I’ve been trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about in terms of the Italian way of life. Honestly, I know very little. But, I’m intrigued. And, I have a short pile of books I’m working through. I’m doing this research so I can be like my Polish roommate in college.
I remember the embarrassment of almost flunking out of a required American History class I shared with this roommate. He was acing it. And, besides that, he studied a lot before coming to America. He learned the ins and outs of the English language very quickly, and everyone loved him. He was a rock star.
I don’t want to flunk out of the Italian experience. As a husband and a father, I want my family to thrive spiritually wherever we are planted. At this stage of my life, I’m less interested in being a rock star than a good scout.
I know there will be different levels of disorientation between the five of us on any given day after arriving on Italian soil. If third grade is hard here, how much harder will it be in the Italian language for the untrained American girl or boy? If being a one car family here is sometimes hard, how much harder will it be learning to depend solely on the public transit system in a large urban center in northern Italy? This will be disorienting. Can’t be entirely prevented. But, will doing some homework now help to absorb the shock we will feel then?
In the books I’m reading, I’ve been looking for the typical Italian. What are they like? Why are they unique? Why do they use their hands so much? Are they really so loud? Especially, the typical Italian male. This is, after all, the person I hope to befriend and get to know the most as a friend.
In a way I feel like Ralph Macchio in the first Karate Kid, before meeting Mr. Miyagi. The dude was trying to learn self-defense from…a book. At the time it is all he had access to. A book with pictures. And, it really wasn’t helping him. He needed guidance. Someone who had mastered the art to teach him. I’m looking forward to the Mr. Miyagis God will be sending into my life who force me to close the books and just live the Italian culture.
Is what I’m learning about Italian men true? Notoriously charming and full of life but still living at home with mamma? Passionate in conversation but often quick-tempered? Extremely courteous but also ungovernable? Reading about this now gives me fuel for thought. But, I hope to always keep an open mind. With each conversation in Bologna or Milano, or wherever God takes me, I want to look for the uniqueness in each Italian. It’s only fair.
Besides, in a northern city like Milan (where we will live), modernity and the global feel challenge what is typical for the rest of the country. I read a blog post (short & sweet) that helped me understand the negative view many more southern Italians have of Milan because they feel it doesn’t represent Italy well. But, men from Milan should be no less Italian. They may be more cosmopolitan. More traveled. More fashionable. More modern. Younger. Or, even from another country entirely. But, Italian nonetheless.
I pray now that the bridges I hope to build with Italian men will be hoisted without preconceived ideas about these men. I want them to feel completely unjudged. I sincerely want to learn from each man how I can more passionately love and serve the God who created the masculine spirit.