husband

Eight minutes, eight years: tale of a Victorian wedding

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It feels as eight minutes, but it’s been eight years. This afternoon, in 2005, I walked down the aisle to marry a guy I barely knew, having spent with him less than 30 days over a year’s time. It wasn’t love at first sight and we weren’t carried away by passion. Impulsive marriage was probably the only way out for the strongly independent, easily bored, constantly challenging characters we were at that time.

It certainly was the only way to go for me: after an endless list of unreciprocated romantic interests over teenage, my 20s were punctuated by a series of wrong affairs. They tended to be so wrong one could easily explain them with coffee-time psychology: I wanted them to be wrong, so that I could keep being on my own AND talk and write about my bad luck to anyone who’d listen. Just before meeting my husband, I remember confessing to a friend, over a Cosmopolitan (oh yes, I love Carrie Bradshaw’s favorite drink, I am THAT lame) that I didn’t care about love. And even less about passion or commitment. I just wanted someone to travel with, to eat and drink with at night and smart enough to keep me intellectually stimulated. It sounds like a checklist but it’s what 20s are after all: a list of things you think you need in order to be happy. I never found that person.

I did a bit of traveling alone in order to show off my independence: I hated it since I find no satisfaction in experiencing something I can’t share. But it was good to lose weight: I never ate at night, finding it depressing to have dinner alone.

Many of my friends discovered the pleasures (and sorrows) of being a couple early on: they started kissing on the school’s steps, went on going out together, partying, driving the first car, graduating. They lived everything with their companion. Then, usually, sometime after graduation all these happy couples started to get married. Some lasted, some others split shortly after tying the knot. It’s the story of the world.

I never thought of marriage as the natural conclusion of love, mutual respect, common projects and whatever you think a shared life should be about. I wanted it to be the beginning of love, and not its evolution.

In order to accomplish my plan, I had to marry quickly, trusting my instinct and without a safety net. Some called me crazy. Some others asked if I were pregnant (I was not). I loved the idea of knowing only a fraction of the man I was going to spend my life with: I knew he was decent but I didn’t meet any of his friends or his family till after we were already engaged. It was a huge risk, but one I rationally thought worth taking.

I don’t believe in marriages based on passion. Passion sweeps you away but it can’t last. None would survive longer than a few years with butterflies in the stomach, anxiety attacks and the constant fear of losing the person keeping us on a constant high. Passion tends to diminish over time, love tends to flourish. Love grows with mutual knowledge and understanding, it increases with the time spent together, it alleviates bad moments and underlines the most joyful ones. This being my personal take on marriage, I was extremely lucky in finding someone who shared a Victorian idea of all things related to love.

I knew my husband so little when we tied the knot that I ignored if he took his coffee black or with milk, what sport he played during childhood, where did he study and how was his childhood like. I had to learn all of this, and I still am.

It’s been smooth sailing, through so many different times. The early years’ freedom, traveling, dining, holidaying. The following first worries on work, getting our place, having children. The sleepless nights, the doubts, the extreme happiness of child rearing. Moments of grief, when we lost people dear to us and we learnt that life gives and takes in the blink of an eye, and so we better start savoring the present, without worrying about the future. Moments of relief, once the storm had passed and we realized we were still here and we were safe.

It’s a special anniversary, this 8th one. Thank you, my Victorian husband, for being with me through this amazing adventure that life is.

“Ma vatte’ a fa’ ‘na passeggiata, va’…”: Go have a walk, or the Italian answer to the famous Belgian humour

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Many says that Rome’s only flaw are the Romans. I think that the Romans are actually Rome’s greatest asset. Without its cynical, proud, indifferent, wise inhabitants Rome would be just an open museum. Purebred Romans are an endangered species but if you happen to find one be prepared to sharp sentences, the distant look of someone who’s seen it all and doesn’t care anymore and vitriolic remarks.

The husband had his own Roman close encounter last Saturday, when we grabbed a taxi to go visit the Forum and the driver happened to be a 70 something Trasteverino, an authentic, purebred Roman. After a long series of curses addressed to the unaware pedestrians (curses that all involved the pedestrian’s dead relatives), we had a revealing moment:

(taxi driver): Look, Rome is so beautiful!

(me): Yes, and too crowded as well!

(td): But it’s normal, when something is beautiful everybody wants to see it! Rome is the most beautiful city in the world!

(The Husband): (taking his Belgian sheepish look) I come from Belgium, and that is the most beautiful country in the world! We even have an Italian prime minister!

(td): (turning his head slowly, looking down to my husband, without an inch of amusement) MA VATTE A’ FA’ ‘NA PASSEGGIATA, VA’; VATTE’ A VEDE’ DU’ COSE, POI ME DISSCI which sounds more or less like “Go have a walk, see a couple o’ things, then you’ll tell me”.

The Husband learnt that contrary to widespread opinion Italians do have a sense of humour. They just reserve it to other subjects. Never, ever try to tease a Roman about Rome. It ain’t funny.

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Then we had coffee. And it was a perfect one. A black, vigorous, short expresso, accompanied by its regular glass of tap water. No milk foams, cocoa sprinkling, syrup pouring or odd doses (double, triple or whatever people take to get cardiac arrhythmia).

PS The greatest interpreter of the Roman soul was actor Alberto Sordi. His movies are a must to understand the city.