Discoteca. That is when I met him. His name is Giovanni is everything Italian. Tall, muscular, olive skin, liquid brown eyes and excellent style from his button up blue shirt to his skinny leg dark jeans to his perfectly polished alligator skin brown shoes. He was everything Italian and therefore everything my mother, grandmother, teacher, and every American woman under the sun warned me to watch out for. Ciao Bella he said as he sauntered for me, with that sweet Italian shoulder dipping walk. He grabbed my hand and kissed it. Oh. My. God. I thought, If this is Italy, I am in heaven. Sign me up for a lifetime, I am NOT going back.
Then I stopped. Looked around. Young American women saturated the dance floor, each with a few Italians and Albanians scouting her out. Waiting for the right moment, the right twirl of her hair or hips to make a move. Great.
Enzo, my host father told me at dinner (very seriously in his broken English) that “Ciao bella” is NOT a compliment unless it comes from a man older than 65 who is not A. drunk, B. in a discotec C. unmarried or D. all of the above. (Yes there were old old men there as well). Enzo also cautioned me about my hair. I’m naturally blond so my tresses jump out against darker Mediterranean hair.
But, after talking to an Italian girlfriend who works at the student center, I asked her about all this attention and how to respond. Here are some tips she gave me and things I’ve picked up over the past few days.
When you don’t want to meet Italian men
1. Ciao bella is not a compliment. They say this to every girl and particularly blonds (since native Italian women are never blond they know you are foreign).
2. American women have the stereotype of being easy and drinking more than any other culture. Therefore they flock to where we congregate.
4. They are extremely aggressive and take the answer “NO” to mean “Yes please keep giving me attention, you are so good looking and I secretly mean yes even though I am clearly saying no.”
5. If necessary, push them away physically. The Italian perception of privacy is very different than American perception, so don’t be afraid to get aggressive in saying no yourself. It’s not like America where people will sue you if you so much as touch them. So far I’ve firmly pushed away many Giovannis.
6. Many men will tell you their name is Giovanni or Palo or Marco etc. posing as Italian when really they’re Albanian, Romanian or Bulgarian. They figure the lure of “Italianos” is enough to get an American girl.
On a lighter note, Italy is amazing, my Italian is getting much much better and this weekend my host parents took me camping by the Adriatic sea where we went to a nude beach.