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  • Italian Mothers Must Take Charge
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Like Americans, Italians celebrated their mothers on Sunday by giving her a day off from cooking and cleaning and offering her gifts like flowers and candy. But the Italian man's devotion to his mamma could seriously threaten Italy's future. Here's what you need to know:

    The Italian man's relationship with his mother could be the ultimate case study in Oedipal tendencies. The affair starts in the womb. She's their cheerleader. She's their first - and sometimes - only love. She's beatified. There are songs written about her - Le Mamme, famously sung by Toto Cotugno at the San Remo festival, and Mamma, almost a second national anthem.

    Being close to mamma isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of the most appealing traits about Italian men is that they are family oriented. They revere women, and the desire to be chivalrous starts with mamma. They have not lost the desire to open doors and stand when you go to the restroom during dinner.

    At the same time, however, the affair between mother and son can go too far. At about 1.3 children per woman, Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the Western world. More than 80 percent of Italian men still live at home with their parents well into their thirties. And none of them feel a rush to get married. Why should they? Mamma often does their laundry and has dinner waiting at the table when they get home from work.

    All these mamma's boys could be detrimental. Word is that there will be 14 million fewer Italians by 2050, according to a recent article on BBC.com. Italian woman factor into this problem, too. Aside from the older mothers coddling adult sons, many of the younger generation are sick of waiting for men to marry them. Maintaining careers and the house, the few married Italian women are among the hardest working in the world. Some of them find it's just easier to stay single and buy their own place. This all means that soon there will be fewer Italian mamme to celebrate on Mother's Day.

    The Italian government is so concerned that it has offered to give 1,000 euro to those who opt to have a baby. Salerno, in the south, has even offered 12,000 euro to couples willing to reproduce. The country's future depends on it. The median age in Italy has risen from 40.2 to 42.5 since 1995, according to a recent Time article. The magazine also reports that the percentage of retired Italians has jumped from 23 percent to 28 percent in the last 10 years. This means that the country is quickly losing its workforce and relying on senior citizens to run its government.

    Italians need to start breeding just to create the next Silvio Berlusconi or Romano Prodi - or the next mamma, which might be even more important. What has to happen is that men need to love their mothers but still strive for independence. They need to pitch in around the house for mamma - and for their girlfriends. Then, they have to be married to the idea of marriage and children and responsibilities. Italian mamme will be the ones to start this revolution by teaching their boys and girls the same things - how to cook and compete at work, how to clean the bathroom and fix the toilet, how to dream and live in reality.

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