The other day I was stopped on the street by a woman in a floor length, dark fur coat dripping with brooches. Her ears hung low with sparkling baubles which matched those pinned to her fur hat.
Oh what beautiful earrings you are wearing!
Holding my shoulder, she reached out to touch my simple blue spheres. She stood close to me and took me in from head to toe with a wide smile on her brightly painted lips, nodding in appreciation and then gasping,
and they match your eyes!
I must admit that I was a little chuffed that someone had appreciated and noticed my well put together outfit, as I usually spend quite a bit of time choosing the exact pair of earrings. I looked at her outfit, knew I was with a kindred spirit, and knew what my task was.
Thank you. I was just admiring your beautiful brooch, and how it exactly matches your scarf.
She beamed at me and stroked the gilt star shape she had pinned to her chest.
Well sometimes I am not sure about these things. But I try to always look my best. I am eighty you know.
Italian women are rarely shy with their age. It was my cue to exclaim that she, ”carried it well”, the best compliment you can give a woman over 50.
Many of my friends from other countries tell me they feel invisible once they turn fifty.
Move to Italy
is always my answer.
Women here are never invisible and never not looked at. The ages of the men may get older but they never stop looking. I have lived here since I was 29. I was not used to being looked at in the full-bodied, appraising, unapologetic, second nature way that Italian men and women look at each other. I got sick of it sometimes but comforted myself with the fact that it would soon enough be over. I am now 54. It’s not over. And not just because “I carry it well”. I get looked at the same amount as when I was 29, only the age range of the lookers has changed. They have aged as I have. Although not always. The response “I am old enough to be your mother” didn’t seem to be working so I now say “I am old enough for you to be my second child”. But sometimes I don’t need to say that at all.
Yesterday I was crossing an intersection, another woman, slightly older than me was coming in the opposite direction. As she came closer she held her arms out in an appreciative gesture and said to me “che bella signora”, or “what a beautiful lady”. I must admit that being called beautiful in the street by random strangers on your way to buy the groceries is something that always puts a spring in my 54-year-old step. Italians don’t seem to think that only youth have a monopoly on beauty.
Which is why when I am 80 I fully plan to be wearing floor length (fake) fur coats, bright red lipstick, and as much jewellery as I can attach to myself without falling over.
If you like this blog maybe you would like my Memoir:
Roman Daze – La Dolce Vita for all Seasons, Melbourne Books, 2013
Available at all bookstores nationally within Australia, FAO Bookstore Rome, and via Amazon, Kobo and ibooks.
Click here for a free download of the Prologue and first chapter.