Everyone is aware that Europe is in a financial sink hole. The rug was pulled out from under them by the American economy, playing the little evil child who leaves banana peels on the floor hoping someone will trip and fall on their face. Except now some of us Americans are in time out. Not the millionaire brokers or CEOs but the ones who had no idea what was going on and let the little brat skid by.
But this is not about the financial sink hole; it’s about Europe and the how the crisis has affected other aspects of daily life. Italy like a lot of the Mediterranean countries is broke, but the people do not seem to be worrying that much as they continue to vacation and enjoy themselves. Italians have been living this way for generations, especially in the south. It’s unhealthy.
One of my cousins from Italy recently came to America to live with my grandparents. Her life is like Tula from “My Big Fat Great Wedding,” except her parents are more constricting and unlike Tula, she has no want of freedom or independence. She is 28, still lives with her parents, has never had a job and has no marketable skills. She doesn’t know how to cook, do laundry, find a job or pay bills.
She’s a professional student, which means she went to college, while living at home, of course. Then, unlike most UMass students she graduated without the intention of getting a job or doing anything with the degree. Culture is very different in Italy. The father is still the head of the household and has the final say on all matters, including whether his daughters can work. He told her not to get a job, so she, playing the dutiful daughter, will not even fill out an application. They actually listen to their fathers. Sorry dad you will get no such luck with me.
Even if my cousin wanted to get a job, and her dad said yes, she has no skills or motivation to work. Her family has been taking care of her for her entire life, constantly coddling and taking care of every problem and paying for everything she ever wanted.
Her family has money. The type of money where they own an outdoor apartment complex big enough to house all their family members. Their faucets are made of gold. Yes real gold, I’ve seen them, it’s ridiculous. Do you know what I would do with the money used to get those faucets? I would pay back college loans, or buy something ridiculously cool, such as a yacht. Instead, it’s going toward unnecessary, unattractive gold faucets.
Her father pays for school, books and even stilettos. She does not have any money, a bank account of her own, or a job. Her lifestyle is completely dependent on her father’s approval, and her father’s approval is complete dependent on her maintaining this lifestyle. A vicious cycle that might ridiculous state side, but is normal in her home country.
She cannot leave her family until she gets married to a man her dad and uncles approve of. A little ridiculous in the 21st century, but one afforded to Italian parents because of their daughters financial independence.
If no one is good enough for daddy’s little girl, she is forever under daddy’s roof.
If she gets married, the husband will work, if he finds a job he likes. That’s another weird thing about Italy, people only work in jobs that they got a degree for. They do not change careers or stoop any lower in the job hierarchy then they want to. If they fall into debt, mom and dad will always be there to bail them out.
But do not think it’s just the girls that are coddled, the boys are too. If they do not find a job or a wife, they live with their parents forever. The only difference is women are called old maids and spinsters, while the men are called bachelors, fair right?
My cousin’s dependence on her parents wealth stuns me. While I hate doing laundry and paying bills, I do it because no one else will do it, and the independence it give me makes me feel like an adult.
My cousin will never get the satisfaction. This southern Italian lifestyle is normal for her. Her ambitions start and end with getting married. Until I mentioned to her one day, she had never thought about being her own, and the possibility scares her.
If people like my cousin gained some independence it would drag Italy into the 21st century. Currently, people rely on a status quo where people will only work jobs they feel are at their pay grade or rely on government (or parental) aid. That 10.7 percent of the Italian population who use these benefits are caught in a social situation that doesn’t motivate them to work.
And thus, they are caught in an economy that won’t improve until they break from cultural norms.
Claire Anderson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]