Uomini

“Go fall in love with an Italian boy…”

Although the statement angered me no matter who said it, it had a different sting coming from my best friend, a sophomore in high school, in the form of a yearbook signature. At 15, whenever I told people about my upcoming move, they would respond with some variation of the aforementioned phrase. No matter how pure the intention, I was always offended that the best thing anyone could wish me was a man. No one told me to journal or take pictures; with this trip, the peanut gallery was set on the subject of men. Fall 2015 came and went and the only thing sparked in me boy-wise was more curiosity and confusion. I’ve heard that if heaven were in Europe, the lovers would be Italian, but I don’t think that a lover is what I needed in order to progress at 16.

Nearly two years went by, and while I tried to avoid any more “advice” by keeping my college plans quiet, rumors still spread. This time around, people advised me to search for an Italian husband. At 17, I don’t know if a husband is what I needed in order to progress.

After a few weeks and a few too many Ciao Bellas, my Italian professor asked us to use the verb for fear in a sentence.

“Io ho paura degli uomini.”

The class laughed but it was true; I was afraid of men. I was terrified of what they are capable of and terrified of what it could mean for me if I even made eye contact with any of them. Not only did I not fully understand the appeal, but I also saw no benefit in taking the risk. I couldn’t wrap my head around what compelled girls to be brave with these strange men they knew nothing about. I fully expected to come home to disappoint every woman living vicariously through me. I certainly wasn’t coming back with a husband. There was no way I could ever be interested enough in anyone to put my fear aside and search for whatever it is in Italian men that makes them a topic of conversation.

Then, all of the sudden, I could. I don’t know how much I believe in love at first sight but this is the closest thing I’d experienced. After a few seconds of eye contact, the world was clear to me. I’d never appreciated brown eyes as much as I did in that moment. Wow! The smile! Could that possibly be directed at me? It was! After years of hearing about the phenomenon of Italian men, I got why everyone pushed the narrative.

In the midst of the first butterflies in my stomach of my adult life, I reminded myself of how I would act if I were home. Have all the tales of Italian men from the world around me brainwashed me into putting this one on a pedestal or does he, individually, deserve to be up there?

He’s just a person…

It’s fine…

I’m fine…

Until he talks to me! I laugh at his joke while it goes right over everyone else’s head. It MUST be a sign! Now I don’t think I would mind an Italian husband!

As I walk away, I ground myself again. It’s not his fault that the only piece of advice I was given was to spouse-search. He will likely go home to his girlfriend, wife, or mother and say nothing about me, whereas, for years to come, I will be relaying the story of the magic of Italian men to anyone who will listen.

I think back to my high school friend’s statement. She wrote: “Go fall in love with an Italian boy, but more importantly fall in love with yourself.” Nearly three years later, her statement truly comes into play for the first time. Upon deeper reflection, I realize the only reason I was able to have this experience is because of my recent perspective shift. I have come to love the little pieces of me that make me worthy of praise, but not dependent on it; the elements of my personality that make me feel like I’m someone with a unique perspective worth listening to. It is essential to think this way when deciding who will properly align with and compliment yourself.

“…But more importantly, fall in love with yourself,” — that is the objective. I will make sure to include it in my advice to anyone going to Italy. It’ll go something like this:

First fall in love with yourself. Only after that happens, take the opportunity to fall in love with an Italian boy, as it presents itself. It’s worth the risk, even if nothing comes of it.

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Constantly failing the Bechdel test

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Baylie Raddon

Baylie Raddon

Constantly failing the Bechdel test

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