Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Debauchery: Adventures Abroad Include...

A brief synopsis of the Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly:

"Il Treno E In Retardo": The day before my mid-term exams start, Alli and I decide to go hike Cinque Terra. After hiking from Corniglia to Vernazza and indulging in the world's most orgasmic cannoli at Il Pirata, (where bar-keep Massimo declared, "Si, the clams are closed--they're shy. But they're like women; to open them, you just have to charm them. Then they melt like ice cream,") we realize that we can either A.) Go on to dinner in Montorosso since we're STARVING, or B.) Hop our last train to La Spezia and Florence and starve.

Well. We are not the Kitchen Bitches for nothing. So after trolling Montorosso for a store still open to buy a blanket-- none-- and contemplating stealing some hotel's towels off of a drying line-- couldn't reach-- we indulge in a 3 hour long dinner, then head to Fast Bar, proceed to make friends with everyone from the 30-something American tourists to the bartender who is Sealy Booth's Italian twin, drink ourselves warm, and then went and sat on the beach for the next 3 hours until our 5 AM train came, hiding from the carabineri and over-eager local guys from the bar, drinking wine, and having reflective heart-to-hearts. (Which I don't remember.) This day also includes: "My depth perception sucks." "Try mine." "No. I saw yours.", public urination, our first encounter with Italian men who don't know the meaning of the word "no", taking three exams with possibly the worst hangover of my life and only an hour's worth of sleep, and finding out that a classic corkscrew is pretty much a sobriety test in itself. (It takes two drunk blondes to open a bottle of wine, if you were wondering.)

"Ok, You Can Bring Him Back To The U.S With You": For Thursday Night Girl's Night, the girls, Alli and I went to Coquinarius. Feeling bad about us having to wait an hour for a table, Nicolai brings us all out complimentary glasses of wine, then shuffles us inside to a table ASAP, ignoring other waiting customers. At the end of the mean, we all get free glasses of vin santo and biscotti, and when I went up to the register at the end of the meal to "grazie mille" him profusely, he "prego"d and kissed me on both cheeks. As I stumbled back to the table where Alli and Arielle were waiting, I think I said something along the lines of, "He kissed me! Did you see that?! He kissed me like an Italian!"
Alli: "I know! I saw!"
Still in the high-pitch of a five-year-old: "HE KISSED ME!"
Alli: "I am in full support of you bringing him back to America with you."

"...And A Left At The Horse's Tail!": St. Paddy's day, Alli and I decided to go for apertivo at the swanky and fun Kitsch bar, where I proceeded to order a Mai Tai, even though it's first ingredient was rum, and, as we know by now, rum makes me DUMB. This was proven right yet again as we met up with Robin to find the Irish pub we were going to, and my usually impeccable sense of direction appeared addled, right until the point in time I stopped in the middle of the street, picked my nose up into the wind like a spaniel on point, thought for a moment, and then took off like a shot, muttering, "...And a left at the horse's tail!" Let me explain. We had been past the pub only once before, when looking for another restaurant about a month back, and the guidebook's directions to it were literally "take a left at the horse's tail of the statue in the piazza." 3 minutes later, I bring Robin, Alli and I out right in front of the pub. Where I proceeded to drink green beer and get further schnockered to a point at which Alli and I ended up recreating Rape of the Sabine Women in front of the statue, or, as I call it, Rape of the Champlain Women's Dignity. And then Sassy Drunk Carissa came out to play: "Oh, my boyfriend is playing with a balloon. I pick them so well!" "I have a watch. Do you know what time it is? Drunk time." "30...40...50...60 in my cash cow. Do you have a cash cow? I don't think so!"

"Abusement-- That's When You Beat Other People For Fun": Alli and I go to Perugia, where we encounter a metrorail that nearly dropped us into the compacting abyss-- "Alli, I don't want to go there!"-- and then made it better by soothing me with a familiar rhythm-- "Oh, this is a familiar rhythm." "Yes?" "It is. It's the same rhythm."-- Men Who Don't Know The Meaning Of The Word "No", a Romanian knock-off of George Clooney, a Very Small World episode in which an Australian who one of my best high school friends from the Netherlands lived with who Alli met her first time through Perugia, who introduced us to a friend who introduced us to a Middlebury grad student studying in Florence, and a houseparty that could have been straight out of the Burlington scene. I kept looking for the junglejuice and familiar faces. Quotes from that night include: "I want to kiss me." "You want to touch my body?" "He means 'cock'." "It's impossible? No! Come dancing with us at the disco!" "No. No, no, no, no, no, no. NO." Also, Alli gets an 80 year old boyfriend named Sergio. I think it's time to start investing in Viagra.

