Monday, December 20, 2010

A little bit of Streetcar Tenderness

This morning I decided to brave the cold once again and hop on tram #15 which would take me to the Duomo.  Duomo is the stop where more or less you can find many connections to many trams, buses and trains.   I don't know what it is or why I have such tenderness for foreigners perhaps because I am one but this morning a particular exchange with a foreigner touched my heart.  The tram arrived and pushing past the young student with a suitcase and ear phones on,  I sat down next to an older woman. A woman whose beauty and traces of life were evident from the lines on her face. She has lived.  She had short hair covered by a small woolen hat, dark eyes that were filled with stories, and beautiful gold earrings dangling from her little ears.  Wearing black pants and brown flat moon boots holding nothing but a plastic bag which seemed to me could be her lunch, she turned to me and asked me if we were at the Duomo. I replied in Italian that in three stops we would be. I could tell from her way of talking and her accent that she wasn't Italian. She appeared to be of South American descent, perhaps Peruvian, or maybe she was Hondurian, maybe even Mexican but from the way she asked the question I wanted to quickly reply her in spanish.   Instead I responded her question in Italian inserting one spanish word to which she turned towards me and looked at me closely.  I wanted to ask her where she was from, I wanted to give her a little bit of kindness, tenderness that would allow her to understand I understand. I wanted her to know that I am not from here and that I have a good heart.  Furthermore I didn't want her to get lost in this big city of cold hearted people even though I'm sure she has lived here much longer than I have.  I wanted her to know that I am also not Italian. Instead I asked her where she needed to get off and she replied before the Duomo so she can take bus #54 to take her to TriColore. At this word she smiled the most tender and heartfelt smile.  I am not sure what or where that is but something about her response to me softened me, immigrants always do, as do the elderly and the two combined are a tempest of tears waiting to scroll down my cheeks.   I guess it's because my mother was an immigrant and perhaps I remember similar moments with my mother.  I understand the difficulty in being in different places trying to get by, along,  live and engage in the simple tasks of every day life.  She brought tears to my eyes and I don't know why.   The elderly have this capability of doing that to me.   I know I should feel grateful for them for they have lived a life one can learn from but instead I always imagine the difficulty of their lives.  I see an older man hunched over from years of working and I am sad. Instead I should be smiling, for he is still moving and at the age he appears to be, it's incredible he still has this tremendous amount of energy and will and strength to bustle along the streets of Milano.  I was once told when I was 15 by my high school English teacher that I had too much compassion. Perhaps he was right.
     From the time I was little I always worked with the elderly or was surrounded by them. I volunteered as a candy striper at our local hospital and I was assigned the geriatric ward. For years I worked in the geriatric ward where I fed them, helped changed their beds, and kept them company and their souls, both beautiful and tragic rarely leave my mind.  I have a warmth and respect  for the elderly people for which I am grateful.   I attribute this to my mother as from the time I was a small child I hung out with my mother and her elderly friends. I watched my mother as she brought food to our elderly neighbours, cooking special Italian dishes on Sundays just for them.  I accompanied her often as I am the youngest of my family and as she went to visit her elderly friends, I watched her and learned from her as she was always there for the elderly whenever they needed some help, companionship, comfort.  I love this about my mother. She has the most amazing big heart and never closes her door nor her heart to anybody.  I obtained this trait from her, all of my sisters and I have and we are blessed. It is something most people mistake for naivete but in fact simply put, it's  tenderness, compassion, appreciation and respect.
     We approached Missori stop on the tram, exactly two stops before the Duomo. It is here where the woman got up, her little body, frail legs, and historical face,   disappearing from my sight as she got off the streetcar.  I stared out the window and continued on my journey towards the Duomo.  That little bit of human interaction touching me mostly because it rarely happens in Milano.   I thought about that moment until I myself found myself in front of my stop.   I got off the streetcar thinking about that woman every second, her story, her life, her face and if she would arrive at her destination safely. I hoped she would arrive where she was intending to go without trouble, problems and I hoped that she had something warm, loving and beautiful awaiting her at her destination.  From there I walked to Piazza San Babila and took the red metro line that would bring me to Cadorna.  Cadorna is a stop you can get off at which allows you to walk either along Corso Magenta, or towards the beautiful Castello Sforzeca.   I didn't want to walk to the Castello today but instead wanted to take a little journey through the "libreria di Spettacolo," a bookshop dedicated to the performing arts. It's not quite the STRAND bookstore in NYC, but perhaps it's more like the bookstore on Broadway called Shakespeare and Co. I felt the need to immerse myself in theater and literature today.  I find it inspirational and I needed ideas and inspiration.  I found the bookshop and like most stores in Milano, it was  closed until 3 pm for their "pausa pranzo," the Italians lunch break.  Most restaurants close at 3 until 5 and re-open for dinner, other stores open in the morning until 1 and close until 3pm and re-open for the evening.  Some churches also are closed to visitors until after 3 pm apart from the Duomo so it's something to keep in mind if you are out and about walking the streets of Milano.  Most bar/tabacchi's are always open but close at 6pm or 7 pm.   On Sundays it is rare anything is open and bar/tabacchi's are closed (except by the Duomo) so if you are in search of cigarettes, you will need exact change, a "carta sanitario," a health card to swipe proof of age of majority which is 18 years old, and you will be required to use one of many cigarette machines which are hidden and sporadically built in to walls of buildings. These are usually found near or on major streets and intersections throughout Milano. During the week, it is rare to find a coffee shop open late.  The one by my house on Via Castelbarco is open late on Friday and Saturday nights but that's because of the discotheque I live beside called the "Limelight."
     In particular the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio is closed until after 3.  It is a stupendous basilica located just off Corso Magenta and it is beautiful.  Inside you will find a crypt with the Saint Ambrogio himself, his sister and two of his followers although beware the well dressed bodies with skeletal faces. Alarming and intrigueing in nature, I couldn't help but wonder why there weren't any faces made of wax in place of the empty holed not alarm, there are responses for everything and do not forget that we are in Italy and appearances are everything and the Italians are masters of illusion. Alas appearances are indeed everything and the response to my question was because the Italians themselves, nor those of the church cannot be certain that indeed those who lie in the crypt are indeed the bodies of those Saints themselves. Aha! The Italians, magicians of the greatest kind. Regardless Basilica Sant'Ambrogio is stunning and beautiful paintings line its walls. The ceiling as all basilical ceilings are, of course is breathtaking.  The church in itself is huge and is one of the most ancient churches in Milano built in 379-386 by Sant'Ambrose himself. Most of the church has been restored as it was destroyed in 1943 by bombings but today, with it's stupendous interior and medieval architecture, it is always well worth the visit.  The other day while visiting the church, I had the honour of witnessing a wedding.  It was rather odd to me but since the church can't be closed or rented for the sole purpose of the wedding, it had to remain open for the bride and visitors alike.  Before me photographers were frantically snapping photos, and there was the bride walking down the isle with her two little flower girls, friends in the pews at her side and tourists gazing on, smiling.  I imagined something more grandeuse especially if one is to wed at the Basilica Sant'Ambrogio, but she was dressed in a simple white strapless gown and a white limosine was waiting outside for her.  Not very grand nor very personal but alas it was a wedding and beautiful all the same. And so my visit to Sant'Ambrogio consisted of staring at two beautifully dressed skeletons with headdresses, while people around me kneeled and prayed and a wedding. Yet to whom exactly were they praying? And who exactly was this bride who unable to rent out the private church therefore exchanged her vows with friends and strangers alike?   Questions that will forever remain unanswered. Fine with me, a little bit of mystery leads to a whole lot of magic and intrigue!
