“Dedicated to all the ‘different’ ones out there, regardless of where they are from”
From my arrival to UK, one of the things I enjoyed the most was to have the privilege of wearing whatever I liked, without necessarily being shunned by the rest of society. This was something I felt strongly about, because before leaving Italy I had completed a 7-year streak working for fashion designers companies. In these companies, an invisible dress code was the accepted rule for all the employees. I say invisible because it was not written in any contract, but if you didn’t conform to it, chances were your employment contract was not going to be renewed. This invisible dress code meant that the employee had to spend a crapload of money in clothes and shoes to be ‘like the rest of the staff’, regardless of their job titles. Not necessarily these clothes had to be made by the same brand we were working for, but that was a plus, of course. This also meant that all my wages earned in two years and a half (length of my employment in the first fashion company I worked for) got wasted for the invisible dress code.
Do you think it’s fair? No, of course it’s not, but there’s an underlying message there… that many Italians, on a general scale, had and have to conform to that ‘dress code’ too. If you’re an electrician and has to work in a uniform, when you’re out with friends or in a disco you’re expected to wear ‘branded’ clothes. It doesn’t matter if these clothes are kitsch or indecent, they need to possibly sport a colossal writing somewhere, subtly informing everybody that you paid 100/200/300 euros… for a t-shirt. It is your claim to cultural uniformity with the mass. You’re actually telling everybody that ‘hey I’m like you’ and you can approach everyone, without fearing that others will wag their fingers at you like you’ve just got the plague. This custom is unrelated to real social standing, type of work or class. If even a millionaire thinks to enter a supermarket where he never was in and he’s dressed with a shirt and trousers bought at a Chinese warehouse, see what happens 😀 (might be not a bad idea though.. so you avoid that all the Italian customers bump their trolleys against you).
Now all the above does not include race or sexual orientation. I won’t go there because I cannot speak for those two groups I don’t belong to, although from what I’ve heard if me being different is a curse, for them everything is downright hell. Anyway, back to the main topic. I’ve always identified differently in terms of ‘personality’. I never gave a crap to be born a woman, being told off because I was a woman didn’t compute with me. I didn’t like fancy dresses as a child and I didn’t dream to be a princess whilst I was a little girl. I wanted to drive race cars or motorcycles, fly jets, be at a ship’s wheel or fly into space as an astronaut. Heck, I wanted to be a piano player at 5 and I wasn’t allowed because I was too poor and a woman! I was reading at 3 and by the time anyone else started primary school and they had started to read ‘I am blah blah’ I was already reading whole books and consulting a dictionary. However, that made me a ‘different’ one, which was and is the biggest fault ever if you’re born in Italy. I ended up wasting years trying to fit in and conform to rules that might have been acceptable for anyone else but not for me. They made me feel like I was in jail all time. ‘Don’t do this, don’t say that’ was the daily portion of wisdom I was administered. Well, whoever was close to me was right. It was not my task to change ‘them’, it was my task to remove myself from the equation. I’m glad I understood it, late but I did!
I was the ‘wrong’ one. And after all this time, years, if I speak to anyone who’s born and lived/lives in Italy, I’m still the wrong one, disliked, sometimes despised and unpleasant one. Even if they don’t know me personally. I embody the voice that is singing out of the choir; I’m a soprano, so quite a loud one at that!! 😀 Italians, whether by way of heritage, religion or simply customs, don’t like to be answered by someone whose voice is not in unison with theirs. They end up taking the high road immediately (if any American is now reading this part, no… don’t even try the comparison between your fellow citizens and mine, Italians are a lot less evolved than your country citizens, believe me!), because they don’t like to hear a different opinion. Many are not even able to start a civil discussion. Anything against the ‘normal’ trend is bad or wrong, end of story. Mostly, they do NOT know anything about the concept of personal identity. Personal identity for an Italian does NOT exist. It’s what the mass tells you is right that you need to heed. God forbid if you think that one of their regional dishes is crap or say anything against one of their beliefs or prejudices. I got kicked out of catechism when I was 8 because the catechist was trying to teach us how our world started and I went to the following session branding an astronomy book and telling the lady that she might be mistaken about this ‘God’ she was talking about because Earth is part of the universe and you know, it all started with the big bang! If she was gifted with any critical thought she might have answered that God had created the universe, but only because I dared to speak out and against what I was told, needless to say… I was subsequently grounded and treated as a heretic. At 8 years old LOL
As a now-middle-aged adult, I also find difficult to deal with some stuff I’m required to do for my studies. I just received the feedback for my last module. A nice grade and a constructive feedback at that…. But I felt bitter afterwards. At some point the module tutor expressed a sort of disappointment because if I had used my critical thinking and my analytical skills more, my grade could be first class. Which would be a huge achievement for someone who was not even born in an English speaking country. But how could I explain to my British tutor that my critical thinking has been suppressed by birth because it was an expression of ‘unconformity’? That I was impaired by the whole Italian school system, which aims to discourage students and make them losers, so less of them graduate and stay stuck in the menial jobs and poorest classes?
I don’t even think social mobility ever existed in Italy, many people are still stuck in the Roman Empire… ah wait, I want to add this. Many Italians take pride in believing Romans are their ancestors. This belief is so strong that nearly ALL books written by Italian academics about the Roman Republic and Empire are useless on an academic level. I cannot use any of the texts written in Italian because it’s mindboggling how biased and useless they are concerning the whole historical period.
However… Let me clear this: Romans were the inhabitants of the city of Rome. FACT. All the other people on the ancient Italian soil were a mix of tribes and different populations coming from Etruscan, Greek, Celtic and Lydian heritage and ancestors. They were NOT Romans. Roman citizenship was extended to the tribes of the Italian peninsula at the end of the Roman Republic, 1st century BCE. Italia as a concept was created by Augustus, for military purposes. Not because he was a generous man who thought equality was due… The Roman elite treated the Italian tribes like crap, but they needed manpower and electors… Do the math. 😉 The extension of the Roman citizenship to everyone didn’t transform in Romans all the inhabitants of the Italic lands overnight, like by magic. So claiming a Roman ancestry when there might be none is a bit silly. Well, I guess it goes hand in hand with wearing a 300-euro t-shirt and faking that you actually earn a wage where you can afford to spend that amount of money for a worthless piece of fabric.
Clearly not all the Italians are like this; although I found out that many like me didn’t speak out because they are afraid of their peers’ reaction. However, the mass is certainly like that and it’s not even a mystery 🙂