver was a blessing in disguise. It’s not that I don’t want kids, it’s just that I don’t want kids now. Or soon.
(And I might reconsider doing it ever after reading this article on fetal masturbation. Seriously? Why babies? Also, I would like to know what the church thinks of this. Kind of puts a damper on the no touchy-touchy argument, doesn’t it?)
The sex talk faded away and I was able to focus more on eating and wine. I had Oliver chained under my chair with his Kong so he couldn’t freak anyone else out. The more I drink the less I can speak Italian, or English, so at some point I was just staring at everyone. I don’t know about any of you guys but bored is bad for me. Usually my imagination kicks in and it’s all downhill from there.
Lara, our nine month old niece was sitting on my mother-in-laws lap, poking her with little bread sticks that are about the width of a pretzal but longer. Then she started feeding my mother-in-law the bread-pretzal. And I leaned over to F and was all, “I want to feed your mom a breadstick !” And F was all, “DO NOT DO THAT.” I tried to stop myself but she was sitting next to me so at some point I was waving one in front of her face making an airplane noise and then trying to poke it into her mouth. She wouldn’t eat it. Unaware of how to repair the awkward thing I’d already done, I bonked her on the head with it instead and said, “dooopidooopidooo.” Francesco was horrified. She shot me a mean look and somehow I felt an odd sense of satisfaction that is really inexplainable.
On Sunday everyone returned to Cassino. The weather was shit in Florence so F and I decided to stay home and watch Underworld because, you know, werewolves and vampires!
F: What if I was a Lycan and you were a vampire?
ME: Clearly, we’d get married and have a half-breed baby. I don’t see the issue.
F: What would your Vampire name be?
ME: Something gothic and ridiculous like Seraphyn.
F: What would my name be?
F: My name would NOT BE PUPPY! It would be Rocko!
ME: No. Your name would be puppy. That’s a good name!
F: I hate you. [Gets up and adjusts sound]
ME: Good puppy! [pat, pat, pat].
Warning. This is a lazy post. I’m overwhelmed with shit right now and haven’t had time to write something even remotely entertaining. However, I WILL! I WILL PREVAIL!
Sometimes when I’m feeling depressed or overwhelmed I’ll go through my old photos or my “memory” box to cheer me up. In doing that this morning I found a ticket to a Flamenco show that my husband took me to in 2010. When I first started dating him, and this is exactly why I fell in love with him, he wasn’t like anyone I’d ever dated before. He planned things, he surprsed me with things, he always knew where we were going to dinner, or for drinks and it was always exciting. He was also ridiculously romantic. I mean, make me throw up in my mouth, romantic. He’d come over and cook dinner, sing to me and dance with me in the kitchen. One time after I became angry with him he even tried to serenade me in the piazza under my house. Though, I’m not great with things that draw attention to me so instead of being impressed I screamed, “Oh god no,” and I ran away. It’s funny how that works, how you get smothered with attention when you don’t need it, but when you do it’s no longer available. Life is kind of a dick in that way. Right? Anyhow, I remember he’d booked a night in a really fancy hotel in Gaeta for us, and upon returning to Florence we rushed to the theatre for the Flamenco show.
A month later he took me to Sicily for a week where he proposed for probably the third time since we’d been dating on a cliff overlooking the sea. German tourists watched and clapped while I ran away. Now, he’s Italian, and I’m not as dumb as I look, so it’s possible that he didn’t mean any of it back then and he was most likely sleeping with half of Europe at the same time. Still, the point is, it was sweet.
Later that night I started my period and thought I was dying. He ran to the Farmacia (pharmacy) and bought pain killers, juice, and a thermometer (because apparently he’d never known a women who had a period before?). I fell asleep and woke up to a candle-lit dinner in the corner of our room that he had put together while I slept.
I have a lot of memories of him like this. He won’t be happy that I’m writing this because he prefers that his friends think he’s a piece of shit, and would hate for them to know that sometimes he’s a decent guy. Seriously. I’ll never understand men. He also used to write me poetry. POETRY. So, take that, guys.