I left before the vows as I didn't want to infringe on the union of two strangers and I certainly didn't want to stick around to see if the Saints corpses moved or if they would ever develop faces.  
Today,  since it was only 2:30pm  and Sant'Ambrogio church was closed for the lunch break, I decided to continue walking along the street by Sant'Ambrogio, turning right here and a left here until I surprisingly reached Corso Magenta as that was my original destination anyways. I  decided to take refuge in a tiny little coffee shop introduced to me days earlier that is part of Teatro Litto.  It's a beautiful little coffee shop, artistic in nature with a beautiful oversized sculpture, black velvet sofas, American music blasting on the speakers, many tables and free internet and of course sandwiches and cappuccino!  The staff quite young in nature and also quite artistic, I imagined most of them must be thespians to a degree but I didn't ask.  My cappuccino arrived with a tiny little chocolate biscuit!!! Yey!!!! What a lovely surprise and I love surprises.  The small things in life give me pleasure on even the coldest and greyest of days.   I especially love when they serve your cappuccinos with chocolates and biscuits, it's love in a cup.   I just hoped I had enough to pay for the coffee. I only had EU4.00 on me. These days that's about all I have. I am strapped for cash and it is the first time in a very long time where I am not independent financially and that I have been so broke and with Christmas around the corner I know this year will be a Christmas void of gift giving. It's okay because it's not the gifts or gift-giving that preoccupy me, it's that I will feel uninspired to even make something. I love giving and if I feel like I have nothing to make or give,  I feel cold and empty inside.  Regardless though  I am blessed with a beautiful man and a beautiful family and my beautiful little apartment, warm in nature, oh so cozy and I have my EU5.00 Christmas tree that keeps me smiling day and night!   This already is Christmas to me but not all of us are made simple and in Milano being without finances, or economic stability can make for miserable moments.   I just hope that I am strong enough to help myself and my loved ones surpass these unpleasantries should they arise.  I always said there's nothing that a nap, a hot chocolate, a great song or a glass of wine can't cure, let's just hope that's the truth!!!!!  It's 5 days until Christmas and tomorrow I will wander around the city and take pictures.  I will eat chestnuts, drink hot chocolate and   I will aim to go ice-skating in Porta Venezia in Santa's little village that was created one week ago and I will fill my days with a little bit of simple magic!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


It's cold.   The air in Milano is crisp and heavy with smog and fog.  The two mixed together really burns my eyes and the crisp air chills my bones. I've walked three blocks and although I am properly dressed, with winter hat, gloves and even leg warmers,  I can't feel my fingers or toes.  Milano is rather peaceful today. Perhaps the chill of the mountain air descending over the city has calmed the Italian tempers and left them pensive and weary. On the tram pleasantries are exchanged and the expressions on the faces of  the Milanese people seem happier then normal.   Everyone seems to be moving at an ever slower pace  and I am enjoying this.  It's 10 days until Christmas and the city is gearing up for the holidays.  Christmas street markets are more common then normal and all around me trees are flashing their pretty lights.  Advertisements for free choral concerts are posted everywhere and I hope to take in one on the 19th celebrating music of the world.   It is far far too cold to walk too much without taking many stops either in bookstores, shops or simply cafe's.   I take a stop in at MUD CAFE on Viale Bligny. It's the only cafe around my neighbourhood that reminds me of New York.  It is owned by Swedish Italians who speak both Italian and English and the cafe is quaint, artsy and simply lovely. English is heard being spoken on a regular basis by the Univeristy students that frequent the tiny place and in the background nina simone or the likes is always being played. I love it!  The cafe is one of the few in Milano that provides internet and it is free to use it.  Mud Cafe is my solace away from the normal Italian life.  One can sit for hours drinking a coffee surfing the web or enjoy a hot meal or lovely panini's with Swedish influence.   Furthermore they serve cappuccinos in large American sized mugs! Home at last.  The coffee shop is situated on  Viale Bligny and this is one of my favourite streets to walk along.  This is probably because it is filled with many students, boutiques, hair salons, grocery stores, bars, flower shops, $1.00 stores and even a Block Buster. One can walk down Viale Bligny and arrive at Porta Romana or tram #9 will warmly take you anywhere you wish to go along the street making  stops almost every three blocks.  I chose to walk today as always and my fingers are still trying to recover from the cold. It is bloody freezing!!!!  I hope for snow at least it would make this very grey city a little bright with colour.    Although I didn't really have anything to do today I opted to leave the house although I should have known better. I should have known by the way the morning air in our apartment was a little colder then usual that it must have been super cold outside.  Even with a heater our apartment seemed to allow the winter air to seep in through the windows and rooftop, through the walls.    I am going mad staying home without work, without my hobbies, without my dance classes and without my close friends!  I've spent the last several days decorating our apartment with Christmas cheer and listening to English Christmas Carols,  blasting their joyous sounds throughout our apartment, while sipping chianti.  I found a $5.00 Christmas tree at the local PAM supermarket.  It was on special and considering artificial trees are far more expensive, I decided to purchase a real one.  In Italy however real trees are sold with the root and mud attached.  This can prove challenging when taking it home. It makes it a little heavier but all the same I found a vase and bought mud and I planted the tree in our living room!  I love real trees, the smell of them reminding me of Canada and of the street corners in New York which are lined with Christmas tree stands, the trees brought in from Quebec or Nova Scotia.   The smell of pine, spruce, balsams penetrating the New York air.  I have mixed feelings about being away from home this year for Christmas,  away from my friends, family and all the lovely events that happen during this time but sharing Christmas with my love will be beautiful all the same.   We are scheduled to head up to the Veneto. How wonderful, perhaps I will take a moment to go to Verona, and Venezia. Perhaps I will take a moment to visit the famous balcony of Romeo and Juliet, not very festive but alas romantic all the same!
