because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Italy did nothing to disprove their men are idiots.

“Laura. Do you believe in God?”
Do you go to church?”
“Do you believe in heaven?”
He sighed, and My Pregnant Friend said, “Laura. If you are going to meet my very Italian father-in-law, we’re going to have to try this again.”
It was my turn to sigh. “Are you sure he won’t just love me anyway, Britishness and all?” I asked.
My Pregnant friend and her husband looked at each other.

And so, as I downed the last of my strawberry Prosecco in the Easter Sunday sunshine, I was schooled on How To Be Amenable To Somebody Else’s Family. Somebody else’s Italian family. Somebody else’s Italian, traditional, conservative family.

The rules?

“Don’t tell him you aren’t Catholic.”
“Don’t mention feminism.”
“Don’t get into vegetarianism.”
“Don’t talk about politics.”

Like I’ve never mixed in polite company before guys.

Okay fine. I’ve never mixed in polite company before guys.

We did introductions- Grandma, who makes the best fried eggplant in the universe, and Granddad, who one has to shout at to be heard and who stared at me a lot. Auntie and Uncle, the comic relief. Mum and Dad, who sat at opposite sides of the table as one played The Woman and one played The Man. My pregnant friend and her Italian husband, and then me and my Boss/Friend- two single gals at a family gathering.

“So, Laura,” Father-in-Law said to me. “What is the crisis like in England?”
I turned to the table and repeated the word he had used for ‘crisis’ in Italian, which sound a lot like ‘Christ’.
“Did he just ask me if we have Christianity in England?” I asked.
The entire English-speaking contingent of the table all at once yelled, “NO!”
He was asking about the economy, I was told.
My Boss/Friend elbowed my ribs. “Don’t start that,” she said through gritted teeth.

On responding, I was lectured on the merits of an Italy gone by, where taxes were low and honesty was paramount. He meant under Berlusconi, the same politician of whom the Queen of England said, “Oh, who is that bothersome man?” He of bunga-bunga party fame. He of no morals, and much illegal tax evasion.

“Angela merkel” he said to me. “Saying we are just like Spain and Greece! We’re nothing like Spain and Greece! You understand that, don't you?”

Internet, having worked here for almost a year I can categorically say: Italy’s economy is up shit creek and is missing the proverbial paddle. They might be worse than Spain and Greece, precisely because they are so deluded about their place in the European economy.

“We have more money saved per person than anywhere else in Europe!”

A claim which I don’t think is quite true.

“Yes, but it isn’t saving that stimulates economy, is it?” I began to tell him, and then my Italian was gone so I had my friend translate. I turned to her, “Can you tell him that savings don’t mean anything for an economy- people need to spend. Compare what happened to England post World War 2 and what happened in America. He can’t have that attitude!”

My Boss/Friend smiled and translated, “She says you are right.” Then she smiled sweetly at me.

“Are you married?” he asked me later.
“Nope.” I replied. “Don’t want to be, either.”
“You don’t want to be married?”
“Nope. Never.”
“Never say never,” he said, and all of the women around the table laughed when I said, “Why?” They knew. It’s funny- married women seldom question my choice, yet married men always do. I can’t begin to imagine why.


“Never seen a marriage I want to emulate,” I told him. “It’s always the woman who looks after the man, and the man who works, and nothing is equal,” I said.
“You’re immature,” he told me. “You’ll grow out of that opinion.”
“I don’t think I will,” I responded.
“You will.”
I asked my friend to translate. “Can you tell him I am a feminist and this attitude toward women- men having to have the final word- is exactly why I have no interest in perpetuating this patriarchal society view in the modern world?”

My Boss/Friend smiled and translated, “She says you are right.” Then she smiled sweetly at me.

“Lamb?” he offered, as THE FOURTH COURSE was wheeled out.
“I’m vegetarian,” I explained.
“What about some ham then?” he asked.
Who knew The Royale Family translated into Italian?
“Any dead animal is out for me,” I explained.
“So no lamb?”
“No lamb”
“Why are you vegetarian, that’s stupid,” he said.

My patience was wearing thin. “Can you explain to him,” I asked my friend, “That I don’t want to contribute to the production processes of meat, particularly in the U.K.? That frying bacon and seeing water leak out is not natural, and the steaks we pick up from supermarket shelves have been pumped of oxygenated blood to be made to look more appealing?”

My Boss/Friend smiled and translated, “She says you are right.” Then she smiled sweetly at me.

We chewed through dead animal and opened Easter eggs and had coffee. Finally, the question came, “Laura. Are you Catholic?”
All eyes were on me. “No.”
“But everybody must choose a religion,” he told me.

“Tell him,” I instructed my Shit-At-Translating-Boss/Friend, “That I believe in people. And I believe people vibrate with energy, and the more positive energy and love and happiness we have, the higher our vibrations, and ultimately, when we vibrate at an absolute pure level our actual body mass alters to the point of invisibility. Tell I believe that this is what happened to Jesus on the day of his resurrection- how he got out of the sealed cave. Tell him that, please.”

My friend smiled and translated, “She says you are right.” Then she smiled sweetly at me.

And that is how my Easter Sunday went.
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