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5 Ways Italy is Like High School
Discover how this writer is brought back to her awkward teen years every time she steps foot on the Boot
by Francesca Di Meglio
While the rest of the world is starting their summer vacation, I'm heading to Italy. For me, Italy is like high school, replete with popular kids, brutal judgment, and nauseous stomach. You're probably thinking that I should quit complaining. After all, lots of people would love to have this problem months in Italy, one of the most beloved country in the world.
Granted, it's beautiful. And I spend most of my time on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, which means I get in lots of beach time and great food (think the best mozzarella, juiciest tomatoes, freshest seafood, and more pasta than Strega Nonna could make). Still, when you live in a place, you are no longer on vacation. So, you start to notice things and get to know the people too well. That's when I realized by agreeing to join my native husband in Italy every summer, I've permanently committed myself to going to high school forever. Ugh!
Here are the reasons Italy is like high school:
1. The piazza may as well be the cafegymatorium.
You know in high school how everyone would walk through the cafegymatorium (that room where you'd eat lunch, have gym class, and observe assemblies) to see what you were wearing and with whom you were sitting? Well, that sort of fashion show/spectacle/judgment day occurs daily in the piazza. The townspeople of all ages find time to go to the center of town every day to see and be seen.
2. Your clothes better make a statement.
Italians expect you to be dressed to the nines at all times. No one walks around in sweatpants, unless they are actually sweating while working out. And if you don't have a designer name printed across your bottom or your boobs, then you haven't made it yet. Bonus points for anyone who has the names across all her privates. I wish I was kidding.
3. Consider yourself judged.
While you're strutting your stuff in the piazza, the others will check you out and then share their version of your story. "You know, she's the one whose aunt disowned her when she had a falling out with the richest people on the island" or "He's the one whose girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend." Then, things get ugly. "Mamma mia, who does she think she is wearing those tight pants?" "Why would anyone wear those patterns with that big belly?" "He got so fat since last summer. What's he doing?" They are the toughest critics, even though most of them should look in the mirror.
4. Much like high school girls, Italians are constantly on their phones.
Whether they are texting or talking on the phone with their friends, Italians might have to be surgically removed from their cell phones. Even at 40 or 50 and regardless of whether they are married, friends chat like they have nothing to do. They also make plans and go out all. the. time. My husband's friends, many of whom are older and married with kids, regularly go out with their pals – to bars for aperitivi, restaurants for dinner, or the gym to work out. Some of them talk about women, even in front of their wives, like I imagined guys did in the locker rooms at high school. Many of them indulge in the passions of high school boys – listening to music, playing video games, and chasing the ladies. While it's great to have friends and I recommend them to everyone, I get peeved at the sight of all these people chatting about such frivolous stuff so often. It's like they're a bunch of 14-year-old girls.
5. Superficiality is a religion.
While Americans are constantly reminding each other to never judge a book by its cover, Italians do the exact opposite. They live by the bella figura, which translates to "good figure." It means to give a good impression by dressing nicely, behaving well in public, and people having an overall good perception of you. The problem with this is that people become more concerned with looking good and less concerned with substance. You can spout off nonsense as long as every hair is in place. Seriously. It might be how a porn star and a singer on cruise ships (who allegedly had orgies on a regular basis) took on major political roles in Italy. Didn't kids elect the prettiest girl or hottest guy or someone who was going to throw the coolest parties when picking a high school class president? I rest my case.
Di Meglio is the Newlyweds Expert for About.com, and you can follow her work at the Two Worlds Web site.
Article Published 6/9/2014
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