    It is 4:30 pm and it is already becoming quite dark outside.  The weather as the light can be very depressing but with the 2nd International Festival of Lights illuminating the city, it is not as bad as it normally can be.  Last year in Milano they initiated their first Festival of Lights. I grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario and so a Festival of Lights is something I am quite used to. I love seeing a city adorned with Christmas bulbs.  The buildings beside the Duomo adorned with snowflakes, and long strips to imitate snow falling.  An enormous Christmas tree decorated with white flowers towers in the center of Piazza Duomo.  Overall the atmosphere is a festive one.  I've been sitting here in this cafe for almost an hour and I can't seem to warm myself up.  My fingers are stiff and typing is difficult.  I wish I could twinkle my nose and be sitting beside a warm open fire with hot chocolate and marshmallows.  That would be lovely.  Marshmallows don't exist in Italy nor do pancakes.  Funny the things I miss but important parts of my life all the same.  Those tiny little things are just chicken soup for the soul on cold, grey days like this!  I could settle for a hot chocolate w to warm me up but I am always weary to order one. Hot Chocolates in Italy are melted chocolate.  Drinking them is like drinking a melted cup of Nutella only much they are much thicker, sweeter and even richer.  I find that they are impossible to drink and  more then not I often end up eating them with a spoon or taking two sips and leaving the rest to be thrown out.  The last time I was home, I brought  Nestle Quik back with me.  This they do sell in Italy but I didn't want to risk not finding it and for this I am grateful because sitting sipping a cup of hot chocolate in an apartment illuminated by my christmas tree is a moment to treasure and soon when I find courage again to brave the cold, and now the dark skies,  I will drag my iced body home and make a hot chocolate for myself.   In the meantime however I continue to sit, trembling and typing.  I will continue watching the street life from the Mud Cafe windows, taking in the little solace while I have it and  I will finish my lovely polpette sandwich. I will then order a cappuccino.  After all what is a day in Italy without drinking a cappuccino!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


     I am an actress. I was born and raised in Canada, graduated with  a Bachelor of Arts in Theater, I studied in various studios in NYC with accomplished teachers and performers. I have performed as an actress in the legendary  La Mama Theater. I have written, directed and performed in my own one woman show at the Creative Stages Co., Theater as part of a festival. I have worked in independant film, commercials and TV. I have worked as a model for print and I have cat walked. I have modeled clothing for designers and I collaborated with photographers and make-up artists and organized photoshoots. I have sustained and lived a beautiful, artistic and independant life in Brooklyn/ NYC.  I have spent the last 18 years of my life observing people, learning human behaviour, body language, speech, for stage, for interpretation, for translation, for inspiration.    I have painted, I have had my own solo exhibit.  I have also taught.  I have worked in administration, I have worked in bars and I have done plenty and perhaps this is the problem. I am and I have done too much.   As an actress who speaks fluent English and Italian (although with an slight American accent that is mistaken for southern Italian)  I never imagined encountering the difficulty in finding work that I have had in these past several months in Milano.     
     Last September when I moved to Milano,  I  signed with a theatrical and film agency. Two of them to be precise.  I imagined working in Italian film/tv.  I had no clue with what I was up against.  I imagined that working in film and theater and commercials here would not be impossible.  After all I am physically fit, I am quite exotic looking but of course with Mediterranean influence, one that comes from a Southern Italian father and a Roman mother. I speak fluent English, Italian with an accent (that could be corrected with diction exercises) and I have extensive experience behind and in front of the camera and on stage.  I speak Spanish and French and I thought these things could only lead to many opportunities for me in Europe. And so I moved here to Milano.  I was excited to go ahead and begin my new life.  In fact I prided myself in being here but as all that glitters is not gold, I was to quick to realize that I am far from seeing gold or anything that glitters and I am battling Italy and my own culture for a sense of belonging. I am defending my qualifications and what they mean to an employer, I am battling age and appearance and a mentality that far surpasses anything I've ever known.  Furthermore I am battling an image of age and beauty that did not exist for me outside of this country.  Canada shaped me and New York in all it's glitter and dust, spoiled me.  Outside of Italy,  age is irrelevant. Opportunities are endless so long as you keep the self going, your mind intellectuality stimulated and you never stop learning to better yourself. Logically this is done through education, classes, workshops, courses, interaction and travel,  it is done through creating, learning and living. Anything one can do to get ahead, makes them a better person for themselves and for their society, for their country. 
     I would beg to differ working in Italy as an actress if perhaps so many Italians hadn't said to me, "if you are at the least bit young and beautiful, and South American or easy, TV and the world of theater is an ever lasting open door for you." Since I am not young nor South American nor easy, you can imagine my shock! Imagine the difficulty being here in Italy trying to battle a nations mentality with age, with living, with beauty, with the desire to pursue a dream, a goal, my ambitions to be more then I am. 
     I moved to Milano one year ago to pursue my acting career. I was on a mission to accomplish what was asked of me in order to receive a modeling visa into the United States so that I could stay permanently in New York.  Upon arrival I was told by my agent and many casting directors that the distinctness of my harsh look will hinder me. 
     I have a very specific face. I have an Italian face, one that could easily be mistaken for many mediteranean cultures. Naturally I thought this was an advantage, I thought this would help me and instead I was told that I would have to wait until something very specific came along in order to send me out on a casting.  Surprised and baffled, I nodded my heads at the agents and said okay.  Now I see myself everyday in the mirror and I am aware of my interesting and exotic face but I don't believe to be that outside the norm.  Why not throw me a role and give me the opportunity to prove myself right?  Mother? I can play mother.  Sexy mother? I can play sexy mother?  Young college girl eating yogurt? I can play young college girl eating yogurt? You want me to pick fruit from a tree? I can pick imaginary fruit from a tree? You want me to speak English fluently?  I speak fluent English!  And yet the responses were all the same,  "It will be very difficult to send you out on auditions. You have a very strong nose!"  You can imagine my surprise!! What??? was all that I could scream inside my silent head. 
     I'm sorry but auditions are auditions for a reason, aren't they?  Do they not allow the casting director to view a plethora of people that COULD BE appropriate for the role? Auditions yes can also be served to narrow down the rollster so not every bird is flocking at the door but auditions can also be a great way to surprise a client or casting director and convince him/her of an idea that is different then the one they already perceived. An audition is a mini-performance and it is a great way to prove to the client and casting director that you,  perhaps ARE what they are looking for.  Italians don't think this way!   Italians don't like surprises and Italians as it seems have very little imagination. If the description says "a dark haired, dark eyed, tough edgy sassy woman" in NYC, that same description in Italy  would say big breasted young woman, 25 and under with small nose, long curls and big sensuos mouth eating grapes provocatively while speaking english to an older man. Of course I am exaggerating but it is not far from the truth.
    I have been on several auditions here and although I've been unfortunate enough not to be cast in any of the roles I auditioned for, I have to say it left me wondering.  
     For starters my strong nose, as though it were a muscle I were flexing. I have a very specific nose and I was often told here in Italy that I should consider "fixing" it.  The first time I was told this I was mortified. I then tried to see the marketing strategy in it, I thought okay perhaps cosmetic surgery could help but it isn't something I ever thought of.  Apart from the fact that I didn't even have far enough money to fix my nose and then what else, where would it stop, at the breast, knees, ankles, lips, thighs and hair?  I thought of Demi Moore and her $140,000/ year on cosmetic surgery.  This is ridiculous since I am in the country where prominant noses have dominated the screens and streets for decades and Romans if not all Romans, are known for their noses.  But not now and not here and not in this Italy.     I must say that as an actress I am quite used to rejection, all of us actors, actresses and performers are. Handling rejection is an impeccable skill and I've perfected learning not to take the rejection personally. However this far surpassed rejection.     As an actress I am also used to waiting for castings however I am NOT used to waiting for an exact casting that matches my exact facial and body description even to be submitted to a project. This to me was absurd as regardless of the role, I was always submitted if I was the least bit appropriate. More times then not I was called in for at least an audition. If I wasn't called this meant I didn't remotely fit the part asked for.  In Italy I was not even remotely being submitted for anything!
      The beauty of film, TV and theater is that it is a world of illusion.  It is a world making the impossible possible. It is a world filled with magic. It is smoke and mirrors.  It uses wardrobe, hair and make-up artists. It uses lighting and stages and set designs and locations to create and add atmosphere.  So to ask me, a foreigner with mediterranean features who speaks fluent Italian and English  to wait for an  exact casting was not only tempting my newly re-acquired Italian temper, it was testing my patience and I was not far from becoming one of those maniacs waving my hands frantically shouting curses on the street.  
