I like to ask Florentines what they think about the fact that their city is so overrun by tourists and foreign students. I reckon that if it gets to me, a foreigner myself and so without much of a leg to stand on, then it must really wear on the natives. I’ve gotten mixed responses, though never anything too negative – I suppose the xenophobe/claustrophobe types wouldn’t be talking to me in the first place.
However, single Italian guys, bar none, think its great. And why? Because not only does it increase the number and variety of fish in their sea, these foreign fish seem to require less bait and less patience to catch. If you recall from last week, while Italian girls are apparently “closed” and “difficult,” it is a widely circulated and celebrated fact among Florentine men that foreign girls are “open” and “easy.” From that standpoint, I imagine it is fab to live in a place with a continuous influx of fresh, ready-for-adventure coeds.
Admittedly, we Anglo-Saxon foreign female student types are not blameless for our reputation being as it is. If you’re a student, here for six months at most, though usually more like four or five, you’re not exactly on the hunt for a serious relationship. You’ve heard that Italians are a-mazing lovers; you’re a liberated woman of the 21st century, thrilled to be living in a time that produces shows like Sex and the City; and what’s more, you actually get to enjoy the inhibition-relaxing benefits of alcohol in public even though you’re not yet twenty-one. So it’s not a wonder that Florentines take what is for most a “strictly while studying abroad” approach to sex to be our de rigueur modus operandi.
Personally, I take offence to being stereotyped as “easy.” Even if we do give it up without too much haggling, I should think it’s more a matter of knowing and going after what we want, in which case “assertive” seems the more accurate term. We’ve just heard a lot of hooplah, and just as we’re here to see if the gelato, the coffee, the scenery, the warmth of the people, the al dente of the pasta is what it’s cracked up to be, we’d be remiss in our cultural immersion if we didn’t explore every cultural avenue available to us.
The “we’re easy” rep, however, does become a bit of a bummer for anyone extending their stay beyond half a year, for anyone looking to cultivate proper relationships, romantic or otherwise, with Italian men. I was once hanging out with a male “friend” here, and he changed the tone of what I thought was to be a casual lunch by bringing up, entirely out of the blue, how unusual it is for men and women to be “just friends” in Italy.
And boy was he not kidding! Time and time again, you’ll be hanging out, drinking a beer, maybe even doing a boy-thing like watching a soccer match or playing foosball, when out of the blue, he’ll suggest an innocent walk to the Ponte Vecchio, offer a pleasant drive up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the view, or insist there’s a little corner of Fiesole he’s just got to show you. Regardless of the circumstances, yes, even if he’s your away-for-the-weekend best friend’s boyfriend, his intentions are not platonic.
While I’ve tried to explain that it is a special series of circumstances that make us appear “easy,” that we are not without morals and conscience, that when at home, and Florence can become home, we are far more on a par with Italian girls concerning difficulty, my sincere efforts have been met with respectful, but amused disagreement. “Did you not see that film Love Actually? Even in the Milwaukee, you girls have a thing for foreigners.” Or, “I’ve been to New York; I never had it so easy!”
“Why do you think Italians are known for being great romantic lovers?” whomever I’m trying to convince will inevitably continue, “We have to be because Italian girls are so tough. American guys are spoiled; they don’t have to work for what they get, and so they’ve lost the skill of the chase. We Italians, we know how to court a girl properly.” Which will in turn cause me to laugh in respectful, but amused disagreement. Find out why next week.