Sunday, May 12

Kept Under Wraps

We’ve been experiencing a cool spring, with temperatures this week barely creeping over the ‘60s. But to judge by the kids going to and from the school yards, well, you’d think that the ice age was upon us. Those kids are so wrapped up, they look like mini-replicas of the Michelin Man.
Here in Rome, you can always spot the foreigners a mile away. In November and March,  the Germans run around in their shorts and sandals (with socks). The Americans, not much better (they even wear shorts on the plane, while I'm seated, fretfully wrapped up in three blankets under my winter coat, scarf and hat). My sister’s kids, on a chilly April day were running around Cortona as if they were on the beach in August. Needless to say, I had on a hat, coat and scarf.
They actually stopped traffic.
People thought they must be misguided street urchins, and I spent the day fearful someone would call the authorities to pick them up off the streets & rush them into foster care. Upon seeing I somehow spoke the natives' tongue, however, it opened up a whole slew of comments -- mostly on how cold the kids must be (they weren't). One mother (and I am not making this up), whose child was actually wearing a hooded parka, leggings and mittens, ushered her kid away from the playground as fast as his thunder thighs could take him, as if the very idea of liberty might be contagious. The little boy took one last desperate look at these alien children, footloose and fancy free, as he waddled away in his winter wraps, probably into a heated vehicle.
But, what I can’t figure out is that while le mamme are deathly afraid of their kids ‘catching cold’, they’re even more paranoid about kids' sweating – and ultimately caving in from an attack of consumption. In what is seriously a case of mass denial, the mammas look on fondly at their little rosy-faced bundles of joy (bundle being the operative word here). Except it's not the cool air which gives them their cherub-like appearance, but the fact that they are actually roasting underneath their handknit sweaters & down coats. Alas, they're protected by the ubiquitous undershirts, right out of a 1940s neorealism flick. Probably coated with the Italian version of Vick's Vapor Rub besides.
And so it seems, even with the arrival of new generations of mammas & bambini, it is still the calendar which dictates the dress code. And that explains why you’ll only find crazy foreigners seated in the outdoor cafès on a sunny December day.

Guess who lives in Italy?


Anna L'americana said...

I'm weeping with laughter. I so remember this over-bundling from my years in Rome. The mothers would dress their kids like that and send them out to play (how, when all these clothes, over the cannottiera of course, "un-articulated" their limbs?) with the admonition "non sudare" - off they rolled to the church-yard to play soccer, and upon their sweaty return the screams "ho detto non sudare!" followed swiftly by punishment, which back then consisted of grabbing her mule off her foot and throwing it at the poor but well padded child who was already running away.....wait, the mother is wearing mules, but the child had to wear....oh, never mind. S/He who searches for American logic in the mind of an Italian is doomed, I say doomed!

Anonymous said...

lol. you are so right--the date dictates the clothes...forget about the actual weather conditions.
keep writing!

cuz liz said said...

And the calendar dictates business activities. How about that time in Foligno, a beautiful, warm, end-of-May day, but we couldn't rent bicycles because it was not June 1.

Anonymous said...

It never fails to astound us...the Italians dress strickly by the calendar. It was nearly 80 degrees farenheit yesterday in Napoli and we visited the local mall. Every Italian, without exception was dressed in a heavy jacket, most with fur trimed hoods. All the women in boots. some with scarves. My husband was in short sleeves and got a few stares. It just isn't rational. I'd like to hear an Italian's perspective.