     Of course when in Rome do as the Romans do and so this is what I did. I didn't do what you think I did, I did not get a nose job, instead my humble and stubborn self waited. I waited for a very long time until in 3 months I only went on 6 auditions and barely that. Most of the auditions I went on were for commercials, no film, no print work, no web work, just commercials and specs. Furthermore most of the auditions I went on were for extremely Italian products; tomato sauce and olive oil.  PERFECT!!!!! I fit the bill!!! But not really! Not if you are a child with Italian blood with Italian features, Canadian born, with a strong nose and living in Italy. Sounds crazy but it isn't. I didn't fit the parts. In the meantime I took to watching alot of TV and regularly even though the programs made me ill and sad and angry.  This is because all the adds and shows I'd seen on TV were filled with roles I could have been submitted for, played or performed but I was never called.   Six weeks after living in Milano I eventually auditioned for two commercials consecutively that required a native english speaker, I was elated! One audition was actually Canadian produced out of Toronto, 1 and 1/2 hours from my home town of good ol' Niagara Falls.  I did not get the job. Go figure!!!!!!  The commercial called for an improvised scene of two couples arguing over tomato sauce with the idea that each couple had no idea what the other was saying and then we reversed roles. One couple was for the tomato sauce and one couple was for against.  I slated my name, spoke in English, said I was Canadian Italian and I left myself to my own devices.  Most of the other actors and actresses in the room felt a little threatened and I even had one prominent TV actor say to me that I had "one-up on the rest of them because I was Canadian," or at least this is what he thought!  This is how Italy thinks but alas he was wrong. It didn't work for me! I did not get a call back and even those rarely exist here but I did not get the job!! I was disappointed in myself. I was disappointed in Toronto and in Canada for not supporting one of their own in a foreign country!!!!  I could only think to myself what the F#@%$K is going on? What am I doing wrong? What is it they are looking for? Where the hell am I if I am not in hell itself? If I as a native English speaker do not get a call back or a job for a role in Italy that requires native English speakers what could it possibly be? Could it be my audition?  But the feedback was excellent. Could it be my look? My age? My experience? My harsh features? Aha, could it be my nose? I know-- it was all of it.  However I have a look that film and video can capture quite harshly or quite fabulously. I have a face that sculptors and photographers loved to comment on and photograph.  Depending on the make-up and wardrobe, I can look extremely elegant in some moments and extremely sultry in others,  I can look quite soft and childish and extremely feminine and mature in others. I am petite and athletic, delicate and graceful. I can portray a mother, or a fun loving girlfriend and I can certainly play the tough bitch or as Italians like to call them the "stronza." I can be her.  I can be comical, serious, sad and tragic. I am particular and interesting.  That is what I have always been told and that is what I have marketed myself as.  I am made up of  all the things that have made me proud to be me and I have a depth to my performances that makes me unique from others.  I am proud of all that makes me different and yet my pride was starting to wane, my confidence dissipating in the foggy streets by the Naviglio Grande and I was starting to feel like an exotic cross bred zoo animal on the verge of extinction.     I then realized of course in Italy appearances say everything.    If I want to play a mamma, I have to be a mamma or at least look like a real Italian mamma.  Even though real Italian mamma's hardly exist anymore, they are now referred to as nonna's.  If I wanted to be the fun loving girlfriend well I had to be BUT her in my "overdone" self, knee-high stilettos and extra short mini with the inches of make-up and dark red lipstick.  If I wanted to be sexy, I was told that I was too sexy. My agent told me my photos were too sexy and that I should perhaps taking newer photos less sexy.  But wait a minute have you ever watched Italian TV?  Ah yes, the difference between sexy with elegance and sexy with trashiness!!!!  I was sexy, elegant, intelligent, sultry and they wanted sexy, trashy.  Missed the boat on that one.   I even normally dress the part of the audition I am going on but in Italy it isn't always welcomed.  Don't show up to an audition for a hooker, looking like a hooker. It just isn't acceptable.   Instead always look your best and dress as though you were going on a night out on the town and dating a high roller. Remember appearances are everything and at the least DO NOT forget an expensive pair of sunglasses and wear them at all times, in the sun, shade, day,  indoor, outdoor. Italians love their sunglasses and it has become a social status.
    Against my will and against my better judgement,  and after re-thinking my own self,  I realized in order to pursue my passion here in Italy I would have to surrender to the Italian mentality. I would have to become sexy trashy, in essence a "mignotta"  which in English translates to tramp or whore....beware the term and should you hear it feel free to slap the idiot saying it to you in the face...and you will hear it often.  No offense to the actual "putanas" because it is not the same as a mignotta. I am told they are varying degrees of the same thing only which one is said depends on the context and condition it is used.  Regardless all the words mean more or less a prostitute= and that's being polite, something Italians are not.    Most prostitutes in Milano are transexuals and I love them. In fact I have three that work close by where I live and they are lovely with their fabulous wigs and knee high boots, and oversized fur jackets with a life both glamorous and tragic.  Regardless if I wanted to surrender to Italy, I certainly would have to become a mignotta  and again if I wanted to get ahead in Milano I would have to do as the Romans do. I would have to invest thousands of dollars in a new pair of breasts, a set of new lips, a little bit of anti-aging around my eyes,  and neck,  dye my hair platinum blonde,  with ass implants and I would have to walk around in knee-high boots with see through tights, almost semi-nude shirts. Then I was told to frequent soccer parties and cling on to older men with money perhaps offering my body and sexual services in exchange for work.  Mignotta?  Maybe!!!!  Prostitution?  Worse! They at least have dignity, but no,  this is simply the Italian way of life which for years has been influenced and governed by Italian television.   As you can only imagine I was not in any way prepared to do this!
     I walked along the Naviglio Grande heading towards the subway.  My head was in a fog, dizzy with thoughts of tainted TV. My dreams thrown into the canal which was not far from my left and my sense of self somewhere lost on the Atlantic from New York to Italy. 
     I walked and I walked and I cowered at the thought of so many opinions, words, images but perhaps there was some truth to it.  Perhaps if I changed myself all up what was on the outside,  would count more for the talent I had on the inside and I would begin to work as an actress....and so dragging my tiny little legs around in I actually contemplated their logic.  What seemed to be a beautiful city filled with despair, was indeed a hell.  Not being able to bear the hostility underground I walked the past the subway station, and I walked the streets of the beautiful city of Milano, the word repeatedly beauty playing tricks in my head.  And just as though Mr. Henry Livingston, Jr. would have said it himself if he saw it  " I looked around me and what did I see but hundreds of beautiful young ladies having undergone cosmetic surgery."
Imagine, imagine,  Hell no!! 
Take me as I am or leave me!
           Italy, a country rich with history, a country rich in culture, rich with it's sculpted faces, and it had lowered it's standard of society to this.  Or perhaps as Fellini had suggested it was always like this only I was too young to notice.  It's like Italy wanted to be American but lacked the understanding in how to do it correctly or perhaps their arrogant selves wanted to do it better.  Italy has taken all things American if not superficially American and it has exaggerated them to a infinite degree. Take a look at reality TV, America's Next Top Model, American Idol and take American Sketch Comedy Shows, perhaps of which are my favourite even in italy but even they have their downs, and then add the extreme famous Italian twist to it.The Naked or semi-naked woman on stage at all times.
