WARNING, WARNING! This blog contains sexually related content. Do not read if you are one of my brothers, my nephew, or my Dad as it may embarrass you! The rest of you may proceed.
Before I came to Italy I was warned about Italian men. “Don’t look them in the eye and don't smile at them,” I was told repeatedly. “In Italian culture eye contact and smiling is a signal you are interested and it’s okay for them to approach you. Italian men are quite forward. And all they think about is sex.”
“Well, that’s inconvenient!” I thought to myself. In business and in self defense women are taught to walk with confidence and purpose, to keep our heads held high and look people directly in the eye. And how am I supposed to not smile? It’s all I do! “Okay, okay,” I told myself. “No looking at men in the eye.”
I was also warned that Italian women are very jealous and if they catch you looking at “their man,” be prepared because they will have words with you about it. “It’s best just to keep your head down when walking and if you bump into someone don't bother saying scuzi because no one does.” Great! I get to go to one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, never talk to anyone, and the only thing I’m going to see is the pavement!
For the first month and I half I followed this advice. I averted my eyes at all costs. I mostly kept my head down and walked the “city walk.” This is not easy to do by the way, when you have no idea where you are going and you have to look up to the side of a building to discover what street you are on! It’s definitely an acquired skill.
During the month of November, Rome experienced an indian summer. Winter coats were not necessary until the very end of the month. One night, when I was in a particularly good mood, I decided to head out to the City Center for dinner on my own. This required a 25 minute walk from my apartment. I was enjoying the warm Mediterranean air and had a bounce to my step. About 15 minutes into my walk I saw a gorgeous Italian man walking my way with a motorcycle helmet in his hand.
He was distinctively tall for an Italian (6 feet 2 inches) and had the quintessential thick, wavy brown hair and olive skin. He truly was the picture of male Italian beauty! I could not help myself. I did a double take when I passed him. That was when it happened. His eyes connected with mine and I held the gaze for only a second before remembering the rules of Italian mating.
“OH CRAP!” I thought to myself, and swiftly looked down and continued walking. But it was too late. The ritual had begun. He jumped on his motorcycle and followed me down the road. When I crossed the street he followed me. When I cut down to the next street he followed me. He parked his bike, took off his helmet, and signaled for me to come over. I did, and promptly said to him in Italian that I could not speak Italian. I asked him in Italian if he could speak English. He said he could… a little. He asked me for my number. “Why do you want my number if you cannot speak English?” I asked. “Language exchange,” He replied.
Language exchange is a pretty common thing in Italy. Many legitimate people are interested in meeting native English speakers to improve their English and learn the slang that is not taught in foreign language courses.
Naively, I gave him my number and we agreed to meet the next day at a public place and at an early hour to have a language exchange. Honestly, I knew it wasn’t all innocent, but I thought there may be some fun flirting and I’d get to hang around with a really good looking Italian guy for a while. To spare you all from the uncomfortable and (only after some time has passed) “funny” story of how I almost got date raped, let me just summarize it like this; apparently language exchange in Italian really means fluid exchange.
Even though I was warned about Italian men, I was really surprised about how aggressive this guy was. Did he really think I was going to sleep with him on the first night? I mean, you know, without him even buying me dinner! A girl's got to have her standards you know! ;-) Anyway, this event was a good reminder that I was in a different country and didn’t know the rules here.
Since then, I have been approached on the street several times without me accidentally initiating it. Italian men are definitely not shy about going after what they want! Don't get me wrong, I don't have the “don't even try it” scowl on my face anymore like I did when I first got to Italy, but I am definitely not giving the, “Hey, come talk to me,” signal either. I’m just walking, head up, no smile. Just walking.
Now that I am finally meeting some English speaking friends in Florence, I've been asking about this trait in Italian men. “Why are these guys so horney?” I inquired. The new group of girls I met last week had many thoughts on this topic and they were happy to share, as most of them have Italian boyfriends.
One woman shared something with us that her Italian boyfriend told her when she asked him the same question. What he explained was this. Look around Florence. Look around most of Italy. We are surrounded by beauty 24 hours a day; beauty in architecture; beauty in landscape; beauty in food and beauty in the human form. We are surrounded by naked statues or paintings of physical perfection. At every corner there is a scantily clad statue of some man or woman posing suggestively with an exposed breast or a perfectly proportioned penis proudly displayed for all see. Sensuality and sex are in the air here. It permeates our thoughts without us even realizing it. It is not shameful; it's beauty.
I thought about this explanation for a few days, and as I walked through the city and through the Uffizi Art Gallery, I realized this man was absolutely correct. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance; the time of reborn appreciation for beauty in all things. Sex and sensuality ARE everywhere in Italy. Without realizing it, being here heightens your sexual senses. It makes you see things in a different way. It helps you see beauty in all things; even in that which is not particularly beautiful.
It all makes perfect sense to me now!
Huh… Maybe this is why I keep having erotic dreams about a man named David.