In the four years I’ve lived in Italy, I’ve noticed a LARGE abyss between my way of keeping house and the Italian way. I’ve given considerable thought as to why my feelings on housekeeping are SO different than Italian women’s feelings and think the difference is a result of the American Industrial Revolution.
This revolution caused young women to take responsability for their futures: while supporting themselves in mill towns, they achieved a measure of economic and social independence not possible while living under the parental roof. It created an ambitious drive in American women that I find lacking in my experience with Italian women in Italy. And, if you consider the fact that most Italian men and women live with their parents until at least age 30 and rarely move out of their hometown, this lack of ambition makes sense. Why should “young” Italians try to make more money or give more effort when their lives are perfectly fine living at home having their parents take care of them?
Perhaps the ambition and drive the young women don’t spend on making a career for themselves is redirected into housekeeping. Luca’s mom and female friends are always trying to give me tips on being a better housekeeper – keeping delicate clothing in plastic bags, ironing everything from underwear to towels, using only delicate wash cycles and air drying everything, dusting once a day, separating winter socks from summer socks…the list goes on and on.
I’ve received several email forwards that illustrate my response to these “helpful” housekeeping hints:
Remember…a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
I used to spend at least 4 hours every weekend making sure things were just perfect – “in case someone came over.” Finally I realized one day that no one came over; they were all out living life and having fun!
NOW, when people visit, I don’t have to explain the ‘condition’ of my home. They are more interested in hearing about the things I’ve been doing while I was away living life and having fun….