"Just Call Me Molly": The Button Factory, a Dublin club, is having a 90's themed night. I conveniently forgot all my 90's themed the 90's. Instead, I substitute cleavage for theme, because as Jamie says, "You have boobs. You don't need a decade." And it's true. Also, let it be stated here and now that Irish boys are far nicer and more polite in clubs than Italian men are. They actually ask you if they can dance with you, unlike Italian men as JD put it so eloquently, "will fuck you right on the dance floor."

"Gone Wilde In Dublin: One Morning In The Life Of": "Raaaaaaaahhh!" "Reptar?" "If I start humping something on the street, just keep walking." "Oh yeah. It's so much better not inhaling pressed powder." "Well, in the dark last night it looked relatively clean. Though that's been said about things before and proven wrong."

And "Two Pints Cheap-Date Night": Dublin was fun. Real fun.

"Get Me Home. Right Now": On the way to class yesterday, on the cramped Italian sidewalk, two days into coming back from A Land Where They Speak English And I Don't Want To Leave, after seriously considering just flying home from Dublin and hiring people to move my stuff out of my Italian apartment for me, I reached my threshold for Italian tolerance when a man straight-up grabbed me by the crotch. Now, yes, this is Italy, and yes, shitty things happen here all the time, but this was no mistake, and it was downright violating. All I saw as I went to angle my body to pass between him and the people on the other side of me was him smirk, and then it literally knocked the air out of me when I felt him plant his hand and felt finger through my jeans. I was too shocked to do anything than keep walking. After telling some of my friends about it, we realized that this was the same man who has done this to numerous girls. If you are reading this and are a girl studying abroad in Florence, beware a 30-something, brown-haired man about 5'10" on Via Nazionale with a wandering and very purposeful right hand. Give plenty of room to people on the sidewalk, and seriously, if it happens again, take him out. God knows I'm planning on it.

Spring Break Activities: Went spelunking in caves. Rolled down the hills of ancient fortresses of the kings of Ireland. Same old, same old.

And A Collection Of Recent Quotes: "Well, that's how I FEEL!" "Well, I'm sorry, but if you can't commit, I am totally free to eat other men's sandwiches." Sleep rambling: "I feel like a turtle."
"You feel like a turtle?" "Yes. my bed's all warm and I feel like I'm in my shell with only my little head sticking out. I'm a turtle." "Spending the night at a guy's apartment is like going to a one star hotel with a prostitute." "Places to go. Things to see. People to do." "We were basically a room full of people who sounded like we were in the Witness Protection Program." "So basically you're only druggie friends because you use them for their amenities." "Lush-- it's what women call themselves when they want to make alcoholism sound sexy."

So. Eurobreak and studying abroad. This is all what it's about. 45 days until I come home.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles

Planes, trains, and automobiles are where I’ve been doing most of my learning here in Italy. Jetting off to new locations on mini-vacations has slightly settled my fear or flying, or, rather—my fear of crashing and burning. In the horrendous traffic and speeding cars in Rome and Dublin, I have trusted people enough to hand my life over to them and let my white-knuckled fingers go from clutching the seat. I always sit facing backward on trains. I like being able to see my past so I know what’s done and gone is really gone. Plus, travel, especially on slow trains, gives you hours and hours to think. Hindsight is an amazing thing. Once you start to gather together the pieces, the picture is astounding.

I’m a runner. It’s true, so I’ll admit to it. I don’t tend to face the hard stuff and have been known on numerous occasions to turn my back on it and put some distance between us instead. I am flawlessly passive-aggressive. I don’t like facing things head-on—I’d rather saunter around the side of it and meet you somewhere near the conclusion. But you can’t live life like that. Italy (which may possibly be my biggest runner ever,) and the circumstances I’ve dealt with while here have changed me, just like I expected and hoped they would.

