Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making the inevitable catty comparisons
We read a blog before we left about an American woman who moves to the French countryside with her three kids and her husband and then goes to Italy for a vacation.  She makes a list of comparisons, and at first I thought it would be fun to read.  Then she went on to make a bunch of comparisons to make her feel good about her choice. I found them to be completely obnoxious and I disagreed with her view of Italy entirely.  Nevertheless, the urge to compare is overwhelming. 

It was so good to be in a big city for the week and to have food that was not Italian, but was still super duper delicious. I love Italian food, but being vegetarians who eat what is seasonal, we tend to eat the same things with the same spices over and over again. We definitely were all dying for Thai and Japanese and Indian food.  Also French pastries do kick other pastries butts. Still, If we had been cooking for ourselves the seasonal veggies would have been the same and the same quality. Italian coffee is better. Period. Punto e basta.

It was great to have what all three of us agreed was some truly satisfying sense of anonymity that you get from being bumped into and/or ignored completely in a big city.  It is nice not to have to worry that the same person you get mad at for stepping on your new shoes will turn out to be the principal of the high school or your banker or your good friend's father or something.  Compared with New York, I much prefer the architecture and sheer beauty of Paris.  It was really tough going with our elementary knowledge of French, though.  I mean we knew enough to differentiate  ourselves from the annoying, mostly American, tourists who have this entitled attitude about not needing to even try to be polite or make an effort beyond the gates of the English language. Therefore, people were a lot nicer than the stereotyped, mythically arrogant characters that I had been dreading.  I thought most everyone we met was really either fun, funny, cool or sweet. The customer service needs help, but that is life without commissions, no matter where you go.

I did get really wigged out by the amount of effort the French women put into their appearances and started to feel like if I made superficial goals the entire purpose of my life, I still could never measure up.  Those are the prettiest, thinnest, most pulled together women I have ever seen -- and this not news to them.  And I really worked hard on packing well and wearing my best stuff and getting my hair blown out professionally before we left and wearing not the most sensible shoes. Those Parisian women that are heterosexual have a sexiness that is a little bit more oriented towards impressing other women, whereas the Italian heterosexual sexiness could not give a rat's ass about what other women think. (As far as being gay in a predominantly Catholic country, that is just a brave, hard thing to do and I am sad that is the case. But Paris definitely has an obviously out and proud population, which was a positive thing to see. It also felt better to be in a city that was more racially diverse. Of course now we are comparing a giant French city with a tiny Italian one.) Neither group of women, Parisian or Lucchese, would ever walk around in sneakers (unless they were Converse and color coordinated) without a really good reason. Neither group does without a hair dryer. My hair is fried, by the way.

In the end, it was very satisfying to come home -- I said it, home -- to Lucca. Lucca is much cleaner.  Our house, thank goodness is also much cleaner.  It feels much, much safer. There are not people sleeping on the streets which hurts me when I see it, always has, always will, and there is much less begging and obvious poverty.  I missed the Italian language that I love very much and want so much to become natural for me. (F kept saying due instead of deux to confused French ticket agents and waiters every time we needed two of anything. It was really funny by the end of the trip). T may in the end venture out on her own and decide she wants a bigger city type life when she is in her 20s, but I like to think that when she comes back to visit us, it will give her pleasure, and fond memories, and she will find us. Still here. In. Lucca.

MJ, + A, L &C for real, we hope you visit us.

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