I have two incredible Italian friends in my life. Both men.
Not to discount all of my other amazing Italian friends, whom I also love dearly, but these two have shown friendship like no other.
One I met on a beach when I was 17 and he was 21. That was in 1987. What he calls love at first sight, I remember as a sweet introduction. We’ve only met three times for very brief moments, but have a truly amazing connection that can only be The Fates toying with us both. He is a happily married man and father who is dedicated to his family and career.
During the 26 years since that moment in time, we’ve kept in touch (sometimes years in between contact) either directly or through a mutual friend. He’s been my advisor, a virtual shoulder to cry on, my biggest supporter and an educator in many categories of life (including a great Italian teacher). He has never waivered in his support of me. A true blessing. I don’t speak of him often except to a few friends over the years, but I need to publicly appreciate his spirit.
Due to his belief in marriage and with his encouragement, I remained in my marriage far longer than I ever would have. Possibly far longer than I should have. His disappointment when I did file for divorce was palpable even via email. But, he has supported my decision and wishes only the best for me and my kids in life. He’s become family to me over the years often providing more support than those who “know me best.”
I met my other friend about five years ago during a business meeting and it was an intellectual spark immediately. I corrected his use of Italian that he was mumbling to himself and the conversation quickly turned to him spending his summers growing up in Italy, while I had only learned it in college. The challenge was set and we’ve been bantering every since.
It was truly a serendipitous meeting with an Italian man (another happily married father) with whom I have enjoyed countless hours of intellectual challenges and sophomoric humor. In my struggles during the past few years he has been there to offer support and a man’s perspective – even from several states away. He’s taught me much in regard to loyalty in friendship, how soul mates don’t have to be physical partners and how even the toughest have the softest cores.
Growing up in a house run by a divorced mom and having a father who wasn’t the greatest role models (and has gotten worse over the years), I am pretty clueless when it comes to men and a lot of things. I have these two to thank for providing perspective and showing me that a man can be intelligent, dedicated to his family, successful, fun and that it is possible to be a close, yet platonic friend to a woman. Their lessons to me have been invaluable and I am forever thankful that I happened to meet them both.
I still fall prey to Italian men and their universal appeal. But my eyes have been trained (at least a little) to appreciate the warmth they radiate while understanding that it’s all about dedication, family and taking care of people they care about – not a flirtation necessarily. As I’ve mentioned (When an Italian Man says Amore), my heart flutters and I secretly swoon with all things Italian, but I keep an outwardly level head and just soak in the adoration they can’t help but express for others because of their own families, upbringing and culture.
If only I could learn how to relax and ease up on life. With great thanks to ALL of my Italian friends, I appreciate the concept of dolce far niente, but my ramped up American personality hasn’t allowed me to live it. Maybe someday with the encouragement of my meravigliosi amici, I will sit back a little more and let life happen instead of pushing forward against the tide. I have so many more lessons to learn and with the friends that I have, I know I’ll be nudged in the right direction.