I came with a purpose: to get better at saying what I wanted to say. To actually say what I needed to. And damn it, if I could learn to do it in Italian, there was no way in hell it couldn’t be easier in English by the end of these 3-plus months. But I never expected that there are some aspects of this trip that wouldn’t be so easy. I don’t know what I was thinking when I left—maybe it was exactly that, and that I wasn’t thinking. I was operating solely on survival mode, for the last two weeks in the States, and for the first month I was here. There was no time to think outside of the present and where I was and the what I was doing, RIGHTNOW. I didn’t have the luxury of time to think or dwell on what happened. I didn’t have the opportunity to miss people or be any less selfish than just thinking about myself. In other words, I was literally not thinking. I was not thinking about how my choices affected others. I was not thinking about how other people’s past choices affected the choices I was in the process of making. I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to put all those pieces together and to start to map out my present. It’s no wonder I got a little lost along the way.

I remember getting off of the train in Assisi and standing there at the entrance of the station, looking left, then right, then at the distant hilltop town far too far to walk to and being floored because I never expected that it wouldn’t be easy. I had been taking so many things for granted, or just not even choosing to think about how hard they might be that I had completely overestimated myself, right until the point at which I took a deep breath, turned to look at the bus schedule, and then walked into the station’s tabacchi shop and asked for a return-trip bus ticket, in Italian. That’s what terrifies me sometimes. Sometimes, it really is just as easy as stepping off one thing and onto another, and other times, you find that you’re out in the middle of nowhere with not a clue how you got there and not a clue where to go from there. And that's when it all hit me-- how lost I was, yet how sure I was about some things. How much I missed people and how far I'd come, literally and figuratively. How much I'd grown and changed. How much time I still had to pass, when, internally, I was pretty much done with what I had set out to do. The Number One fear of all children is that they will grow up to be exactly like their parents, and lately, I’m terrified that this could be it and 20 and I could find out I’m more like my mother than I really would like to admit to. I’m terrified by how fast time has passed. I’m terrified to prove everyone right, and all my friends wrong. I’m terrified to admit that I’m growing up and getting older, but I’m also terrified that I’m too young for all of this. I’m most terrified that this thought doesn’t scare me or even give me a moment’s sway. I went to Assisi, and I had an epiphany as I sat there in the train station.

As Holly Golighty asked in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”: “You know those days when you get the mean reds?”

Paul Varjak: “The mean reds, you mean like the blues?”

Holly Golightly: “No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”

Paul Varjak: “Sure.”

Holly Golightly: “Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's, then - then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name!”

For me, the only thing that calms the mean reds and all the questions and terror of the unknown is the fact that in 45 days, I will be home. Every new sunrise brings me one day closer to being home. I can take all of the things that I’ve learned in Italy: how I am not afraid to ask if I’ve lost my way; how I have mellowed; how I can be confrontational—I can demand answers, and I can demand them in both English and Italian—; how I have learned about 20 other new life skills I did not have before, or did not know I was capable of and were hidden away somewhere inside of me, and I am going to bring this new girl home. I have changed, for better or for worse, which means that like it or not, my entire life has changed with me. So, like I recently discovered, even if I do somehow miraculously find an apartment, I don’t have a freaking bed to put in it. So it’s time to buy some furniture, and finally settle on a name for the cat. My path may be straight, but it’s not narrow. The mean reds are not here to stay.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thought Of The Drunken Dublin Night

Bad men and the women who put up with them.

We'll expand on this thought later when I am less drunk and less face-down drooling on my own hair and palm.

If nothing else, I am (most of the time) honest.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ghosts: Night of the Living Undead Relationship

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, when I was a freshman in college, new to smoking and growing my hair out, I danced around mutual attraction with a senior for 7 months. Toward the end of the year, playing indoor soccer in the hallway of the dorm, he knocked me over and gave me a massive bump on the head. A week later, I was in his bed. We swapped music, laughs, bodily fluids, and he told me adventures from abroad as bedtime stories. He was the first guy I fell in love with. I’ve loved other people since, but I will always have a somewhat softer spot for him, just like the tender and swollen flesh on the top of my head that he caressed after he picked me back up.

To this day, we’re still more-or-less in touch. If he comes back into town, he calls. We’ve met for coffee dates and spent a few evenings together. Usually, I’m busy and/or seeing other people, but if I can, I’ll make time to catch up with him. After the summer that he graduated and some hard feelings, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s not hard to pick up the phone or send him a message to contact him anymore.

