It may not shock many of you to hear that I am moving back to the UK. In 6 weeks. Almost a year to the day after I left the UK to move to Rome.
After the emotional dust settles after a relationship breakdown, and you find yourself looking at life through normal eyes again, things become clearer, and that's where my decision to move back to the UK came from. I found myself asking "what is actually keeping me here?". Taking the emotion out of it (the wonderful friends I had made/the weather/food/architecture) I had to be logical, and as anyone with any sense will know, good food/weather/architecture doesn't pay the bills. My safety net here was my relationship. Now that is over, there's not much keeping me here. For now. I won't ever rule out returning to Italy in the future; it's a place I have always wanted to live and I will come back. But right now, I need the love, comfort and support of my family and friends, who have all been so supportive of my decisions to leave, and come back. Naturally, my Mum is thrilled, as is my best friend. I know how hard me leaving was on him, so I hope that many nights of drunken fun and watching films in our onesies will make up for it.
Now I'm back to seeing things as they really are, I can't help but think back to two words I heard a lot when this relationship ended. Many people; family, friends, colleagues, described what had happened as a "lucky escape." I heard this a lot, and I think that when a relationship fails, and you come out of the other side of the heartbreak, you do start to see things for how they really are, and you have to admit, you agree with some of the things people say to you...
Taking off the rose-tinted glasses and removing someone from the pedestal you put them on can be both helpful and hurtful. Everyone has had relationships end where even many years down the line, they can't fault that person - things just didn't work out. Some people walk out and let out one huge sigh of relief. Some people walk away feeling disrespected and undervalued. As I'm sure you might be thinking, no, this is not an ex-bashing post. Look at it as more of a summary. My ex had great qualities, but they were sometimes hard to see beyond other, not-so-agreeable qualites*. Those things most people know about, but when you are all loved up, you choose to ignore, only for them to come back and bite you on the ass later.
|She probably chewed it for him too! (*joke)|
For example, the relationship between Italian men and their mothers is something that is famous the world over. You see it mocked and parodied in English, American even Italian culture. There are TV adverts here that show the impact 'Mama' has on a man's life! Don't get me wrong, I could never be with a guy that disrespected his mother, but for me, I see too often here that the apron strings have not been cut. My ex's mother bought all his socks and pants for him. And no, not just at Christmas, always. He had never bought a single piece of his own underwear in 30 years. Some nights he would come home with a little bag from one of the local underwear shops, because mama had stocked him up. His response? "She knows what I like". Call me strange, but I found it creepy. She would also send him home with little care-packages...usually consisting of juice and biscuits (yes, he had the same breakfast as a 5 year old!). Did I mention she only lived 5 minutes away? My mum lived 1700 miles away and only sent me a care package once! You see so much of this in Italian culture...it's almost famous for it. Many girls I know here (both Italian and non-Italian) find this bond between mama and son infuriating and impossible. One Italian girl I know refuses to have relationships with Italian guys that are still in the nest. And I can understand why. I know, it's a 'cultural difference', but unlike taking a siesta and long, leisurely lunch breaks, I can't see the positives. How can men grow into their own, free-thinking person if they feel incapeable of making a single decision without mama's word on it?
From personal experience, this dependence on mama makes men lack the independence that is so attractive to many people. My ex didn't know how to turn on a washing machine or boil a kettle. Yes, these are symptoms of this 'cultural difference', but how can this be a good thing to a man of 30 years old?? As someone asked me recently, "what future can you have with someone that can't even turn on an oven?"....(yes, really!)? And it's not just me thinking it; this very accurate article from The Guardian covers things in the same way, written by people who have seen the things I have.
Italian mama's are also famous for being neurotic and too involved. I have known of couples here, usually Italian men and English/American women who have had their relationships tested to the max by mama's ways. Every night, my ex's mama would call him to talk about his day. Even if she had only seen him a matter of hours before. And he would always take the call; it didn't matter if we were in the middle of something or out with friends having dinner, that call would not go unanswered. One American girl I know said that her fiance's mama would just come to their apartment, unannounced (she had been given a key by the son!) and would just start cleaning or rearranging things! My ex-future mama in law showed these neurotic tendencies which I could see passed onto her children...she believed that babies would be killed by living in the same house as cats because they would breathe in the cat hair and suffocate, and when I went to hospital after having a car accident, my ex was yelled at for putting my discharge papers on the kitchen table because they had been in a hospital. I mean, seriously? Have you ever heard of anyone contracting a hideous life threatening disease from hospital discharge papers? No, me either. And this neurosis doesn't end with mama, it seems that Italians believe everything will kill you...tap water, fever and the famous cervicale, caused by 'colpa d'aria, which is summed up well by this article written by a Brit living in Bologna. I have been
I can't help but wonder if this reluctance to leave the family nest and mama's apron strings have a negative effect on the relationships Italians have. Before I moved here, my Italian teacher told me (she herself had lived in Italy in her 20's) that you will see lots of Italians comitting the more...intimate parts of their relationships in their cars...that you will see lots of cars parked up in local parcheggio (car parks) where young couples would be, well, at it. And why? Because they all still live at home. I laughed when she told me this, thinking she must be talking about the younger Italians in their late teens. Boy, was I wrong. The Italian guys I knew through my ex would often talk about hooking up with their girl in their car, hell, even my ex told me that in the very car seat I sat in, he shared some of the most intimate parts of his relationship with his ex!!! I mean, how can you have a normal, successful relationship if you are 30 years old, and the only way you can share intimacy with your partner is in a car because you still live at home??
I have been told that Italian men say 'why would I move out when my mama does everything for me here?' This seems to be their argument/justification for remaining at home until well into their 30's. Take for example, my ex. He has an apartment that we used to stay in when I visited before I moved here. He didn't live in it, we just used it when I stayed. He still lived at home despite having a perfectly nice apartment he could have moved into. When we got engaged, we moved into it together. It is now a nice, beautifully furnished (thanks to me and my bank balance!) home and I will bet my life on the fact that as soon as I left, he moved back in with his parents! Why would you do that when you have you own, nice place to live in?? Cultural difference or not, this makes no sense to me.
Again, this is not an ex-bashing or an Italian-bashing post. Simply an insight to the things I, as a 30 year old English girl have seen and experienced first hand in my year here in Italy. Flip the situation around, and I'm sure Italian guys would have lots to say about living outside of Italy. What I have written in this post is pure observation and fact. There are some young Italian guys I know that have broken the mold; they live alone or with friends, have good jobs and happily buy their own underwear. And I feel certain to say that I'm sure my ex mama in law is delighted to have her son back home. Whilst I am not saying that anyone is right or wrong, you can't really understand cultural differences until you live them. I mean, the UK and the men that live there aren't perfect either, and I certainly don't miss the binge-drinking culture you see in the UK every weekend. But, I do feel completly free to make my comments on the things I have experienced for myself here. And I don't need to justify anything; Italy is still the most beautiful place and the people here are wonderful. It has its flaws, as does everywhere.
Yes, I am excited about going back to the UK. I never thought I'd say that, but I am. My time in Italy has been an experience, and should I return to live here someday, I know what to expect. Now, I am excited to go back to my family and friends, and see what life back home can offer me.
Ciao for now,