       Italians steal American ideas, reality shows, programs, movies and they make them tasteless, tacky and unwatchable, unliveable. They take the idea of a Pamela Anderson and bless their hearts, find hundreds of her kind but through extensive cosmetic surgery, she looks  far worse.  Her breasts are far bigger, her lips far more plumped and glossed, her hair far more fake and her face far more done up.  Italians then put her on stage.
      Suddenly there she is the hostess with the most-ess in a short see through mini with a thong on perhaps wearing a bra, but probably not.  Then as though they were essential to the program itself,   behind the most-ess hostess on prime time television with children watching, families watching, elderly watching, the world watching, there is the group of semi-nude "ballerina's" who do no more then sway their hips in bikini's and spin a turn or two. The dancers of course having absolutely no impact on the program.  These are the talent and they are applauded at ever so generously.  Seven to ten woman dressed in nothing,  if you can call them that the attire that is, not the women although that too is up for debate, and there they are dancing around behind a television host with absolutely no other purpose then to show their nude bodies and over sized breasts.  
     Well once you have seen one pair, you've seen them all or so the saying goes but it doesn't extend to Italians and certainly not to their TV programs and so everyone is nude, all the time.   There was nothing more upsetting to me about not even being offered the role of the English speaking tomato sauce representative but the idea that these girls get work, that this is considered talent, that these dancers are paid more then what most people make working in a day, destroyed me.  How did they get there?  And so I asked. I asked many many many Italians and the responses were always the same,  "they got there by knowing someone, by doing something, by pleasing someone." Are you kidding me?  This is a well known and accepted fact!  Italians themselves cannot even speak highly of their talent or TV programs. What does this say to you about a society?  
       I was once told a short story representing the mind of an Italian member of society. It was a story of pretenses and appearances and it involved the legendary Michelangelo.  Michelangelo, being Italian himself,  knew the depth of the Italian mind.  One day after finishing his sculpture of David, the brilliant sculptor pretended to scrape away pieces of David's nose for the sake of image and appearances to please the general population!  According to a man by the name of Soderini,  the Italian statesman for the Republic of Florence, the nose of David was too thick and so Michelangelo, after 3 years of working on one of his masterpieces was asked to adjust it. Michelangelo smarter then his own kind, climbed up on a scaffold and he pretended to scrape away and alter the nose. He even went so far as to sprinkle some marble dust he had had in his hand, and let it fall beneath him to make the adjustment appear legitimate.  After he finished his fixing the nose,  Soderini complimented the sculptor, coongratulating the artist on making the piece much better. Michelangelo himself knew very his people very well and he understood the power of pretenses and appearances and game.   Had I been told that story upon my arrival here in Milano I probably would have refrained from coming to Italy,  or perhaps I would have come all the same to experience the insanity of it,  first hand. Or perhaps if I had known the Italian mentality as Michelangelo did,  I would have walked into my auditions with a phony nose, marble dust in my hand, socks in my bra, 1 1/2 kilos of make-up, hiding the fake nose and with a come fuck me mouth, I would have given the Italians the woman they wanted. 
     This is acting in Italy and this is Italian television and this is the truth to Italians and their minds. The greatest insight into their lives,  their mentality, their intelligence, their vices, their faults, their attributes, their personalities, and ambitions can be seen by watching their TV. Watch and learn!  Make sure to have a box of kleenex but not for will more likely need it to plug your ears and cover your eyes! 
     And so here I am, in Milano and I ask myself?  As a trained professional talented actress how do I fight a nations mentality governed by a country's television? I am only one woman and if this to them means a woman,  my god I am in trouble and a woman here in Italy, I am no longer. 


     I awake to the sound of the pigeons clawing away at the roof of my apartment. I live in a second story apartment building in a predominantly well respected area known as the Bocconi. That is it is by Bocconi University in Milano, the school of Business open to all students, national and international.  It is raining outside, the kind of drizzle rain that rips away your energy, replaces smiles with heavy eyes and leaves you wishing you could sleep for days. It's the fourth day in a row it's raining, although I don't expect much more from Milano. Here the weather is always grey, always dismal, always damp, and more often then not quite cold, the kind that eats at your bones.  I pry myself out of bed getting myself ready for work before our heater turns off for the day and I head downstairs to my local cafe for a cappuccino.  I greet the barista good morning which is returned with a head nod and nothing more. At the counter I order and pay for a cappuccino.  Although in a bar/tabacchi (where you can buy sandwiches, cigarettes, coffee and liquor even to go) it is customary to pay first,  sometimes they let you get away with enjoying your coffee before dishing out the EU1.30.    Today was one of those days. I felt partially grateful as standing in line behind a plethora of people waiting to buy lotto tickets can always be taxing on one's patience and the Italian lottery in itself is a labyrinth to explore although I've yet to venture too far into it and not sure I want to, its much too complicated.
     I order a cappuccino even though it is sacrilegious to order one after 1 pm.   I always order a cappuccino at any hour during the day with whatever meal I am eating. I usually ignore the stale stares and the bothered baristas and chuckles and I order a cappuccino which I sip slowly, while sitting down. I am over standing while trying to drink a coffee. It is my time, my morning,  my moment and I choose to enjoy it rather peacefully while sitting.   I finish my cappuccino and I pay. I do not leave a tip, it is not required or expected and I leave the bar/tabacchi as always greeting the staff with a good day and a smile.  Responses are usually minimal not because they don't care to respond, although there is that too, the indifference to humanity, but because usually they appear to be too preoccupied with their own tasks to take the minute to thank you for repeatedly coming in and ordering a capuccino.  To clear the issue I don't order a cappuccino because it's the "American" thing to do but rather I order it because I like drinking warm milk mixed with coffee..drinking warm milk warms me and  in Milano warmth is something that is lacking and it is something I long for all the time.
     Milano in itself is a beautiful city. It is a city that is architecturally stunning, the cobble stone streets are highly maintained and you will notice they are quite often under repair. The method of repairing a cobble stone street is in itself  an art form and a process to be respected and admired. The streets are repaired by removing one stone at a time, each stone numbered to correlate with its position on the street.  The stones are then meticulously placed in a pile. After repairs and cleaning,  the stones are then returned to their previous  position in which they were removed, otherwise they wouldn't fit and they would leave a street rather crooked and uneven.  I often wondered if it would be cheaper to just pave the roads with gravel and tar them, but then again this is Italy and that idea is too simple and simplicity is more often than not out of the question -simply because it is too simple and simple to Italians must mean that something is seriously wrong or that it's cheap. Furthermore removing the cobblestone streets would mean removing part of the city's history and that history I must say is priceless. It adds to the beauty which lacks in many other parts of life here in the big city of Milano,  regardless of how taxing walking on the stones is on the ankles, feet and knees.