It’s always a fine line between surprise and the inevitable when I hear his ringtone go off, usually right in time with the seasons. I can say to him, “Sorry—I already have a date tonight,” and he’ll respond with an “Ok, what about tomorrow night?” Unfortunately, at some points in the past, I was ambivalent about the person I was currently seeing as a full-time adventure, and so I said “yes” to his part-time adventure. Not one of my proudest moments. It’s not exactly fair, but it’s one of the complications of life.

In the past few months, he and I have finally progressed from the weird holding pattern we were in. He figured out that although I will always find his big blue eyes and puffy lips tempting, I’m not quite the same girl I was 3 years ago. And I’ve figured out that although the girl I am now has no problem moving past the past and keeping up with him, I’m also moving past him.

It’s always hard to see him. “No” is a word that I struggle with sometimes. As I once said to one of my roommates after coming home from coffee with him, “He was supposed to be fat and balding and unhappy, not tan and fit and cute.” But that’s how past relationships work—you’ll never quite get rid of them. They will always be people you look at and think, “I spent a month/2 nights/6 months thinking you were the best thing on Earth, and I know what you look like naked.” It’s a hard act to juggle. He came to Florence first. He was the one who first planted the seed in my mind, and I’ve been following his ghost all over Italy. It’s in the same places we visit and in the same photos I take that were hanging on his room’s walls. It’s something that I look for, almost unknowingly, when I’m out and about. My breath still catches when I think I see him. Ghosts haunt. Not all of us have exorcists on call. And like Casper, not all ghosts are unfriendly. But ghosts do hinder you—other people don’t want to come and play in your little fright-fest. It's not fair to ask other people to put up with your undead companions. So I have since been learning how to say “No.”

I made my choice (moments of weakness notwithstanding,) a few months ago and decided to keep on growing up and moving on. You can’t keep your future open if you’re still keeping your past on speed-dial as a crutch. We’ve more-or-less both moved on, but are still both past and present. In the past, he was my lover. In the present, he’s someone who I have no qualms asking for advice, or sharing coffee, a few beers, or laughs with again. We all have skeletons in our closets. The true test of character is how you deal with them and bury them again when the Bad Voodoo man comes to call and you know zombies aren’t exactly great playmates.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Repeat Mistakes

I’m getting to that age where it’s perfectly acceptable to sit around with my girl friends and discuss marriage. And that’s scary. I would like to freeze time right here, please.

Earlier tonight, five of us were sitting around the dining room table in our apartment discussing the fact that now that we’re in our twenties, the search for the Eternal Happy Ending, or, at least, a 2-point Engagement Ring and Iron-Clad Pre-Nup, is on. Though some of us aren’t actively looking, or some of us, in fact, aren’t looking for that storybook ending at all, we all could agree on one thing: Being with men is getting scary. It’s a total Goldilocks syndrome for your twenties: you’re scared out of your wits if you’re perfectly happy with them and see it ending all rosy and blissful, but you’re also scared shitless if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere with them.

“It’s so weird to think that the next person we’re with could be our potential future husband.”

“But I feel like every guy I date is just getting farther and farther away from who I would want to marry.”

“That’s why I like Sex and the City. Carrie didn’t get married until she was sure he was The One.”

“That’s the inherent flaw,” I interjected, having been over this thought a few times before. “Making the same mistakes over and over again isn’t called ‘failure’. It’s called ‘dating’.”

Two weeks ago, I downloaded the episode of SATC in which Carrie first says “I love you” to Mr. Big. When he doesn’t return the statement, she proclaims to the Ladies Who Brunch crew that unless he antes up within a week, she’ll have to end their relationship. When I watched it, I was initially floored. How could a woman end a relationship right after she admits to something like that? Isn’t that kind of the equivalent to Indian-giving or saying, “Oops, just kidding”? Isn’t that a bit quick to retract all those big emotions?

I get it now. You can say what you want and what you feel, but there are some things that you have to do because in the end, keeping yourself and your dignity is worth even more than anyone else is to you.

Maybe it’s because I’m an only child. Maybe it’s because I’m not good at sharing my feelings, or, in fact—sharing. Maybe it’s because I’ve been screwed over one too many times. But during my two day hike in Cinque Terra, I did a lot of thinking, because other than focusing on screaming calf muscles or the fact that my smoking has finally caught up with my respitory system, I had a lot of time to mull it over, and over, and over again. There’s nothing quite like being alone in nature with your thoughts. Coming back to Florence and civilization clinched it for me.

