I am an introvert and traveled alone through southern Italy but met up with an Italian friend in Rome near the end of my stay. In the short time I was with him, I was overwhelmed by him, just by him being himself. I have since read an hilarious blog post on the reasons Italian men are challenging for a non Italian. It was so good to see that it is not just me that is driven crazy and not just him being soooo annoying, but is reflective of a cultural divide.
So the behavior in question:
-he is completely unreliable; he might call, he might not, he might show up, he might not, if he does show up, he might head off at any time…
-he is very careful with his money; he offers to pay for a meal, but I can see he is pained by it, (in his Italian way), so (in my English way), I feel guilty and end up paying for everything thereafter. He is happier,…and I’m annoyed.
-he is controlling; he instructs me on what I should be doing and then after, I’m grilled about what and how I did it, but he never gives any information about his activity. The control is a one way street.
-how he shops; omg. Shopping with him was torture. It goes something like this: he puts it on, he parades around the store and at every mirror stops and looks at himself from every possible angle. I am repeatedly asked for my opinion. Repeatedly. More parading, more requiring of my attention, more mirror angles, endlessly on it goes and seems to needs my attention throughout. Finally, in a state of empty husk syndrome I loose interest, (the will to live), and wander off to look in the next shop,..and he’s hurt! He is grumpy with me. He couldn’t make his purchasing decision because I had let him down. But then later, he says in an offhand manner, “I didn’t need it anyway, I have lots of jackets”. I’m speechless.
-his talking. He talked incessantly, it was like having a radio on news talkback. Except, it can’t be turned off. Strategies I tried: I went to the cafe toilet and stayed down there. I stayed for about 5 minutes. I was mentally exhausted. I just hung out and breathed and let the quiet seep in. I can’t imagine what he thought I was doing, :). Another time, I asked him if we could separate for an hour or so and meet up again. He looked stricken. I couldn’t do it in the end. And the anger over politics and taxation, and lazy public servants. So much frustration. So much to talk about!
-his disapproval. I didn’t dress like an Italian woman, I drank too much water, I didn’t drink Coffee! On it went…
-his opinions. A woman wanting to work instead of looking after her children is not a good wife. A woman should not need her own income, she should rely on her husbands money. A woman wanting expensive clothes and beauty procedures is not a good wife. (But then somehow she is meant to look stunningly beautiful on the money he supplies, like an Italian woman, no doubt!).
-his disdain of smartphones, connectedness, social media, wifi and Blogs.
On the other hand, my lovely Italian friend, (who I doubt will ever see this as he mentioned he would never read the writings of an unskilled writer!), gave me so much with his time and patience, showing me every site I had hoped to see circled on my map. Even the Aventine keyhole view of St Peters that was an outside dream.
He found me buses I never would have found and views I never would have seen. The crypt of Bernini, the Colosseum view from the university, St Peter in chains, with it’s Moses. He conjured up a vision of how the Augustus forum would have looked when it would have been blinding white in the sun covered in marble. He took me to the Quirinale hill with it’s views; the Trastevere markets; the Jewish quarter with it’s Teatro Marcello and Tiberina Island. He bought me artichoke. Quattro fontane and Caravaggio, tromp l’eil domes and Ara Pacis. The moon rise from Gianicolo hill.
For all his Italian ways he was a lovely friend to me.