Monday, 27 June 2011

Are your breasts too small? Are you single this summer?

As I wait for my chapters to download or sit there mulling over ways to sneak some of my wacky language past my grammatically rigorous British editor, I've been grazing online, skimming over some Italian tips for the summer.

First of all, Are you ready to pass La Prova del Costume? Your Bikini Test?

Unfortunately, that doesn't only mean a wax and tan, it means you must have the curves in the right places, almighty ones such as so-and-so and such-and-such, and if not then Mamma Mia it's time to shift some weight. And beware! Is it possible you don't have the right bikini top to make a riveting gorge of your breasts?

I saw a television advertisement for a big phone company where a not-so-gorgeous woman and suave actor Raoul Bova are husband and wife sitting on a beach. The wife peers through her binoculars at some of the young buxom fauna bouncing past.

Darling, what would you give her out of ten? And that one, what about her?

Ho-hum. Raoul Bova - and the spectator - peer over the shapely girls shaking towels, shaking their assets. They are really something. Sure, we know Italian men have a license-to-perve, but why belittle the moderate-looking wife and make beauty into such a plastic, tarty thing? Why allow a young woman watching TV to think it is funny to laugh at an unattractive woman ranking half-naked stunners on a beach? Or a silly young bloke? Why must marriage remain this stale banter?

Enough. This morning a comment I wrote on another blog made me think of a string of summers I had a while back, when I used to go to Berlin to visit my gay mates. It was when I really needed to escape smaller children, the school run, Italy. In Berlin I wasn't a checked-out woman anymore, I wasn't glanced over to see if my boobs were good, if my arse was nice, how I was holding up. I was a friend of S&D who was hanging around, invited. All I did was follow conversations, or wander off, or say something that was listened to, even examined. It was such a relief to be a talking head instead of a talking body. It wasn't even odd going to the gay end of the park or the lake beach, stripping down and pulling out a book. It felt more mischievous to run away from the straight world, to pretend for a while that I wasn't burdened by gender, or coupledom, or motherhood.

At S&D's apartment I used to sleep in the library on a Napoleon III cherrywood bed which had four lion paws for feet. One night my youngest called up sobbing, he was with my first husband and his bird,

'Mummy, come home Mummy. Come home now, Mummy. Please, I want you.'

I lay there in Stefano's kimono under his rows and rows of first editions and his framed French prints. That night when we went out clubbing I knew I was a fake.


  1. That last bit with your difficult most parents of divorce have it. That broke my heart.

    You know, thinking of how relieving it is to be invisible I must admit...I miss being the object of second glances sometimes, or maybe more often than that.

  2. Well there are divorces and there are divorces. But yes the unevenness never goes.

    As for second glances, come over to Italy, unbutton a little and smile graciously. Somewhat chic ladies have a longer shelf life over here, I think.

  3. I think the fact that the "moderate-looking wife" would find only women worth the look at is perhaps the most telling thing. How well trained women are to scorn themselves to make conversation worthy of men's ears.

    Best of luck sneaking those words in...

  4. Thanks Rachel! My editor is great! Yesterday he sent me a photo of his writing shed in his garden in France. And yes, he has conceded me a few crazy words so far.

    As for women-scorning-women read my January 2011 entry about the chilly Italian sisterhood. It's called As She Wanders.

  5. It's a man's world. I hate that it's true, and that we each in our own way contribute to that. But even so, I get a sneaking feeling of vicarious power--though the power may have passed to the younger members of the tribe--when I see how much time and energy men devote to the search for female beauty. It's the call of the wild.

    And hell, I like a red-blooded man far more than some milquetoast tie-pinned prude with a stick up his ass.

    I just do.

  6. Dear Averil,

    It does makes one think, Am I wearing heels and a tight skirt to be reassured by looks, or because I feel like something svelte today? Is it the call of the wild or the pressure to appear younger than one's years, still marketable?

    Red blooded of course, so long as his brain is wired.

    ciao cat

  7. It's all of that, probably. It's part of being a woman. My 88-year-old grandmother still wears an auburn wig and applies her lipstick every morning with a tiny pointed brush. That's dedication.

  8. I love grandmothers. Mine used to rinse her hair a purple/blue colour and finally left it fluffy white when she was near ninety. I painted a portrait of her and she kept calling herself The Wreck of the Hesperus.

    I wish we could keep our grandparents forever.

  9. I love your grandma! So glad I came looking for your blog. I'll be spending a lot of time catching up here.

    As for the appraising looks... I've reached the age where I'm no longer annoyed by the unwanted attention and I'm actually grateful that the occasional head still turns. Especially when the heads are significantly younger than I am. Oh, the cursed ego.

  10. Hi Liane, very glad you've made it over too. I've really enjoyed what I've read of yours (and yes the warm weather is a treat) and will be keeping up with your words.

    As for appraising looks, I'm fine so long as I don't walk with my sixteen-year-old daughter with her lovely long locks!