I’ve always been preoccupied with looking out for Number One first, something that I lost sight of in Italy, of all places. It’s not selfishness—it’s self-health-ness. My eternal problem is that I give and I give and I give and forgive and forgive and forgive, until the point where I’m not happy with myself, my lot in life, or what a push-over I’ve become. I am willing to do a lot for other people. But I’m done with the competing to prove it. The only thing I am not willing to do is sacrifice myself, or that maybe-unpromised Happy Ending in whatever form. I am young, and I am alive, and I am in Italy—quite possibly the Land of Love. If there is nothing else to love, there is always the sights and the sounds and the smells and the newness of living here for three months, which is not something I’m ever going to be able to get back. While there will always be some things you can work at, there are others that are fleeting and fresh and will never appear again. So it shouldn’t be squandered under dark clouds of doubt and regret and indecision and unhappiness. I’m not going to keep counting down the days until I leave. I am going to live instead for the Now and the Here and the Why Not? And if you want to squander, you can live however you wish.

If I can get out relatively unscathed, with my dignity still attached, then I’ll keep moving on and making my mistakes. As Passion Pit says in their song “Little Secrets” (on heavy repeat on my iPod), “Let this be our little secret; no one needs to know how I’m feeling.” There is no feeling quite like finally making up your mind. I feel lighter and more content with life than I have in months.

So maybe your twenties aren’t for being afraid of what’s ahead. Maybe your twenties are for wild abandon and enjoyment; late nights; new things; drinking and smoking too much; discovering yourself and new places; making up your mind, and brief moments of clarity and maturity. Maybe, as Carrie discovered, there is time later to go back and mend bridges if want be.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Present For You.

To start your day right. My best friend told me about Dub FX, and I think that you should hear this before you head out to start your day. The right way.

"Well, I know it's late, and it's probably Fate that I can't get through to you, but I needed to hear your voice in my ear to start my day anew. But your phone was off, and I missed your calls-- now you're fast asleep. So when you get up and you're ready to rock, you can make my mobile beep. You can make, you can make, you can make my mobile beep. Oh, just make my mobile beep."

<a href="">The Rain Is Gone by Dub_Fx</a>

Well, that didn't work out QUITE the way I wanted-- the song quoted is "Wandering Love," which is NOT the player-- but I highly suggest "Wandering Love," "Love Someone," "Intentions," and "Love Me Or Not." Here is a guy who writes about emotions, and writes/lyricizes about emotions WELL. With a catchy beat. First houseparty back in the states-- guess what's playing?


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Foodie Love.

My favorite Florentine waiter, Nicolai, has now met my parents.

Does this make this a serious culinary relationship? It is more than most of my exes and men can claim to. Yet again proving that this is a family you can get closest to by wining and dining together. Tonight it was a bottle of Trebbiano d'Abruzzo and free shots of lemoncello.


Yankee Girls

Last night at dinner with the Ghibellina Girls, we were talking about how different girls from different parts of the U.S act...differently. We all agreed that a Brooklyn Girl can fuck you up in a New York Minute; that Californian Girls just want to have fun, and that Southern Girls are far too sweet for their own good. "Yeah," I said a little glumly at the end of our little exposee. "And then there's Vermont Girls. I can load a rifle and push a car uphill in snow. There's nothing cute about that."

But this morning, I was obscenely glad to be from nowhere else.

Already running late to meet my parents in their first day in Firenze, I hopped into the shower only to find that in this, the apartment in which SOMETHING is always wrong, today it was our hot water. Or, rather-- our lack of hot water.

I grumbled about it for a minute, cursing in a mix of English and Italian, because, after all, our landlord is Italian, and then did the only thing I could do, because I sure as hell wasn't going to go greet my parents two days unwashed and looking like I had been living on the streets of Florence-- not the way to convince them I'm A Big Girl Now. Instead, I went into the kitchen, found out largest pot, heated water, took a big plastic cup and the pot of water into the shower, and proceeded to take a manual shower. God bless all those times my father, an eternal DIY tinkerer, decided to fuss with the hot water heater at home and render us hot-water-less while he installed a new one; once, for an entire summer of pot-and-cup showers like this. (I had to plead with him to finish putting in the new once before school started.)