So, this is me reminding myself of why I fell in love with him. Even if he is the biggest pain in my ass ever and sometimes I think about sticking forks in his eyes while he sleeps. He was worth falling for.
ps. hint, hint, I would like dinner delivered to bed more often. Obviously.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
― Leonardo da Vinci
I’m often asked to compare Italy to the United States to give people an idea what it’s like living here. Obviously, a lot of these things are generalizations, things I’ve heard from my husband or our Italian friends but written in a humorous and exaggerated way for my own amusement. The statistics and stuff I read in books or articles, and many of them are linked. It’s titled, 25 Things I’ve Learned About Italy because it’s things that I’ve learned from others and a few things that I’ve observed through an expats eyes. It’s not 25 opinions about Italy. That list would be a lot different and probably funnier and more offensive. So, it might sound like I’m trash talking, but that’s just because I was blessed with an incurable tendency to be ironic. Also, it’s also good to keep a mental note that this is a humor blog where I freely make fun of pretty much everyone (Myself, Italians, Americans, and sometimes Poodles.) It helps to have a good sense of humor before approaching anything that I write. If you’re offended easily, you should watch this instead.
1. The mother-in-law is one of the top cited reasons for divorce.
2. The infidelity rate is in the 60% range, yet divorce is only 11% [Italian society of divorce lawyers]. So, basically, the majority cheats and either doesn’t get caught or people do not divorce for cheating. Cheating has long been known to be a part of Italy’s culture and is often encouraged, rewarded, and approved by peers. Bro’s before Ho’s y’all!
3. Mammoni is a cultural phenomenon where the mother basically breast feeds the children into their forties. After they stop breast feeding, they send liters of their breast milk to be used as coffee creamer or in cereal. Mostly.
4. On average people do not marry until their 30’s, and they don’t move out of their parents house until they marry. This is mainly due to economic issues and more recently, Mammoni.
5. People don’t clean up their dogs shit. Ever. If you’re in Florence, you should always keep your eyes on the sidewalk. On a different note, everyone in Florence seems to love dogs and they spoil the shit out of them (pun intended, hey oh!). Oliver’s head gets rubbed down and molested every four feet while we’re on a walk.
6. Most of the apartments, restaurants, etc are COLD in the winter (compared to the US). Heat is very expensive and nobody uses it as much as we do in the US. Seriously, things are expensive here. Keep whining about your 4 dollar per gallon gas people, it’s like 4 dollars PER LITER here.
7. Everyone says they are Catholic, and Athiest at the same time. This confuses me.
8. It seems that everyone smokes and it’s the only place I’ve witnessed three generations sharing a smoke together: Grandma, Mother, And teenage daughter. It is also legal to smoke and drink as a teenager.
9. Coffee is a big deal and Italy has great coffee, however, everyone drinks it like they’re throwing back a thimble of gasoline. Sitting down to have a nice, big, cup of coffee is not common. Stand up, chug espresso, then go smoke.
10. Friends and family members do not share “personal information.”
11. Florence is full of Neo-Nazis and Fascists. Yes, seriously. If you see someone who looks like a skinhead, they are in fact a skinhead.
12. Graffiti is used mostly for love. “Dear Angelina, my little star, I will always love you,” is what most of the spray paint around the city says. Yes, seriously. It’s not gangster at all, it’s pretty much bad poetry. Or rascist.
14. Northern and Southern Italians don’t like each other, or rather, they generalize heavily about one another. Why? Typically, the north is industial and educated while the south is still stuck in the 1920’s. This is actually kind of true, but not entirely and it has a sociological/economical explaination that I’m too lazy to get into right now. My husband is super intelligent, and hard-working, yet he is from the south, however, I have noticed that really traditional southern Italians are really sexist and super Yee-Haw. Also, Florence is considered “the south” according to my friends in Brecia, yet Florentines consider anything south of Rome “the south.” Also, Florentines are some of the laziest people I’ve ever met in my life so…generalizing is stupid unless I’m the one doing it. To give you an example of north vs south reasoning, it’s common to hear these things, “Oh, she’s from Milan so she’s probably really rich and snobby,” or, “Oh he’s from the South so he probably beats his wife and doesn’t work.” And no I’m not exagerating. People say these things.
15. Italians are really under-paid. An Engineer, for example, is likely to make only slightly more than someone who works at a cafe. It is creating a brain-drain where the smartest people in the country are leaving in search of higher wages. Way to go Italy, you totally just lost the new Di Vinci by being cheap.