    Milano is a city whose beauty however extends even beyond the cobble stone streets. Its spaces are filled with many old churches whose rooftops in their ornate detail,  tower above everything else.  Somedays when I decide to look only up it's cathedral tops against grey skies leaves me feeling like I'm in Gotham city. The city is filled with motorists and every kind of two to four wheeled vehicles.  It's  bicycles, vespas and motorcycles add a harmony of colour and shape to the narrow streets as they line the sidewalks at almost every angle, taking up every inch of free space.  The  buildings mostly historical are adorned with surprise sculptures, stautes, angels, faces and the wooden and iron doors whether short or enormously large, hidden or in full view, are absolutely beautiful.  Milanos  alleyways are equally just as inviting to which the evening hues of light reflect a luminescent blue/silver.   In the rain with the evening glare of the traffic and car lights reflecting on the street, everything is covered with a dreamlike blue and it makes most of the city feel surreal, like a movie set. The sounds of the  underground metro are rarely heard, as are the trams and they often creep up without you noticing. If you aren't quick enough, they often take off in front of you rarely giving you a chance to slide into their narrow doors which they leave open for just seconds.  It is often you hear people shouting that someone's arm or purse has been caught in it's grips.  In fact the sound I hear most often is that of high heels clicking and clacking against the hollow pavements. That of course and the legendary horn honking smart cars and minis, mercedes and BMW's cutting eachother off. This tends to be accompanied by a lengthy slew of curses, name calling, shouts,  raised hands and fists. This is Italy after all and although it is beautiful, serenity is hardly come by in its big cities. 
     Last year I left New York in artistic pursuit and I moved to Milano, Italy. A choice that when I look back seemed appropriate at the time now I realize that I perhaps left unprepared and a little too naive and hopeful.  I was in search of my craft and art but also in search of my culture and my parent's history.  I wanted to be associated with those things and make something of myself with my cultural history being a rich part of my every day life.  Much of what I discovered, emotional and beautiful at a glance, is  a country that has left me rather disappointed and in many moments empty.  I long for those moments back in Brooklyn. I long for the cultural diversity, the warm smiles, the exchange of pleasantries, the live music, the museums and I especially long for my close friends, discussing art, philosophy and life. I miss riding my bicycle towards the Bedford L train via McCarren Park, while teams of Mexicans and South Americans play soccer even in the snow.  I miss sunny days, I miss walking to take in the street life and laughing for the sake of laughing, talking for the sake of just talking, exchanging energy, ideas, stories and life.   I miss the meaning of love and the meaning of friends. I miss the meaning of life.  In essence I miss a simplicity of a happiness that doesn't seem to exist here. I miss a kindness that has long since been thrown out the window in Milano, perhaps when they were re-structuring their homes to be more American, they threw out values, kindness, gentleness,  and chivalry. I miss politeness,  gentleness, and a simple "educazione"  that were and are vital parts of my upbringing and American life.
     Italy is a beautiful country as is stated in many travel journals, blogs, and as can be seen in photos and more. This is absolutely true.  It is a country rich in culture and aesthetics BUT beware the wolf masked in sheep's clothing for I have found that it is a country that is living in an image of what it was and of what it "appears" to be. To the outside world Italy is indeed beautiful, but to a local, or to one living and trying to make a living here, it is harsh and its society  can be considered one of the worst in the world to be a part of.  It is a country where sincerity is hard to come by and being genuine rarely exists. It is a country that masks maliciousness with smiles and its elegance and beauty with superficiality.  It is a country where men battle ideas of themselves and of women. It is a country where men prefer women to be entirely, completely feminine but this not a femininity you and I recognize, nor could we ever understand. It is a superficial femininity where in mini-skirts, nude tights, and stilettos early on a Saturday morning at the supermarket has men weak in the knees.  It is a femininity where at moments a  woman still knows her place and it is always by her man. It is a femininity controlled a little by the remaining elements of southern misogyny.   It is a femininity that dictates a woman rarely speaks until spoken to especially in a group of males. Otherwise she will be considered to be counter battling opinions.  Her voice is rarely listened to and these opinions rarely taken to count,  unless backed up completely by facts. Even then a woman may appear to be too argumentative and too opinionated and this will instigate arguments and create differences .  That is of course all relative pertaining to the situation the woman is in but this in itself makes her feminine.  The Italian woman or woman in Italy always knows how to decipher a situation and act accordingly.  I used to believe that this knowledge was just a factor of logic and intelligence but here it is a question of actually being a woman, a "donna".  Despite a woman's experiences whether sexual or worldly, intellectual or artistic, her ideas and opinions make her impossible, make her a "rumpe palle" (ball breaker) and make her a whole lot different and a little less feminine.

  Italy is filled with a femininity which to me is not feminine. I have discovered rather first hand and harshly that  femininity in Italy in its simplest of American terms if I may, is superficial and "trashy."  I've discovered that Italians  do not appreciate a woman for all that she is, all that she has the potential to be, they appreciate it her for what she "appears" to be.  It is a difficult society and they regard femininity like Royalty.  An Italian woman or woman living in Italy must always know how to wave her royal hand, and share her sly smile. A woman in public Italy should not make eye contact too much, say too much, or let loose in any way that could appear wild to their Italian ideas of a "donna."  Conservative? No.  Just traditional and considering we are in 2010 its high time Italians start realizing life is far too short and it is meant to be enjoyed.  It is time Italians realize that a woman can go out by herself, to a bar, to a movie, to a coffee shop and this DOES NOT mean she is looking for a husband, partner, lover or friend. Perhaps she simply enjoys her own company.  This is something that Italians don't enjoy too much of themselves, their own company.  It is time Italians realize that a womans conversation is not an invitation for sex,  nor is it an invitation for a relationship, sometimes  we talk purely for exchanging human interaction on the most basic of levels. Conversation I call it.   Sometimes a woman likes to have her mind stimulated, by men, by woman, by old, young, children, and strangers. I believe that somebody always has something to teach you, even if it's never to engage in conversation with that particular person again or with an Italian mentality.  Conversation is meant to stimulate the mind and I find Italians stimulate their minds seldom other then through visuals and appearances and their great Televisions. The simple art of conversation is undermined. A conversation does not mean that a woman is more interested in you then her boyfriend, or more taken by you, it means that the conversation is what it is, that it is a delightful  exchange of human interaction.  After all interaction is the key to happiness.  
      In Italy, a "donna," a woman knows she should really never talk to anyone, more specifically strangers, nor should she give smiles.  This is because it is considered a come on and if a man is trying to be brilliant with her or charismatic,  the onus becomes on the woman to assume responsibility for his actions and it is up to the female to stop him. I say that if a man is attracted to a woman and talks with her, that is something that she can't entirely control, but the degree of invitation and flirtatiousness  certainly can be. However there is no need to be overtly rude.  I always believed body language and speech say alot and if told to "back off" politely, a man will listen then if he doesn't you can bring out the ammunition! But remember we are in Italy and there are chances, they won't listen.  In my experiences in Italy most Italian men forget to understand that a women traveling here has had a life before her great courage to move her and she has lived lives prior to her Italian voyage and has managed to live it well according to her own morals and judgements.  Try to stay calm and don't take it too personal if "unintentionally" a man uses many subtle ways to condescend and attack you or belittles your womanly existence.  Most often then not if you respond to this mentality, you  will only be regarded as the "American in her American ways, with your too open mind" and they will even resent you for that liberty.