But those shower-less days at home paid off. I write to you, squeaky-clean and still in a towel, ready to go make today my bitch. Yankee ingenuity at it's finest.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Miss Indipendenza

Late last night, I was chatting with a familiar gentleman when I remembered the fact that my parents are going to be flying across the Atlantic to join me here in Italy TOMORROW. I am tremendously excited, as one can imagine, both to see them since A.) They are my parents, and B.) Two of the most familiar of the faces that could ever be familiar.

I have restaurant plans and…oh, remind me to make reservations at Coquinarius! plans and must-see museum trips and meetings planned for them, but it wasn’t until he said, “Isn’t it great to show your parents that you’re making it?” that I actually started to think about it.

Initially, I brushed the thought off, as I have only, very, very rarely felt the need to impress my parents—the only examples I can think of were when I found, negotiated, and bought my car with minimal help from my father, the first time they visited me at college, and when I’m riding and they’re watching their little girl and multiple-K, hay-munching investment. (Dear Mommy and Daddy—I love you!) Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised like most children are, but they only people my parents taught me are actually needed to impress are you, yourself, and on occasion, your bosses or professors. (Usually right around the time of yearly reviews or mid-terms and finals.)

However, the more I mulled over it, the more I started to wonder if maybe he wasn’t right—maybe there is something about showing your parents that you’ve “made it.” If I wasn’t making plans at Jazz Club and buying that white-and-navy striped dress at Zara and matching cage heels for a specific reason, then what was I doing? And where better a place to show them that you are no longer their little menace in rompers and scrunchies than in a foreign country, across an ocean, in a different culture? As I take them down the old, worn cobblestone streets, deftly navigating in my heels, maybe I’m actually navigating them through my independence. And with this food and music and wine, it’s a fabulously sweet independence, indeed.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Love In The Time Of Negitivity

In addition to being a shoe addict (5 pairs in Italia and counting), I am also a hopeless Love junkie. I love a lot of things. There is no real happy-medium for me-- I either love it, or I hate it. Ambiguity is not really my thing. I try to hide it underneath the beer talk and the football game scores, but no matter how hard I try, sometimes it’s just obvious. My roommate Raquel had me pegged by the second night we spent in the Hotel Baglione in Florence. “You’re so into the idea of Love,” she said to me.

Maybe it’s because I can’t understand it. I have never said it. I have never had it said to me. I’ve felt it, but I’ve remained silent, which, in hindsight, was probably the best thing. Just like Carrie in SATC, I’m looking for crazy, outrageous, inconvenient Love. Love that leaves no room for anything else—no doubts, no fears, just firm knowledge.

I listened to one of my roommates one night as she stood in the hallway outside my door, crying. “Love is a fairytale,” she said. “It doesn’t exist.” As I listened to her, I felt my heartbeat shudder a bit. Not because of the fact that she was obviously upset, but because of the fact that she didn’t believe. It pains me, deep down, when people profess that they don’t believe in Love. What, then, do you really have to live for? ‘What does that mean for me?’ I remember thinking. ‘That’s sad and all that she doesn’t have faith for herself, in herself, but what does it mean for me that there are other people out there who don’t believe in Love like I believe?’

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, a young teenage girl traveled down to Florida with her family. While she was there, she met a dashing young yacht captain on the docks one night. They went out to dinner the very night they met, and by the time they kissed goodnight and the room spun as she saw fireworks, she was sure that she wanted to be with that man forever. Fate intervened. They both happened to be from New Jersey. He quit his job on the yacht after the last trip, moved back to New Jersey, and two years later, they were married, two days after she graduated high school. About another seventeen years later, pretty much unplanned, they had a child. 35 years later, they are still together, still very much in love. These people are my parents.

This is not to say it is always perfect. As the child of the union, I can tell you—there are fights and disagreements and disappointments. As my mother explained to me, it’s not so much of a constant state of Love—it’s more of an “I will always love you, but I don’t always have to like you.” It is not a ‘happily-ever-after’ fairytale all of the time. Sometimes, it is shoveling the snow off the deck and balancing the familial checkbook and swapping cars to get oil changed. Sometimes, it is planning your life around someone else’s and deferring to their hopes and dreams and aspirations because you love someone enough to know that they need to take a chance and that your own hopes and dreams and aspirations can be put on hold for a moment in order to support theirs. Sometimes, it is putting up with the mundane and the tedious and the frustrating. But, other times, it’s just—it. A sure feeling. Love. Bliss. As easy to love someone else as it is to breathe.

