January 5, 2007

Friendship and La Bella Figura

Tomorrow marks the end of the holiday season, La Befana brings stockings to children filled with sweets (or coal), the Christmas decorations come down, everyone returns from the mountains and children scramble to finish their homework before school starts -- the new year begins.

The party is over, and it shows. At the pool this morning, Bruna took one look at Annamaria as she slipped into her suit and commented rather loudly, “but you have put on weight!” Quite pleased, Annamaria answered, “yes, you noticed? One and half kilos!” Then a discussion ensued on what she was going to do to get back to her usual trim self. No guilt. Annamaria smiled and laughed as she pointed to her slightly thickened middle. She had enjoyed every bite that had led to her post-holiday kilos.

A few weeks ago, Cinzia watched me dress after aqua fitness and announced, “I had always thought of you as thin, but now I notice that you have some fat on your outer thighs.” Well, this brought a few others into the conversation, and, as they studied my form as if it were a museum piece, they pointed and noted various spots that needed work. After a huddle to confer (as if I weren’t present), they concurred that I didn’t actually need to lose weight, just do some massages, after the holidays of course.

These are not an over-50 version of “mean girls” and their comments were not meant to be taken personally. It is just that exquisite Italian sense of aesthetics, La Bella Figura and all of its ramifications. They want me to look the best I can with what I have. It was also a sign of friendship – after five years of aqua fitness together, I have been included in their group! They care enough to help me present myself in the best way. I almost liked the attention. Although it was a bit odd.

I can imagine the scene in an American pool. The woman under scrutiny – never openly – would most likely respond – or at least think to herself – “mind your own business” and generally feel offended, not warm and fuzzy. Friends are supposed to help you not notice that you don’t look your best, although everyone notices anyway, especially you. Maybe this is even odder. Perhaps it comes from our strong sense of the individual, the unwritten boundaries of casual friendship, political correctness and that ole self-reliance mind-set. (I’ll take care of my fat myself, thank you).

Oh well, besides the massages, it is time to do away with the sweets and spumante and bring on the salads and fruit. I can’t let my friends at the pool down!

A domani,

1 comment:

That Loud Feminist Chick said...

Hey! I found your blog today while randomly surfing. I really enjoyed reading it.

I, too, have lived outside the US, but not as long as you have! I was only gone a year, but it was the best year of my life. I haven't written much about it on my blog because... I'm not sure why. Maybe I should work in some of my own stories.

I appreciate and treasure all of my own cultural moments. I think back to who I *was* before and who I am now because of having lived through those awkward and sometimes embarrassing moments. Luckily, I had a bit of coaching before leaving, so my first reaction was not the typical American oh-my-gawd-it's-different-and-therefore-bad reaction.
Anyway, keep up the great posts!!