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  • Wake Up Italians and Italian Americans
    It's time the new generation - my generation - grows up and starts contributing to the world
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    The most important part of my job as a columnist attempting to bridge the gap between Italians in Italy and Italians in the rest of the world is noticing the differences and similarities we share. Sadly, I recently noticed a similarity among some young Italians and some young Italian Americans that I wish I didn't see. A week ago as people were waiting for the Super Bowl, they could tune into MTV's controversial reality show, Jersey Shore about young Italian Americans sharing a house during the summer down the shore in New Jersey. The hedonistic, superficial, and stereotypical behavior of the cast of Jersey Shore unfortunately is similar to some of the behavior of a new generation of Italians in Italy, who are pursuing la dolce vita, living with mamma well into adulthood, and shunning responsibilities at all costs. Jersey Shore stars seem to have more in common with some Italians in Italy than most Italians and Italian Americans would like to admit.

    I may get a lot of heat for writing this particular column, but it might be the most important article I have ever written. Half my life is spent in Italy and the other half is spent in the United States. I am a young Italian American married to a young Italian Italian. I know both worlds pretty darn well. And that's why I must draw these conclusions, point them out, and beg for a revolution that will see young people representing Italy all over the world serving as much better role models with more substantial goals than the images we've put forth recently.

    Over the new year holiday, I begrudgingly tuned into Jersey Shore after hearing all about the controversy. Shockingly, the cast, most of whom is Italian American, had Italian flags all over their shore house and called each other guidos and guidettes, terms that were often used by others to put down Italian immigrants. Now, there's an argument for groups of a certain culture usurping the negative terms used against them and making them their own, which takes away the power of the slur. However, that would require some intellect and planning on the part of the Jersey Shore cast. They simply didn't seem to be using those words to make a political statement. It was almost as if they were proud of the negative connotation and unaware of the weight of the words they were using.

    These young people were really just focused on having meaningless sex, drinking, and partying all night or at least that's how MTV edited the show. Work never mind education or a career seemed like an afterthought. One young woman discusses the affair she's having with a married man, another young woman flirts with two of the men in the house and causes tension, one young man makes it his mission to chase as many women as possible, and another brags about living with his mom, who makes breakfast for him and the women he brings home. They're in their twenties but they seem stuck at 15.

    Unfortunately, being stuck is something many of my Italian friends seem accustomed to as well. Many of them attend college and put off growing up well into their late twenties and early thirties. They all live at home until they marry, which might not happen until their forties. If they make any money, they blow it on vacations, iPods, and designer clothes. Some of them get married and still live with mom and dad. They seem far more interested in getting a tan and dancing all night and sleeping all day than they do about making something of themselves. They're my friends, and I love them, but I wish they wanted more for themselves. As an Italian American from New Jersey, I wish the same for the Jersey Shore cast.

    Granted, the reality show stars have become somewhat famous and they're making money off what I see as their irresponsible behavior and aimlessness. I was in Atlantic City over the weekend, and saw an advertisement for a meet and greet with some of the cast. Who knows? They could be smarter than the rest of us. Still, they have badly represented the Italian Americans from New Jersey and I don't think that's right. I don't think we should be rewarding them with fame, money, or glory.

    The Italians in Italy are badly representing us, too. Young people in both countries have become vapid and obsessed with an easy life that is all about fun and lacks any substance. My parents and my husband say that I was born old because I've always been straight laced and responsible. I never really went through a wild phase, and I can not relate to Jersey Shore kids or the Italians in Italy who are putting off adulthood indefinitely. I don't expect everyone to be like me by any means.

    But as a member of this generation both in Italian America and Italy, I have to stand up and take responsibility, too. I have to better represent my people and encourage the others to do the same. I have to work hard and make something more of my life. Each and every one of us has to finally grow up, do something with our lives, and help shape the future instead of just hanging at the discoteca, drinking our weight in beer or cocktails, and kissing everyone we meet. Get out of the discoteca, get into the real real world (and not the one on TV), move out of our parents' home, and work honestly.

    There was a time when the world saw Italians in America and Italy as hard workers, smart, innovative people who could help move the world forward. I'd like to get back to that perception again. I'd like my generation to unite to improve ourselves. I'd like for us to get educated and work hard and take on jobs that will make a difference to the future generations. I'd like for us to give a good name to Italians in America and Italy all over again. Now's the time. It's up to us. Are you with me?

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, and you can find more information on her life and career at the Two Worlds Web site.


    Article Published 2/14/10

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