I used to think that this sort of perfect fairytale ending was not achievable for me, based merely on the fact that if my parents were so lucky, how could I ever be doubly lucky as well? Between Disney, the rigors of our societal traditional roles on young women, and growing up around two people so obviously in love, I started to feel jaded. Once, I told a guy I was dating this fear—that because my parents got this, that I never would. He looked at me from the passenger seat as I drove, horrified. “Why would you ever think that way?” he asked me. “Why don’t you think about how that’s what you’re supposed to find, instead?” Even if the relationship was caput, the advice was sound. After all, as a long-time family friend told me, “It wasn’t always a fairytale, after all. The first few years were downright nasty.” As it can be. Love isn’t just a fairytale, as my roommate was finding out. It’s fickle, and it’s difficult, and yes, it will make your cry sometimes. It’s not for the faint of heart, or for those who don’t like getting back up again, dusting themselves off, gluing the pieces of their heart back together, and trying again. It’s not for those who can’t speak their mind, or don’t know yet what they want. It’s not for those who don’t believe they want to find it.

The more I see of this world, the more sure I become that there’s some sort of equation to love. The amount of effort you put into finding it, cultivating it, and maintaining it is directly proportional to the amount you get from it. As my own mother, she of the 35 year+ relationship says, relationships aren’t two people each putting in 50%. A real relationship is two people both putting in 100% of their effort, while at the same time, not feeling like it’s an effort. As I have found, sometimes it even requires 110, or 115.5%, without even realizing it, just because that’s what you want to put into it. There is no Golden Rule to love and relationships. You just need to know that you are doing everything possible to find it, make it work, or to move it forward in order to know that you should be getting something out of it.

If you are a Disciple of Love, does it make you one of the chosen few more apt to find it? If you really believe in it, can you make it come true? If you are a true romantic, no matter how closeted, does that make you more entitled to your own Happy Ending? Are there really any promises?

I have met Romantics off all different shapes and sizes—the Single Girls who are doing their damnedest just searching high and low for Love. The guy who wants both the physical and mental connection. The military couple who doesn’t let distance, jobs, and danger get in their way of always, always thinking about a ‘tomorrow.’ And those eternal ponderers, always questioning if Love is really for them while just hoping to get an answer back from the great void that is the rest of the world’s dating population. Patience. Perseverance. A perverse sense of humor. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. The one thing that all these people have in common is the fact that just like my parents, they believed that they were supposed to find Love; that Love was something that they are entitled to, if not owed. There is no settling; there is no giving up. And when it comes down to it, that’s exactly what you have to remember—you are, in fact, Loveable. Guaranteed, there is someone out there who will find your quirks and idiosyncrasies—the way your voice register drops when you’re asking for a favor, how everything laid on a flat surface has to be diagonal, how your peas and your carrots must never touch—helplessly loveable. There will be someone who will care for you enough to forgive most every mistake you can make. There will be someone who can think of nothing better to do than just sit and breathe with you; just stand still with you. The trick is being patient, waiting, and keeping an open heart of your own. Don’t miss that knock. And once you find it, don’t let it go so easily. All good things are worth working for—and not just 50%. Give it 110%.


An American Girl Shows Her Stars And Stripes And Cosmopolitan Ingestion

So this past Tuesday night I was a stunning disgrace to the American culture. Or, rather, I was a total and utter portrayal of the classic American abroad student, and so, a stunning disgrace to the Italian culture. My Tuesday nights are to what everyone else's Thursday nights are. I don't have class until 6 PM on Wednesday, so this leads to all sorts of night-time free-time. This is why I needed internet access so badly. Without, I am forced to resort to this sort of depravity.

I went with my friend Erin, her roommate Kara (Mama Kara,) and their friends to Be Bop, a fun, dive-y little basement bar with live music. Tuesday night is Beatles cover-band night, and let me tell you, they were actually good. You know what else was good? The drinks. Roughly 2 Euro cheaper than I am accustomed to paying for, on top of NO COVER CHARGE, heavy on the liquor, large on the size, and quick to be served. I seriously had a White Russian like m'boys used to make back home. After seeing an Amazonian Italian woman wearing as a shirt the same black sheer blouse from Zara I was wearing as a dress, I resorted to knocking back a Cosmopolitan and a Ruskie, after hardly eating and two glasses of wine in Pairing Food and Wine earlier that afternoon, and was toasted like 10-grain bread in the morning in about 30 minutes. This may have lead to some very loud singing along to the band. It may have even-- for shame-- led to some dancing. In places one should normally not dance. I was eyeing a table-top.

