My body is community property. The Italians have a very different concept of privacy, and while it's strange to me, it makes for a good story....
At about 3pm on a Saturday in January, the telltale odor and strange feeling after going pee told me that I was about an hour away from a very nasty and painful experience of a UTI. I've had these since I hit puberty, and they usually come when I am upset or stressed out. I will point out now that this one eventually lasted for two weeks and would get better and ten worse...and on a Monday night I was brushing my teeth and I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought: I can quit my job. And the thought of not having to work for the crazy Frenchman lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. And, the next morning when I was supposed to go back to the doctor, I felt completely fine. And the UTI disappeared. Like my mother says: I was quite literally pissed off. Psychosomatic, hmph.
Anyways, on that Saturday afternoon, I went to my roommate Silvia's room to tell her that I needed to get to a doctor ASAP. She had several of her classmates with her, and once we got the translation worked out...in Italian it's Cistitis...all three of them sprang into action. They were delighted it seemed to have an excuse not to study anymore, and within ten minutes we were in the car on the way to the hospital. However, this is where I should point out the difference in the approach. While we were in the house, in the elevator, and the entire way in the car to the hospital, the three of them were calling virtually everybody they knew to explain that the Americana has cistitis, and to discuss my symptoms in graphic detail, and to remember the time when their sister's best-friend's boyfriend's niece's mom had a UTI...and maybe you should call her to ask, yadda yadda yadda.
So, by the time we reached the hospital, approximately 1/3 of Sicily had heard the Americana was sick with a UTI.
Then, when we actually got to the hospital, it was then announced it to everyone at the hospital (and those people explained their relatives sicknesses at length and lamented over when their great-nephew's best-friend's sister-in-law's daughter had a UTI this one time.....) So, by the time we left the hospital, and went to the pharmacy, another 1/3 of Sicily had heard about the Americana with the UTI.
Over the next couple of weeks as the weak medicine that they use (they don't use the powerful-like-clorox antibiotics we use) helped a little bit, (but basically I was on my own with my own immune system to fight the infection), the girls would check in, and then inform me they had a conversation with so-and-so they met at the espresso bar on Monday and THAT person knew about this woman who was a distant relative of....
You get the point. By the end of the ordeal, the entire Island knew, and it had been on the 10pm news. But, the upside is that I had a LOT of people checking in on me, and concerned and offering to help. I learned that the concept of shame about sickness and weakness that we Americans have doesn't exist here in the same way.
Last week I got a massage, Italian style. When I got home I called Davide to tell him that I had a semi-erotic lesbian massage in Siracusa. I think he thought he wasn't translating what I was saying correctly, but I assured him that he was. I was as surprised as he was....
Ok, in the USA a massage consists of one person, a warm room, and a sheet to cover all your private areas (like butt, breast, and genital region). The masseuses are very careful not to touch any of these areas so as to not cause discomfort or embarrassment. It's a little different here....
First of all, you are TOTALLY naked, and NOT covered by the modesty sheet. So, there I was in all my glory. Originally, I was lying on my stomach, because I could deal with the masseuse seeing my butt. I was thinking that she had just forgotten the modesty sheet. Ummmm...no.
The first thing she did was make me turn over. So, now I am laying on the bed, bare side up, like a corpse on the autopsy sheet. She started on my feet and legs, but didn't stop at the midthigh like they do at home. Oh no, she aggressively went after my entire legs, inside and out...they masseuse doesn't tiptoe around your private areas. They may accidentally get touched in the process and it's not a big deal. Ok, so I am keeping my composure as best as I can. Then she goes for my stomach (which was also new, but rather nice). But the killer was when she got to my chest region....You can imaging my surprise when the masseuse started oiling up my nipples. I had to bite my lip from totally cracking up.
Ok, so I guess they don't call it a full-body massage for nothing. Oh, but wait, there's more...I forgot to mention that during the process THE ASSISTANT IS THERE WATCHING, and taking obvious mental notes. Ok, so I am trying not to squirm with one person who is a total stranger knowing every inch of my body...but now I have somebody else in the room doing the same thing. Oh, but wait...we're not done... because occasionally the chain-smoking-old Sicilian woman owner pops her head in and out as well to make comments. Again, community property.
OK, my first erotic massage. In traditional, conservative Sicily. Go figure.
And yesterday, I went to the hair salon to get myself dolled up, and I wrote this to my mother:
we are now a strawberry blonde with curls. oh so cute. and silvia's mom had a talk with the fabulous gay federico the hairdresser who said the palermo water was ruining my color and i needed better shampoo........ so she bought me really good shampoo and conditioner.S which is perfect because i just ran out. and i would like to point out that a weave here is 1/2 the cost. And again, it's community property. Basically the entire hen house at the salon comes and clucks and pecks and argues over what would be better. By the time i was done i had been in the hands of at least 7 people. one to initially inspect. one to consult with me. one to put the first color on. one to shampoo. one to do the cutting. two to blowdry. and one more to curl. And all 7 to argue constantly until a consensus was made (and offer me espresso).
But then Federico decided that i needed makeup (and I didn't have a choice or say in the matter since the other 7 had already agreed upon this next step). And so he took his stuff to me. Let me just put it this way....do you remember the movie To Wong Foo... with Patrick Swayze and crew as drag queens? I looked a lot like that. Federico has a Marilyn Monroe fetish and this was his drag queen ode to her. But, when he was done he clasped his hands together and exclaimed "fantastica! Sei una bambola (you're a dolly)". Can't argue with that, eh?
Community Property. Good grief.