     Here in Italy femininity is attributed solely to the physical and a womans physical self in her physical space, regardless of the fact that I believe two of the most powerful things in the world are feminine, the earth and the moon. The earth and moon  in almost all cultures are related to a goddess or feminine principles. Even though there may be a man living on it ;) The "man in the moon" occupies only a small fragment of her whole self.   Mother Earth and Mother Nature  and the Moon have long since been forces in my life.  These things in itself should give hints on what defines femininity such as strength, encouragement, inspiration, positivity and enlightenment.  But in Italy the woman is still quite often seen as crazy and hormonal.
     I have been raised to believe feminine attributes are associated with qualities that are nurturing.  Qualities that are life-giving, qualities of elegance, gentleness, motherhood, birth, and intuition, qualities of creativity. Not in Italy.  Italians appreciate a woman's femininity for all that she looks-and appears-- feminine. How you can tell all this by heels and short mini is beyond me, but it is just that, the heels and short skirts, well kept hair and make-up  that make her so.   I find that there is an extremely fine line here in Italy between trashy and feminine and that feminine little lady with the mini and heels, could be nothing more then a great night of sex, which is hardly feminine if we  really wish to begin to disect femininity in its oldest forms of thoughts. This idea is a contradiction of course but one of many contradictions here in Italy.   Perhaps a part of the italian mind goes so far as to define femininity from how a woman  would look stark naked strapped to your bed with her high heels still on, her pressed flat iron long hair still flowing down her shoulders and her make-up left completely untouched.   The Irony lies in the fact that the real Italian woman shares the same idea.  How else could I define the lack of class and tact among wardrobes in a city of high fashion.  The combination of thick make-up, the heels with the see through tights and short short short skirts and barely covering up the body sweaters are questionable for me in terms of class but again it's a fine line.  Femininity in Italy almost takes on a pornographic state of being at times.  This can be seen  simply by turning on the TV.  It is seen on  Italian TV, in film, in the super "calendario's" that make woman famous and it is seen in clubs, bars, and on the streets. The feminine woman is always almost a quasi-naked woman redone, retouched with enormous amounts of make-up, and hair straightened to impress. 
     However if femininity in Italy means spending hours in the morning putting on 11/2 kilos of make-up, the appropriate attire, straightening out one's hair daily, and not smiling for fear of wearing down your lipstick they certainly can have it!  I warn you however that I am in for a battle and an extremely long year.  I am feminine, I am elegant, I am classy, I love dressing up, I love heels and I certainly love my red lipstick.  On the weekends and even during some weekdays, I prefer my converse sneakers, and a hoodie, hair tossed loosely up,  accentuated with a warm hat, simple make-up with luscious lips and this does not mean I am not feminine for surely I can guarantee you I am, and my look is just as sexy.  The beauty of me is that I,  like many woman, dress for me and my moods, not for how I may appear to men.  I, like many women, leave a lot to the imagination and this to me is feminine.  There are  many things  my mother taught me that have carried me throughout my life, through my child, teen and adult years and this is one of them "If you want to get to the inside, you gotta explore the outside, if the inside is already out, well then, there's not much left to explore.  The key to being sexy is imagination and implication, and of course independence and I will give them that, an Italian woman shows a sense of independence but one that is filled with games.
     However the appearance of the female in Italy has it's own contradictions, and you will realize once you are here that as stated before Italy is a country filled with contradictions.   The oversexed female who they view as feminine WILL in a very unfeminine and tactless way,  overtly and obnoxiously eye your man while you are with him, beside him, holding him. Her in her knee high stilettos, black tights, and kilos of make-up, she will use the appearance of what she is perceived as and her malign ways to assure you, she can chase and conquer. To me this comes across as far more insecure and desperate than feminine.  The Italian woman is a woman who prides herself on her look; her heels and fitted apparel, but sometimes in the most inappropriate of situations.  She will rub shoulders with your boyfriend, she will lean on him  with her breasts pressed against his back out while ordering a drink at a full bar, and all this done with intention. These are the independent games I was referring to.   Italians love games and this is a game both the women and men play here and they enjoy it thoroughly, but frankly it can be disturbing to watch.  The Italian woman with her miniskirts and thick make-up,  her reshaped nose, breast implants and collagen injections, flat ironed head, and "over" appearance when entering a room, will make sure all are aware that she is present including you, the girlfriend.   She wishes you to know she has spent hours achieving her look, and in her once over look at you not so friendly glance, she wants you to notice she is completely well done, she prides herself in boasting this in ways that are vicious, callous and cheap.  I've yet to become accustomed to this and believe me, it is more a sentiment that of annoyance then jealousy.  On the flipside,   I've yet to understand the wandering eye of Italian men mostly while you are having conversations with them. I was always taught eye contact is important in conversation as is body language. But here eye contact is kept to minimal, wandering eyes are everywhere and it can make you feel down right dirty, if not unimportant, especially if it's your boyfriend staring over your head to look at the Italian female who has entered the room in her Joan Collins way.   However I don't blame the men completely cause if a man with a ripped chest, six pack, chiseled jaw, five-o-clock shadow and jeans accentuating his #@%$#@, were to walk around in a tank top all the time, or rubbed up against my leg while ordering a drink, perhaps he may just have my eye wandering too. Or perhaps he would have my little North American self  laughing in stitches as I try to interpret his intention of trying so hard  to be it.
     All the streets are stages in Italy and all the bars are theaters and you never know what you will see but don't let it surprise you..the desire for attention in Italy by men and woman is comical, if not at the very least absolutely tragic.
       Italy is a country that confuses sexy for sex, friendliness for advances, and conversation for permissions. It is a country that uses gentleness as a means of manipulation, and where people are always and often only nice for a reason, a reason that will benefit only their well-being.  Where loyalty is questionable, infidelity common, where men are sincere with their words, charismatic and charming at heart but they betray you with their thoughts, mind and intentions.  It is a country whose people mask it's misery behind cordial greetings, and friendships behind plastic smiles. It is a country whose people complain about everything, even when there is nothing to complain about.  They need to complain.  It gives them purpose.  It is a country who masks aggression; aggression on the streets, aggression towards each other, aggression driving, aggression while in the metro and aggression at the banks, in lines, and at bars for passion.  It is not passion. Passion is meant for conversation, passion is meant for your lover, passion is meant to fight for something you believe in, your art, your dreams, your goals. Passion is something you speak with when you are referring to something you strongly abide by. Passion is not screaming because someone cut you off for a parking spot.   Passion is not airing your laundry in public, passion is certainly not shouting "parolaci" otherwise known as very cruel Italian offenses at passerby's, your girlfriend, or people who simply just piss you off.   This is anger.  This is aggression.  It is an aggression and anger at feeling beneath oneself. It is in essence the admission of defeat.
     I have come to discover that here In Italy everything is about the idea of gain and defeat,  winning and losing, being right or wrong.  It is a not a country where people wish to compromise and understand the point of view of one whom feels they have been wronged. In Italy and even more so in Milano, I find what is meant to be understood is WHO is wrong! WHO will cower and take the blame!  WHO is responsible for making the other person react the way they did. WHO started the fight that led to the aggression, the instigating of tempers? Obviously the person in the right always wins and the person in the wrong loses and that is the end of it. It's black and white.  The winner takes his proud self and boasts about his victory to friends, bar patrons and witnesses and the loser must leave ego torn, and hurt pride, tail between his legs but of course not  before shouting a few parolaci at the winner. So Italy has become a country of winners and losers, sadly  all Italians want to be winners.