Sober Carissa apparently does not want to get laid. My interactions with the local gents (collectively either still in high school, or 30 years old, or American abroad students-- nothing in between,) went something like this: A tap on the shoulder, a hand on the back, a slap on the ass. I turn around. "Ciao," says Mr. Italia. "Ciao," I say back. "Mi chiamo Simon/Antonio/Charlie." "Mi chiamo Carissa." And I turn back around. Ohhhhhh. Shut down. End of story. Go away. I could be French for all I am so disinterested in you. Lesbians even care about you more. Really. Go take your wandering hands and wander somewhere else.

Drunk Carissa, however, appears to be the 180-degree opposite of Sober Carissa, because I found myself leaning over to Erin, pawing at her, going, "Hey! Heyheyhey! Did you see that guy at the bar?! I only saw his ear and the back of his head, but I think he's cute! I really think he's hot! I'm going to go over and-- ohhh, wait-- he turned, not that cute. Definitely not that cute. Well, maybe, if you look at him from this angle..."

Erin: "What the fuck are you talking about? He is hideous."

Drunk goggles: Helping less fortunate Italian men get some since 1989. While we're here, can we please take a minute to conduct a poll? Because the question was, ahem, raised if Italian men stuff their Armani and Dolce & Gabbana jeans. Because I have been around the block a time or two, and I may have been known to date men who wear tight jeans, but NEVER in my life have I seen anything quite like what was on display at that rooster show. "Quarters-- lots and lots of quarters," was the only excuse Erin could come up with. To me, there is no excuse. Just eye-sear-age.

Towards the end of the band's set, I was really, really cravin' me a Double Cheeseburger like the good ol' times across the Atlantic, so we left Be Bop to find some tasty American victuals. Sad times-- the Golden Arches were closed, but the kebab shop right down the street was not. I took off running in un-straight lines as fast as my little gold flats would take me, smacked into the sliding glass door, and did my damnedest to open it. Nada. I looked in plaintively at the man behind the counter, who was watching me, obviously unimpressed. "Are you open?" I mouthed at him, and he nodded, miming at me to push the door to the side. You know, like how sliding doors are supposed to go. I put my hands flat on the glass and gave it a shove. Uh-uh, little drunk girl. Try again. Finally grasped the little indented handle. Gave a mighty yank. Lost my balance, and staggered in with a triumphant "YEAHHH!" As Erin said, "At least you're a cute drunk," because after those antics, it was the only thing working in my favor to get me served my kebab. That, the fact that I thought Mr. Kebab Man was totally smokin' in that dark skin/dark hair/light eyes way I am extremely partial to, and the other fact that I was still dancing along and breaking it down to their Middle Eastern rap music. ...In the middle of the kebab shop. Yeahhhhhhh.

It gets better. Oh, it gets better. Have you had enough? Are you cringing yet? Are you totally disappointed at the mockery of civilized and decent human behavior when inhabiting a strange and foreign country? Because if you aren't, I am at the memories of the night. At this point, black-out would be preferred over remembering the self-travesty. I am not proud of myself.

So, huh, funny thing-- I forgot how when you're drunk-- like, really, really drunk-- you forget things. Like the fact you gave your friend 2 Euro for a White Russian of her own earlier and so are short-changed after buying a Doner kebab at 2 AM. Which leads to things like finding yourself standing in a packed kebab shop, contemplating if anyone will see you take your kebab and run. And then just saying "fuck it," digging in and devouring said kebab in a beastly manner that not even your close friends can contain their disgust as you demolish it in under 2.2 minutes, losing a french fry down between your cleavage in the process. (The act of fishing dropped food from down there, in case you were not aware, is called "spelunking." As in, "I totally went spelunking after that fry while everyone watched. No fry left behind!")

After the Destruction of Kebab Shop on Cavour, I toddled my way home, chain-smoking and weaving, to wrestle out of my clothes and fall into bed, full make-up still on. Woke up the next morning protesting sunlight, street noise, raccoon eyes, and my continued existence with a massive hangover. Lesson learned.

So let's here it for America, Americans, and American students abroad! Land of the freely drunk, home of the blazed.


P.S-- You can probably find me at Be Bop next Tuesday night. Repeat performance around 11. Less drinking this round, though. But probably equal parts dancing and singing.