by Lena Marchese (Loyola College)
THERE IS A PART OF THE CULTURE that I did not really see here in Italy until last night and that is how Italian men view American women. I went to Seven’s with a couple of people earlier in the night and we just sat at a small table with a few beers watching the soccer game and I was going over my interview and trying to piece it together. As I was reading it over I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around to find a man who looked older than me with a big grin on his face asking if I was American. I said yes and his smile got even bigger. He told me I spoke very good Italian, which I thought was strange as I had only spoken a couple of sentences in Italian in the last hour.

He asked my name and age and I politely told him and then told him I needed to get back to my work, but it was nice to meet him. Not even a minute later, I feel another tap on my shoulder and it is my “friend” yet again. He asked what I was looking at and I explained to him it was an interview with an engineer here in Cagli. His eyes immediately lit up and he said, “I study engineering!” and grabbed my papers and began reading them. Everything he read he said, “yes, yes yes, that is true.” Well, duh. I could have said that too seeing as I interviewed him myself.

I took the papers back and politely said thank you but I really needed to get back to my work. Again, within a minute, I feel another tap on my shoulder and he had questions on where I lived in Cagli and if I went to school. He then offered to walk me to school in the morning and “hang out.” At this point I was feeling uncomfortable and annoyed that I could not get any work done since he sat down. I got up and went outside for a cigarette making sure to ask my Italian friends Michel and Bryan to come with me as a buffer. Less than a minute later my new “friend” stands next to us and doesn’t say a word, but just stands there smiling at me.

I scowled back and walked into the bar across the street where I was finally able to relax with a beer in peace and review my interview. Fifteen minutes later Bryan came into the bar and sat down next to me with a very serious look on his face. “I don’t want you to talk to him again,” he said to me. I had no intentions of doing so and asked Bryan what had happened. Apparently, this new “friend” began asking Bryan where all of the American girls were and to wake them up to come hang out with him. Bryan repeatedly told him no, he would not wake up his friends who were sleeping, but the man kept persisting. Finally Bryan had enough and told him, “None of those girls would ever have sex with you,” after which he went home.

Everyone has always said that Italian men are aggressive, but I never really understood how little some of them think of American women. I realize now that when I do not want to talk to someone, I can no longer be polite and try not to hurt someone’s feelings. I have to say “No, I do not want to talk to you,” and understand that they probably hear it all the time from Italian girls.

Is my American culture not as truthful as an Italian one? Are Italians just more open in general with putting it on the table and making themselves heard? If I was so uncomfortable, why did I still feel the need to be polite and respectful? Maybe I should be more Italian and make myself be heard.