Last Easter I was back in Italy

I’m thinking about whether everything I like about Italy is an infrastructure built on exclusion.

I so love that my life isn’t here and I have a whole life completely removed from this, then the second I come to Italy I have homes everywhere and a hundred people who say they would gladly host me as guest. I get subsumed in the logic of Italy. Taking coffee with sugar, setting tables just so, helping with the dishes and knowing it’s impolite to say thank you because ‘Thank you” formalises a kinship relationship and makes it seem like you’re doing favours for each other. You don’t say thank you for acts that are naturalised outputs of duty, devotion, family.

I like the way every day of eating is like Christmas and you go to sleep absolutely stuffed. There’s a structure to meals that might seem authoritarian and unnecessary outside of the country but here it makes sense. To concentrate first on a simple salumeria, cured meat and bread, nothing else. Next the pasta, which deserves to be eaten hot and alone on the plate. Somehow, a secondo. Imagine eating a leg of chicken or rabbit with potatoes after this. Italy is pretty poor and until recently peasant country where I’m from. It feels like every family is making up for former scarcity and laying it all out on the table like we’re kings.

They’ll buy you everything, constantly worry about your bodily needs. I feel like a baby, well-watered and fed. Pressed 50 euro notes between palms. Then, the rhythm and the rhyme punctured. Wandering around a market with my great aunty and Zia looking for clothes, I start flicking through a rack of patterned trousers. My aunties spot the vendor, a woman who looks like she has East Asian origins, and they hurry me on to the next stall muttering “We don’t want to buy that rubbish.” “These clothes are well-made” they say at a stand with prominent Italian flags on the signage. They’ll be depressed when they learn about the production process of most goods in the world.

I’m watching Ballando con le Stelle, Italy’s Dancing with the Stars. Performing a salsa with a glittering eye patch is Gessica Notaro, whose ex-boyfriend threw acid over her as she exited her car last year. I’m watching this then I tune in to a conversation between my Zio and great aunt. Something about a terrorist attack somewhere. “An ugly people.” “We have two Moroccans living upstairs”, Zia says. “The woman is 23, she never leaves the house. I never see her. Can’t go to the cinema, can’t go to the café’s”. “It’s their culture” my Uncle agrees. I think about the Italian woman we’re all watching right now, I think about all of the women in my family who never worked outside the home, about my Zia who was beaten while pregnant, about my cousin’s wife who gave him an ultimatum when he pushed her down the stairs. I think of this but I don’t know how to say it in Italian so I say nothing. I am a coward.

I only realised yesterday that Italian women do not usually take their husband’s name when they marry. Here Daddy reigns supreme !

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