     In Italy a fight in crossing the sidewalk or a parking spot becomes about gain and defeat, about pride and honour. It develops into a ritual of gestures, insults and direct opinions about who deserves the right of passage more.   Sometime I think Italians would have made great baseball players, for they have a gestural language that is large and complex. Although Italians being Italians would change the rules of the game, each game, to suit their individual needs because that is also Italian. Nobody in Italy follows rules!
     I have also discovered that Italians are people whom within their own culture believe each individual is  better then the next.  Although there are many more places I have yet to travel, this sentiment is extremely predominant in Italian culture.  As a result Italy is a country whose every citizen has a strong sense of pride and an immense capacity for judging.  They judge others and they judge themselves but they deny they ever judge anyone.  Each Italian believes they are better then then next and that they are born Royalty and with their Royal heinesses,  Italians believe they should  be treated as such everywhere they go, everywhere they are, even if it's a restaurant. A delay in a drink order will cause a problem.  The downside of this is if all Italians believe they are Royalty, well  Royalty is normally bowed down to, looked high upon,  and because neither Italian wants to bow down to each other or for that fact give praise to one another, for fear of admitting one is better then their individual selves,  like a cock fight they raise their beaks to one another and battle each other- consistently, for everything and it is exhausting.  Leaving the house every morning has becoming an exhausting ritual, a tiresome act of always trying to defend oneself.    
      Italy  is a country whose people are extremely hard to decipher. I'd like to believe they are warm, but I have yet to experience it in the younger generations. In fact the only people I take to are children and the elderly. However must be aware of even the elderly.  Like an ancient code of hieroglyphics Italy and it's people leave mystery in your eyes with your every footstep.  It's cities are places where friends are hard to make, people are hard to trust, money means everything and art and dreams almost nothing.  It's a country where you will be scolded for leaving through a journal at a news stand DONT' DO IT!!  It is a country that is rich in food, culture, history, architecture, art, wine, scenery and yet has little or no tolerance or patience.  If the people make a city, or a country, then I believe the Italian people have left a lot to be desired in their cities.   Italians have made their country rather poor and tasteless,  leaving all that it is and was in its richness, beauty and warmth to be burned in the evening sun and  left behind like the dust of ancient ruins. With that dust all the beautiful historical stories of warmth,  chivalry and gentleness have disappeared. These attributes of humanity slowly growing old with the people who lived them in a  Italy  of a long long time ago. Italy makes me sad.
         I came to Italy in search of a place that I grew to know growing up from my parents. Italy was a black and white film, with elegance and homemade pasta, "festas", markets, it was a romanticized place filled with what seemed to me like warmth and romance, excitement and adventure yet upon my arrival  little of this remains.  In the South I found beauty and warmth but misogyny, in the North I found l cruelty, rudeness,  insincerity, hostility,  tactlessness mixed with misogyny and arrogance. I found a place that is rather cold and where one must always be aware.   This to me is no way to spend a life.
        At the time I was 13, I had my first trip to Italy. I spent a summer near Rome and in Calabria. Those memories have never left my mind. I felt the nostalgia to visit the Italy of my parents.  Perhaps I was too young then to understand that Italy, the Italy of my parents was not the Italy I noticed at all.  I am now 38 and live in Milano with my boyfriend.   I have a found a society that judges against age, colour and race as immigration is still so new to Italians. I have found hostility on every street corner. I have been aggravated at news stands and pushed around on the subway. I have discovered infidelity, insincerity, cruelty, narrow minds, backstabbing amongst friends and family.  I have found Italians have stopped growing with the rest of the world, and because of this they have limited themselves and the potential of the individual therefore limiting the growth of their country as a whole.  
    Perhaps if Italy was a country that looked at itself to correct itself it would find itself better. As a nation however  habituated in pointing blame, it is rare you will find observations in journals, paper and in media, exploring Italians themselves.  Unlike Canada and America whose articles often dissect their very own culture, Italians hesitate to look at themselves but use their finger freely often pointing it elsewhere mostly at each other.  Perhaps each Italian should walk around with a pocket mirror,  perhaps this may aid them to better understand themselves or perhaps they should read more Beppe Severgnini to catch a glimpse of themselves and their society.   Or perhaps before accessorizing  themselves too much with jewels, cars, make-up and clothes, they should reflect on what it is they are instead of what they wish to appear to be.  Although I firmly believe that Italians know quite well what they are. They are a people whom are far too intelligent  for their own good, but they are also too proud and stubborn at the same time.  The truth of themselves adds to the infinite mystery. Who they are, what they are, how they are is never discussed publicly.  The reality of their false selves is far too often left in the small quarters of their bathrooms with only their personal mirror knowing the truth and the magic behind their appearances. 
     Appearances count for a lot in Italy. It is a country that is fascinated with appearances and fascinated with youth. It has a sick obsession with mid twenties that I find demeaning to a human and specifically a woman.  As a 38 year old woman in Italy, University educated, speaking four languages; Italian, Spanish, French and English, English Fluently as it is my mother tongue,  you would think I would not have a hard time finding a job here but this is Italy. In fact everywhere one goes they will notice signs in the storefront windows stating, "saleswoman wanted maximum 25 years old," "Waitress wanted maximum 25 years old," "hair stylist wanted, maximum 25 years old, apprentice wanted, maximum 25 years old."  In Italy nobody wants a  a "mature woman," they rarely want an older man although in Italy it is true a charismatic aged king has many more opportunities then an older woman even if his only gain and ambition is to have a younger woman.  This seals his position in his society.   In Italy age only  works to a man's advantage.
      I can only say that living in italy is appearing impossible and getting more and more difficult and some days I feel I will just explode.  I must admit however that I don't feel too bad after viewing the "telejournale," the italian television news.  It claimed that  'Elizabeth Cannalis was having a hard time in America. Poor Cannalis having sacrificed her career and life in Italy for George Clooney, moved to America for love.'  What about the rest of us who have sacrificed our lives and careers to have moved across oceans for love, opportunity, change and renewal and haven't been as fortunate to have found relationships or situations with financial heavenliness and security in a country that is filled with endless opportunity and open minds. 
    Well  perhaps her and I have more in common than I think. We have both sacrificed our careers and life for love transporting our selves across oceans into foreign territories, different mentalities and a whole new set of laws, rules and regulations.  I may not have had the career in America that Cannalis had in Italy and I certainly haven't done a  "calendario" for this is the status of an achieved and successful woman in Italy; a nude calender of themselves.  I can think of better things that would make me feel like I've accomplished turning points in my career but if a woman like she is unable to find work in America as the icon she is,  married to George Clooney,  hell then being almost married to a struggling musician living in Milano close to the Bocconi, in a beautiful little loft like apartment, away from all things I am, do and know, must mean I'm not doing too bad!!!!!!!!

Don't get me wrong however, I do love Italy and if you come to Italy, take my advice and come for the wine, the food, the scenery, the history, the clothes, the shoes, the leather and the ocean. Don't take things too personal, don't trust anyone, and watch your back at all times, Italians are great actors and even better liars. If you keep that in mind,  you can only have a beautiful memory of Italy and a far more loving relationship with it then someone living here!