16. Education is mostly free in Italy. The only downfall is that there is no real incentive to go, since it’s unlikely you’ll make a lot of money. Also, it’s not uncommon for people to spend 10 years earning a bachelors degree. And when you ask someone “how is school going,” the response is often, “really, really difficult.”
17. Italian men are pretty romantic culturally compared to American men. However, lying is also a large part of the culture, so enjoy the shit they say but know they’re lying to you.
18. If you want the morning-after pill, you’ll possibly have to go before a panel of assholes who will tell you that you’re plenty old to have a baby so, no, you can’t have the pill. Then you’ll threaten to ship your baby to them if you have one and they’ll just stare at you like you’re the asshole.
19. The food is amazing. While Americans have the reputation for food obsession (and being chubby), these people are actually obsessed with food. In my husband’s region, a birthday dinner lasts around 4 hours. Yes, eating the entire time for 4 hours. Yes, you do want to kill yourself after, and yes, I do sometimes sneak my food to the dog under the table who then pukes on the rug.
20. Americans have a horrible reputation here for being loud, slutty, stupid, and trashy. I can actually see how that opinion formed. I am all of those things. But seriously, most of the tourists here from the US are really old, middle class Americans who haven’t travleled much. They often complain a lot, demand too much, and say really odd things to the locals. The other group here are 18 year old college students who are spending a semester abroad. They are suddenly allowed to drink and have no social obligations to act like a normal person so they go crazy, drink, dance, and try out European men like ice cream flavors. In the US these are the same good christian girls who often go to Tufts, Yale, and many, many good schools. Lady in the US, topless dancer in Europe.
21. Europeans are not circumcised and so all the dudes have elephant trunks in their pants. Americans are the “weird” ones who chop their willy’s up. This reminds me of a story from art school. The nude model came in and two different girls leaned over to me and asked, “what is wrong with his weiner.” I mumbled, “uhm…he’s not jewish?” For the record, it does seem weird to me to cut up your junk.
22. According to my Italian friends, making new friends is hard. Even Italians don’t often make friends with other Italians past their teens. Basically, the friends you have in your teenage years are often the friends you have for your entire life. Going out with an Italian person 200 times in mixed company will not result in you going shopping or having coffee together. Unless they are trying to have sex with you.
23. Italians have weird boundaries. I’ve heard this story from a lot of female women here. “My mother-in-law keeps inviting my husbands EX GIRLFRIEND over to have dinner with us!” Because all that matters here is “bella figura.” Which is, a good impression. So, regardless of the inappropriateness of a situation, how people see you will always be more important than anything else.
24. This one is good for tourists who think that a tube top, booty shorts, and flip-flops constitutes an outfit. Italians in Florence do not go out with bare legs until June. No, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot, they do not care. You’ll notice that they’ll wear tights under their shorts even in death heat. Why? Bella figura, Bitches.
25. Liking your wife seems to be weird. I’ve never heard an Italian say anything nice about their wife or partners. In fact, I’ve heard men outright talk about wanting to have sex with other women. A man who likes his partner will be teased for acting like it. Because it’s not cool to think your partner is awesome (this is much stronger in the south where Machismo is still a thing). Italian couples often seem like two people who just ingested battery acid together. I read a study that said it’s because Italians do not always marry for friendship or even love since there is still a strong tendency towards tradition (making family and having children)(http://www.acop.com/press/2010/10/married_couples/.) They often marry to “produce children” as is required by the Catholic church. In fact, if you marry without producing children, the church does not recognize your marriage (At least that’s what our priest told us). Kind of like how my mother-in-law doesn’t recognize our marriage because she hates me. Actually, that’s not the same at all but I just wanted to whine about it. My husband and I hate each other. We totally got married to split rent. Now I only pay 50%. Everyone wins!
So anyways, now you know what Italy is like: A porn stars vagina. Famous, reputable, disloyal, cold, dark, shaved, and covered in graffiti and yet everyone desperately wants to be near it.
Welcome to Italy!
- Why Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives (survivinginitaly.com)
- Long-lost Orson Welles film screened in Italy (thelocal.it)
- Don’t Be Just a Tourist – My Study Abroad Experience in Italy (abroadee.com)
- More than half of Italian men live with their mums (thelocal.it)