MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
OBSERVATIONS ON ISLAND LIFE
OBSERVATIONS ON ISLAND LIFE
We must educate the girls of southern Italy. They are the daughters and granddaughters of the world’s hardest working women. Yet, they still live in a society that burdens them with beauty.
What do I mean? They still believe that a pretty face and good body are the ticket to success. No one ever warns them that youth is fleeting. They have no idea that one day that firm skin will wrinkle. The ass and breasts will sag. And the rich young men that once paid them attention won’t see them any longer.
This revelation will send them on a sad journey. They will seek plastic surgery they might not be able to afford. They will learn far too late that a bronzed body will not turn back time. All those anti-aging creams will do nothing but oil them up. By then they will have settled into the life of an Italian housewife. Nowadays that means doing everything at home – cooking, cleaning, endless hours of ironing, while also maintaining a full-time job.
All the while, they will look in the mirror hoping to see a change. Did they somehow slow things down? Are there fewer indications of their age? Will their husband walk in and see them again for the first time?
Never will they pay as much attention to a career. Never will they recognize they are worth far more than that pretty face they lost long ago. They will not value their brain or soul as much as they should. Other women will compete with them for attention. Most men will just keep their eyes fixed on the young; they fail to recognize what makes a woman a woman. And it ain’t their breasts.
As a college student, I gained independence. As a college graduate, I gained experience. It was never just about the career. It was about who I was growing into. I learned I have the power to galvanize teams and speak my mind out loud. In the thick of 9-11 in Manhattan, I found grit and the determination to always get home again. After three knee surgeries, I learned I could walk – even run – again. Through enormous waves of challenges, I had my soul to keep me afloat. What do these girls of southern Italy have in the end?
Many of them give away their sex and end up with a baby when they themselves are still babies. Others find themselves in the grips of eating disorders. Still others, confused about their sexuality, have nowhere to turn. Some of them end up settling for conformity rather than being true to themselves. While a few of the men set themselves free by going north and beyond, a rare few women do the same. When they do, it is a little miracle. But we need far more little miracles. It would be better if those miracles could happen right in the south – on the home front – for both girls and boys.
Still, what’s worse than their individual loss is what we lose as a society. We miss out on doctors, lawyers, leaders, game changers, life savers. That is about the saddest news I have had to face as I witness the miseducation of the girls of southern Italy. They are the future, and they hold the south’s salvation in their hands. If only they could see the beauty inside themselves and bring it out to help their little corner of the Earth.
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.