Musings on money and the bourgeoisie

036[amolenuvolette.it]bourgeoisie, le corso de neuilly, middle-class, corso de neuillyLast week my 20 years old nephew was in town and spent the night with us. We went for a walk in the neighborhood, to get toiletries he had forgotten at the night shop and stayed a little longer wandering around. It was still warm outside and I showed him the local cafés and restaurants on the way. He’s the one and only baby I ever held before having mines and despite the fact that he’s now taller than me and has a beard, whenever I get the chance to see him (20 years old have amazingly busy lives) I can’t but remember the chubby cherub cruising around the garden in the early 90s.

He has an artistic temperament and is as lost as one can be when he/she leaves eagerly high school, filled with dreams and hopes, only to find out that the following step is way less glamorous and pure and ideal than imagined.

On our way to the night shop, we passed a tiny pizza restaurant which opened 8 years ago and quickly became a typical Italian success story. Marketing the simple roman concept of pizza al taglio (pizza sold at the counter by its lenght) and employing authentic Italian pizza makers, the founder built an icon of Brussels’ weekends, late nights and quick lunches.

“Look, the guy who invented that (shop) is a genius – I told impulsively my nephew – He made so much money out of that shop”. He looked back at me and said: “And the fact that he became rich makes him a genius?”. There was no sarcasm in his voice, just a pinch of sadness. I tried to make it up, saying (what I actually think) that I was referring to his ability to sell a simple good and make it look cool and desirable but there was no way out of there.

I, the 35 years old aunt, told my 20 years old nephew that becoming rich implies some degree of genius. When did this happen?

I am no revolutionary and have a pretty earthy vision of the importance of money in life but I never realized before how practical I had become with time. Has it to do with age? When did we start thinking of money as a measure of success?

Of course, I am aware that this reflexion doesn’t apply to the U.S. where money talking has been legitimized since forever but in old Europe it wasn’t when I was growing up. I have been brought up with the idea that money and success might be a consequence, a side-effect of geniality but not its main constituent.

A year ago I published a small book and was surprised to see that every time people asked me about that, it wasn’t to know what it was about, or how it took form or the work behind it. No, they always asked about how many copies it sold, and if I could live now out of that. Shock ensued, when I candidly admitted that I had no idea, that the editor only wrote me once a year about figures and that I wasn’t that much worried about following sales daily.

In the same way, when I tell someone I started blogging, they always ask: “How do you make money out of it?.”I don’t”. “What’s the point, then? What are you offering your readers? What do you sell them?”

“Hm…I just share thoughts and chat and find likeminded people across the world?”.

At this point, my interlocutor usually fills his glass of wine and changes the subject.

Am I Alice in the Wonderland or there’s an exaggerated interest on money? When did it become a measure of worth in Old Europe? Or is it just that money is what middle-aged people talk about?

Some go, some stay: summer thoughts on friendship

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

For those living abroad, summer comes with high expectations and mixed feelings. Holidaying home is a trip down Memory Lane, a well deserved resting bubble and the perfect time to catch up with old friends. Sometimes, though, that comes with the unpleasant realisation that friendship, as love, can’t always stay afloat despite time, distance and life itself. Shared memories can take a relationship only so far. At some point, they start to fade and you need to infuse new life, new moments spent together, future commitments to see each other to take the whole thing to the next stage.

(Photo: public domain)

(Photo: public domain)

I lost many of my youth friends on the way. They still sit among my sleeping Facebook contacts, those whose name is solidly present on the list without having properly interacted in the past decade. We see each other’s posts and recent pictures. We sometimes struggle to recognize that boy/girl we had so much fun with between thinning hairlines and new wrinkles. We think we’ll write a message, just to catch up. Then we never do it because there’s another life happening. Now.

I don’t know if it’s a women’s prerogative but we can’t seem to keep our friends for a lifetime. Men tend to hang out forever with their primary school classmates and rarely form deep, profound friendship after a certain age. Women’s friendship is a different world: new friends keep coming into a woman’s life till her last breath and naturally some get lost on the way.

Women give generously to their friends, they discuss everything: from mundane occupations to the most heartbreaking moments in life. They nurture friendship as a form of love. As love, it’s not always time-proof.

Someone told me once that marrying a foreigner is a statement. It means telling the world you weren’t so comfortable, after all, with those people you grew up with. It might be true, in a certain way, for mixed couples tend to have the best time together while they often struggle with same-nationality partners. What’s certain is that the only “old friends” I kept so far are those living abroad, or married to a foreigner. We don’t need many words or long written catch-ups. A message here and there will do it. We know how our lives are.

As someone who grows attached to everybody and can’t imagine to change hairdresser or doctor, I can’t but feel sorry for the others, every time I am reminded of how much time has passed since we drank lemonades together on the beach, dreaming of our future. But I am learning the 30s lesson here: you have to let go of the past. Some friends go, some stay, some will eventually come back, at a different stage of life and some new will come to cheer you up.

You can’t make everyone happy and at some point you might have to cut branches, in order to become who you are. Yet, I still have to deal with the random nostalgia.

Have you been able to nurture old friendships while living abroad? How?I’d love to hear your stories.

30s: regretting 20s, looking forward to 40s

I write, think and talk a lot about age. Everyday. It became an obsession when I turned 30 and people expected me to be an adult when I couldn’t feel any actual difference from my younger self. According to my father who is well settled in his 80s it stays like that for the rest of your life: you keep feeling 21 and can’t really process the fact that teenagers get up to give you their seat when you use public transports.

What I find really confusing is that there is no “old age” anymore. I am 34 and I can remember my mother when she was my age. She dressed, behaved and spoke as a grown up. She even had a grown up’s haircut (that mid-lenght, parted on the side thing moms had in the 70s). Now everybody dresses the same between 15 and 85 and you spot grandmothers trying on the same Zara jeans as their granddaughters. So when do we get old? Or when do we stop being young?

I have already written of my (apparently inaccurately remembered) 20s: the Golden Age when you started adult life and risked being obsessed with the quest for real love. My 30s are turning out to be what everybody said: a chaotic number of years where you are supposed to be wise and organized and responsible and to take care of everybody and everything but yourself. I am constantly running, and most of the times I am running late. I still remember the  shock when, freshly married, my husband made me a list of things to do. Errands. Dry cleaner, shoe-repair guy, car repair and so on. The kind of stuff I always outsourced to my mother. Well, I am becoming her. And that is scary.

In these past months I am seeing very often women in their 40s. They seem to have an appeasing effect on my anxiousness. They survived through 30s, some divorces, young children and everyday frustrations. They are better dressed, younger looking than 30-years-old who still have to cope with night waking and dark circles around their eyes and in most cases they resumed interesting jobs. They even know who they are. They are to me the light at the end of the tunnel.

What a strange era, the 30s.