If not now, when?

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

13 May 2006

A riddle wrapped in a mystery

I saw myself through different eyes today:

I was told that I was "enigmatic."

Actually, I was referred to as the "enigmatic and shy blonde American woman" that someone had asked about.

(pardon the pause, while I -- and anyone who knows me -- laughs out loud.)

In my whole life, I have never been considered shy or enigmatic. I am a pretty open book, and people have always known where they stand with me. Sure, I can be difficult or flirtatious or challenging -- that's not the same. Enigmatic is ... impossible to figure out. And shy is, well, not in my vocabulary.

At least not in my English vocabulary.

So I stepped outside myself for a moment, and actually ... SAW ... myself, in sunglasses, sitting alone here in that small piazza. And I realized that someone who makes eye contact but will not speak to you other than to nod and say a soft 'buona sera' might, in some people's perceptions, be considered shy. And enigmatic. Especially if you see them frequently.

This is not enigma that they are seeing, it's fear of sounding stupid. Which I will do -- happily -- just not with total strangers. With strangers, I keep my distance. I do not want to intrude in their world: I am a guest here - just passing through. A "migrant worker" - to use Josh Baskin's apt description. I do not have roots here, nor will I be here long enough to sprout them. And so, I make eye contact, enough so they know that I am there and not being rude, but not enough to be invited in to their discussions. Because if I were invited in, the game would be over, and my tongue could not keep up with my brain. And it would become 'all about me'. Which I do not want. Unlike other more famous expats (who shall be left unnamed), my goal is not to change this place or to make it my story - but rather to leave it as I found it, to blend in, to appreciate it for what it is and to leave relatively few ripples in my wake.

So I am, apparently, the shy and enigmatic blonde American woman. And for the moment, I think I like that. It's wearing a Halloween costume -- trying a different persona on for a while; we should all have that luxury at some point in our lives. In wearing the costume now, I also know that I will behave differently - more gently, more enigmatically, perhaps, when I take it off. And as 'I am a part of all that I have met,' I'm not certain that's such a bad thing.

The part that cracks me up the most, actually, is the "blonde". Perhaps it's just that in contrast to the true, black/brown darkskinned Italian brunettes around, I have comparatively light hair and light eyes. I guess they don't look closely enough at my roots... Mark, my brilliantly talented magician of a hairdresser, will be so touched by the compliment.

A broad smile spreads across my face. Aaaaah. "It's fun to be fooled, but it's more fun to know."


Blogger american girl in italy said...

Howdy! I saw your post on my blog. We are coming to teh get-together! I finally (LATE) bought the tickets to go. Does it say I am not coming? eeeek I sent them an email saying I purchased. I better check! :OD See you there! (I haven't even begun to look for places to stay, but I will get back to you on your kind offer, if we need a place to stay! Thanks!)

6:11 PM  

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