Friday, December 02, 2011

Gym-ophobic cultural mishaps
 
1. At Happy Gym one of the teachers re-did my poster because mine was too ugly and made it bolder and more in keeping with the rest of the posters there, all of which she also made. Unfortunately, no one put there names down indicating that they actually want to take my intensivo 2 hour special class. But it is still early yet, I guess; and it is crazy early for Italians who can't even imagine where life might take them 16 days from now.

2. My nice boss at Happy Gym asked me if I would like to make up a number to perform in front of a high school. She was so smiley and nodding up and down at me that I started smiling and nodding up and down and about seven hours later I realized that I was going to now lose a night of sleep or more, spend hours sweating and having stomach cramps and that I would also have to invent some kind of concept, if not specific choreography, to perform in front of a million restless teenagers.

3. Tonight I had the genius idea of trading places with the crazy lady student who never has enough room at LIFE gym so that she had the front spot at the mirror and could maintain a visual patrol of all the imaginary people who might encroach on her.  I took the middle spot where no one could see me, but everyone could hear me. At a certain point half the room asked me if I was really a dominatrix in New York and why I took pleasure in seeing them suffer. I smiled and said, "ten more please!"

4. In the dressing room at LIFE some nice things were said about me behind my back, according to my new friend and student Silvia who gave me a ride home. Although I later found out that while a bunch of students wanted to know if I was going to the gym's special dinner and dance tomorrow night, no one at the gym had actually thought to tell me about it. There is apparently a sign posted somewhere, but even if I found it, the chances are that I would need help reading it, so . . . I asked for information from my other boss, but since my mom is coming tomorrow and I didn't exactly have a full dance card at the last LIFE gym get together, I think I may miss it.


There was a post recently on the local expat meet up message board about the difficulty of making friends with Italian women. The post which was rather negative in tone didn't really resonate with me, but I thought it was brave of the author to raise the subject. I haven't found it too hard to make friends-- what I've found hard is figuring out which way is up and where to pay for things and the seventy two different terms for how people order their coffee-- but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have noticed that almost all of the Italian women I know have had a really hard time of realizing themselves professionally. Some of the younger women in my class who have the most tense necks are working cleaning houses or at the post office and these are not just temporary positions while they study or apprentice in a field that really satisfies them. That is it. And it is not the stuff their dreams are made of. This wouldn't be so bad if people didn't work six days a week, twelve hours a day and earn very little money.  Others are stuck in family businesses that come with all kinds of pressures attached and no escape chutes. Everybody I meet in Lucca tells me that New York is the most exciting concept for a place ever invented. It is the Disney land of their, by now, adult imaginations. And I think the issue of choice, and personal expression is at the heart of it. Cue the Jay-Z track.

I believe that even though I never had just one thing I knew I wanted to be when I grew up, and instead tried out a couple of different options, the work experience I had in New York helped me immeasurably to figure out what I'm good at, what I suck at, and what makes me happy. I don't know if I would be able to be very brave or centered if I hadn't had those life changing experiences that were based around self realization. So if some of the Italian women are a little competitive or defensive, as many of my expat friends have found offputting, I think that has a lot to do with it. I wouldn't probably be too sympathetic with someone from England, or Canada, Australia or New York if it seemed to me there biggest problem in life was seemingly trying to track down some peanut butter while I had to stand on my feet for fourteen hours, not allowed to use my cell phone or sit down until quitting time.

Arrivederci, Brooklyn!

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