If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

12 February 2006

So close, and yet so far

Ohhhh, where IS the justice??!?!! I live in Italy. I rang in 2006 standing on the front porch of a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany (in the sleeting rain, yes, but there nonetheless). And starting this week, Torino (maybe 5 hours from my home?) is hosting the Winter Olympics, a point of pride for Italians and those of us who love Italy. So that makes it even more depressing that I watched the amazing (they-did-us-proud) opening ceremonies of said Olympics on Tivo, standing in a hotel room on the 15th floor of the InterContinental Hotel Dallas??

It's the same reason that I watched Katie Couric's 'pre-Olympic tour', broadcasting from my newly-adopted Firenze, through slightly teary eyes - missing being there, as I sat in a hotel room bed in Louisville, Kentucky.

I really hope that GiaGina and Laurie and all my other new friends from Torino are having an amazing Olympic experience. But I'm on the road, sadly far from Italy and the Olympic spirit.

Because sitting in the sun drinking Chianti doesn't pay the bills, baby. And work means travel this time of year. Which also means seeing a series of people I haven't seen in a while.

I know, my situation is a strange one; chat-worthy at cocktail parties or business soirees. At least twice this week, I got the 'trained monkey' nudge from a friend of mine ... "Hey, now tell him where you live". After the initial story and ooh-aaaah reactions, invariably, one of a series of predictable yet probing questions is posed:

"Well, when are you coming back?"
"Aren't you really lonely?" "I mean, have you made any friends?"
"When you say 'home' do you mean Italy or DC?"
"Is this about a guy?" and/or the more subtle "Did you move alone?"
(Even better...) "So, have you found an Italian man?"
"Oh, are you still over there? Does it feel like home yet?"
"Well, where do you stay when you're back? Doesn't it feel weird to not have anywhere to really call home here?"
"Are you going to stay there? Is this permanent??"

My typical response is usually something flippant like, "Home is where my suitcase is, I guess. My crystal ball doesn't work that far into the future." No kidding, I have told the story no less than 500 times in the last three weeks, and I'm kind of over it, now having shortened it to the least possible information that still gets the point across.

I get it; I'm being oversensitive and irritable. And I know it's an interesting story. It's not that I don't have serious thoughts about these things; I do. It's just that these approaches, usually at a loud cocktail party with people I've just met, often make me feel like a circus sideshow act... "Look here! The crazy girl who sold everything and moved to Italy! Poke and prod her emotions! Ask probing questions that you wouldn't dare ask your neighbors! Watch her survive and try to live up to your expectations!"

I take it as a compliment that people a) notice and b) care enough to make my life the subject of their precious cocktail party chatter (must be a slow news week). However, the continual 'animal in the zoo' feeling can be a little overwhelming. I find it remarkable that people expect my life to somehow be more more mapped out than their own is; or that somehow my decisions are less personal than theirs, more open to public commentary and dissection. I also find it FASCINATING that in Italy, where I legitimately *am* the 'animal in the zoo' - the straniera ... noone asks these things, ever. The only question I OCCASIONALLY get there is whether or not I'm afraid to be living in a rural area alone, but none of the OTHER questions. Are Italians more polite, or do they simply take things at face value? Hmmmmmm.

Imagine if my responses were equally probing ...

"Well, I don't know. Are you going to cheat on your wife again? You know sometimes these things can't be predicted."
"Sure, it can be lonely sometimes, you know, like that empty nagging feeling you get when your husband is late at the office AGAIN."
"Maybe. It's kind of like you asking if you are going to have another child, or do the ones you have seem to fulfill you?"
"I might stay, kind of like how you will probably stay in the house you just moved into if the new neighbors aren't creepy, you keep your job and stay healthy, your kids like the school, and your husband doesn't leave you for his secretary. Life's full of a lot of unpredictability."

The thing is, people don't want the real answers. They just want me to regale them with the pretty parts of the story. I'm their own personal version of Diane Lane (what I wouldn't give...) They want the fairytale; what they IMAGINE it to be.

And it is that, sometimes. The other times, imagine what happens to the mojo of the cocktail party if I burst into tears, clinging emotionally to the "aren't you lonely" questioner!?!?

It makes me value all the more the people who know how and when to ask the questions, and who can stomach hearing the real answers.

I completely lost my voice this weekend; no kidding. A miniature karmic gift of a legitimate reason not to answer any questions. I didn't realize quite what a responsibility it was to be living so many other peoples' dreams. They want the highlights and the well-edited big screen version, not the reality TV.

7 Comments:

Blogger Gia-Gina said...

I had a great time walking around downtown with the hubby this w-e. There were people galore all over the place and it was exciting to see tourists of all colors and shapes, something I have been missing forever! I am hosting a few guests and we plan to head into town and again this week.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

just read further down in the blog...man does this all resonate!

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

......AND.....(Im so glad I found your blog this AM) .....I lost my voice this week, too! I was also weepily watching Matt and Katie from my NY perch, and looking desperately for some expat friends...I actually saw 2 on the Torino segment, got all sniffly and tried calling them. I think I may have attained a new level of assimilation, as my homesickness is now starting to be not just about missing my husband, but about everything else, too!

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

......AND.....(Im so glad I found your blog this AM) .....I lost my voice this week, too! I was also weepily watching Matt and Katie from my NY perch, and looking desperately for some expat friends...I actually saw 2 on the Torino segment, got all sniffly and tried calling them. I think I may have attained a new level of assimilation, as my homesickness is now starting to be not just about missing my husband, but about everything else, too!

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Missed you. Can't wait to see you Friday, no matter what shape we are both in. I remember SEVERAL nights of us being beyond emotional and physical exhaustion. We seem to be a good pair...
Love you,
Unassuming Princess

5:11 PM  
Anonymous serrin said...

As already mentioned in an email I've sent you, I'm slowly going through your blog because a) it's interesting and fun and b) I plan to follow your footsteps in a year or so. So that's why this comment is on such an old post!

I find I get similar questions when discussing my plans to spend 1-2 years in Italy, so annoying and so unoriginal! Most of my friends ACTUALLY think that I'm going to Italy in the hopes of finding a MAN!

No, it has nothing to do with the challenge of adjusting to a totally different culture, the joy of learning a new language, the fear and elation at overcoming obstacles that simply don't exist at home - those things are nothing compared to finding a MAN.

I usually respond with "ONE man? Are you mad? It's Italy, I'm aiming for at least ten!" Perhaps you can apply that answer to the next love-questioner and see how they respond. ;)

4:15 AM  
Anonymous serrin said...

PS - I hope you don't mind me reading all about your life - I think some of your experiences will really teach me a lot about what to expect. :)

4:16 AM  

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