Dear Italy, I like you, but not like THAT

This is my 11th year living in Italy, though several years I was fully immersed in an expat American community which insulated me from feeling most of the discomfort that comes from being a fish out of water.  When I arrived in Italy with my husband, I’d not been part of
the decision-making process to move here. We’d met in the US and been living in England where I was hoping to settle down. I will not bore you with the torrid details of how we got from point A to point B, but rather get to the main event. This may be hard to believe, but when he told me he wanted to finish his professional training Italy, I was angry.  I loved Italy and had been to visit many times.

I loooooved Italy….For vacationing.  For losing myself.  For relaxing. For slowing down.  For indulging.  For disconnecting.  But to live my life there? Day-in, day-out?  Would I be able to learn the language? What kind of work would I be able to do?  How would we live on my husband’s 800 Euro a month stipend? (All very good questions, I would later find out.)

Yes, some of the baggage from that move, I still carry around, especially when it comes to finding (or creating) meaningful work.  I hope you don’t mind if I take a moment to unload this day pack from my back.

10th Anniversary New Year's in Venice (50)

Dear Italy,

Yes, I LIKE you, but not like that.  Not Like-LIKE.  I mean, we’ve been friends for a long time and all, and you were really there for me back in the day.

No…of course I think you’
re sexy.  You smell great. You taste amazing.  You’re bewitching and complicated. You’re passionate and rustic.  You’re totally seductive.  Don’t get me wrong…I’ve been attracted to you since I was fifteen and, I know we’ve crossed the line from time to time, but I never meant for it to go this far.

Yes, yes…I remember that time I me
t you after grad school.  I couldn’t stop thinking about you.  I flew across the ocean to see you.  I arrived on an overnight train from Amsterdam to the sun rising over Venice.  Remember that?  My heart filled up to see you like that…naked and fresh.  I wanted to get lost in you and never leave. God, you were so hot that summer… Remember when 
I nursed my hangover on your hidden beach in Cinqueterre,  your salty sea holding my browned, naked body close to the surface of the Ligurian? I remember how it felt to be suspended, light as a feather, gently rocking, wDSCF5737ith the sun on my face, breathing in your briny warmth.  This will always be a perfect, never-to-be-forgotten, moment in my life.   When I go to my happy place, it’s you, like that, I imagine. The same you I live in day-in and day-out.  

You’re still super hot of course, but it’s different now.  I resent you. You limit me.  (Although, YOU say I limit myself.) Instead of relaxed, I feel increasingly anxious.  I feel small.  Sometimes worthless.  Sometimes unseen. I feel trapped here by you, by the way you are (though you say, it’s the way I am).  We still have our moments, I admit, but I wish we could go back to the way it used to be.

When we were lovers, we never talked about language.  You accepted me just the way I was: monolingual and satisfied.  But now…it seems like that’s ALL we talk about.  My English, your Italian.  Every. Single. Day. We talk about language. English, Italian, German….Bohr-ring (insert sing-songy tone). And though it is necessary and even fascinating at times, there are other things on my mind, other things I want to explore and skills I want to develop. I’m tired.  Stop asking me. There is green vespamore to me than my ability to speak Italian or teach English.  And I know you’re more than good wine, creamy ice cream, pasta and pizza, Vespas, and beaches . You’re more than a vacation.  Can’t we just be friends again?


Madrelingua Inglese


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