I didn’t mean to take such long pauses between posts but real life keeps unsettling all of my plans (but that is how it goes for everybody, isn’t it?) and Xmas time utterly complicates the task of compressing multiple lives into one. My past week dissolved itself between amazon orders, presents to family, friends and teachers, bills, dinners and other mundane occupations. It happens every year in December but I still wonder: why do people need to see each other all the time and drink and hug and wish and overeat and love this time of the year? Is it the relief of ending a year still alive and the unconscious fear of the new that pushes us together? The carols, decorations, trees and even the drinks are all very nice but they don’t justify the persistence, decade after decade, of this apparently incontrollable pulsion to human proximity.
I have been following closely the political news on my birth country these past days and wondering if and how and when I should write about it. Since the ifs, hows and whens rarely get a really smart answer, I’ll just do it. Talk about it, I mean, without thinking further. Having been gone for a decade now (and having spent the earlier one travelling as much as I could) I am considered a sort of stranger by most of my fellow countrymen and women. And a stranger I am somehow: I don’t follow tv shows anymore (too many bare bellies and bikinis and people just losing their temper in eurovisione), I limit my reading to a couple of newspapers and I certainly don’t know who’s the best candidate to win next year’s Festival di Sanremo edition. I don’t care.
What I care about is understanding why a country notorious for its love of beauty and harmony and design and semi-naked ballerinas on tv decides that a 37 year old guy is not suitable to run for the next political elections opposing Berlusconi, who might be his grandfather. I have well educated, smart friends who just said he’s too young and confused for the job, “He wouldn’t look good, you know – a girlfriend said – negotiating with Mrs. Merkel at a summit, or meeting President Obama. Too young!”. As if Mr. Berlusconi looked good last year when he was negotiating with Mrs. Merkel.
It has been said, especially these past weeks, that Italy is a country for old men. Well, I should add “and for infants as well”. It is not a country for responsible adults. Behind politics there is always society and few things are as misunderstood as Italian society. Forget about the myth of the mamma cooking pasta and ragù day and night while nursing her seven children.
Truth is, Italians don’t even like children. They blame the lack of social infrastructure as the main reason for the low natality rate but then they frown upon breastfeeding as did Victorian society. A couple of years ago, a breastfeeding mother was shown the exit in a restaurant in the north of the country because other clients found her repulsive and inappropriate.
Children are raised by grandmothers, while mothers (raised, in turn, by their grandmothers as well) indulge in the sweet, light taste of lack of responsibilities. It has been going on for generation and it is unlikely to stop. Children and grandmothers, that explains Italian society in a few syllabes. No adult is to be seen, they are way too busy maturing and getting old to get a chance at doing something for themselves (and sometimes society as well).
With children deprived of the right to vote, it is clear that the decision making process belongs to the dinosaurs. It is apparently inappropriate to judge anyone by his age. Why should one retire just because he’s a certain age, Italians argue? Age means more experience, more knowledge, less impatience and more diplomacy. Age is an invaluable asset for any modern society. And young people believe it as well.
How do you change a country like this?
Do you remember that time when girls would play with girls and boys with boys? That primary school class where little girls, with pink ribbons, would sit all together in a corner, already gossiping and exchanging clothing tips and bragging about the latest Barbie? Well, I do. I do remember it vividly. Probably because I never had the coolest Barbie or the trendiest outfit. I was already a stranger. The end of childhood marked a moment of enormous relief. Closed in a girls’ world I had few chances to succeed, too much pressure to bear. In a teenage world, where boys first entered the picture, I could reach a larger audience, and one that wasn’t necessarily interested in conforming to the Kelly Taylor (of Beverly Hills 90210, FIRST edition) ideal. Well, to my greatest surprise, I am back in that primary school class. I have been to more than a dozen birthday parties in the past year and a half and the girls (in their 30s) always decide to have a girls-only party. So I’ve been to manucure parties, cooking class parties, pole dance class parties, cocktail making parties…and yet there were only girls. Why is it? Is it because twenties are the mating years, when we have to find the love of our life and settle so that in our 30s (and beyond, unless life puts us on the market again) we can go back to the joys of sisterhood? I haven’t still figured it out but I have to admit that in spite of my rocky primary school past I do prefer to celebrate – anything – with other girls. Past the partying-as-crazy years, we don’t have time anymore for girly talk: we live very short days and weeks and years trying to figure out who we are, and taking care of pets, partners and children. No more time to brag on the newest Barbie. Once settled the “Finding the Love of My Life” thing, which occupied a big part of my thoughts during my early 20s, I frankly have a much better time having a drink with a girlfriend, toasting on what we have become compared to who we wanted to be some years ago and exchanging opinions on our multiple lives. it’s liberating, it’s easier and normally funnier then sitting next to the regular guy at the dinner table discussing what we do and where we live and how many children we have and feeling the distress – on both sides – to have a polite conversation with a stranger.
I had always thought that humans were so evolute and smart and intellectually sophisticated and then the question unsettles me: is the innate human reproductive urge the only reason why men and women enjoy a conversation? Would we have parties and beach resorts and New Year’s Eves and cocktails if there was no mating instinct?