Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Question of Friends

I was preparing my articles on Italian shoes and accessories for the Fall/Winter Fashion Season and I received a Video Clip from Italy. It was an MTV clip of an Italian rapper. As I watched, thoroughly enjoying this twenty-something artist go through his routine, I was saddened. I suddenly realized that while in Italy I relate and interact with all age groups, here at home I feel old.

My kids never told me that I did not understand them, except for the time I ripped the posters of “Take That” off the wall of my oldest daughter’s room. My children’s friends have always liked me and would tell my kids, “What a cool Dad you have!”

I have always fit in, worked and played side by side with those younger and older, it was a horrible feeling. A good friend intuitively understood from an email that I was somehow distraught and gave me a ring. We chatted of wine, corporate culture and Don Quixote fighting the windmills of injustice but this did not quiet my discontent.

As I read and responded to the comments on the article Italian Women’s Fashion Fall/Winter 2006/2007 I realized how much I appreciated not only the thoughts they shared but, more importantly the fact that they dedicated time to read what I wrote, and, in a certain way, the friendship shared even though we have never met.

Thus, while I prepare an article requested about Roberto Cavalli’s designs, I pose to you, my friends,

Why, do you think, I have this feeling of disconnect in my country of birth?

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13 Comments:

Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

David, many years ago I had an Italian girfriend who gave me a book called the expatriats, the story of people who fell in love with Italy then found that Italy had moved on, so had their home lands, leaving them isolated.

The point here is not the Italian connection, that's just the peg, but the fact that as we go older the past becomes a far country, one that we know and identify with but is different from the present.

This is most pronounced during a time of change. But oddly it is also most pronounced for those of us who are in fact in touch with the present. Your daughters have kept you in touch as have my sixteen and eighteen year olds.

I say oddly for two reasons.

Those of my friends who have retired seem locked into a comfortable world with their immediate friends. They don't see it because they are not involved with the tensions of the present.

Secondly, and this is the really funny one, I actually find that I have more in common with my kids and their generation than with their parents. Because I married late I am older than most parents. Those parents presently form the dominant group in cultural terms. In reacting against the dominant parental group, the kids have moved back towards older views.

None of this may help,but perhaps this will. In my writing I am trying to use the fact that I have different views, that I don't quite fit in, to bring out differences for discussion.

Look at some of your writing on the key features of Italy. I am thinking especially of your stories on family, on the small businesses, the way that this informs Italian life.

Now compare this to the US. I do not pretend to be an expert here. But I see a yearning for the simpler, the more familiar, the recreation of the real texture of life. I think that this actually makes you a thought leader, someone whose writing of Italy actually reaches to a growing US yearning.

So perhaps you should accept the apparent disconnect as a both a fact of life and a plus and work from there.

Not easy I know because I feel the same thing. But it does give us a positibe frame in which to manage things.

2:02 AM

 
Anonymous Deirdre' Straughan said...

Funny, that's just what I was thinking. I went to the US to visit friends for three weeks in July-August, and found (again) that I feel ever more a stranger there.

This is not new in my life - I'm a third-culture kid from way back. But the feeling is getting stronger. Something has changed in the US, and I feel less at home there now than ever before. I'm still thinking (and will write) about why.

3:26 AM

 
Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

Deriidre, I hadn't seen yout site before. I especially liked Rebecca's stuff

5:47 AM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jim, thank you for the thoughtful response. I wrote the article on the “spur of the emotion” and you have brought me to think about various elements that I had not considered. Your insight is tremendous. As I read about the cultural conflict and the thought leader I associated the thoughts you provoked, from the outside, to perhaps what I am experiencing with today’s US culture. Much as a child grows, daily changes are hard to identify but see the child once a year and you are astounded at how much he has grown each time you see him.

I am honored that you think I may be a thought leader and that other’s may appreciate what I write. I hope that others may be stimulated to think about our world from a different perspective. Thanks again!

Interestingly Jim has taken on these thoughts on his Personal Reflections.

Deirdre’, The longer the absence the greater the shock. Somehow it shakes the underlying understanding of the world that made you who you are. My first trip to Atlanta after 12 years was truly astounding, heartbreaking in many ways, but most of all I was amazed that the lifestyle and principles that made me who I was no longer existed. It was weird!

Deirdre writes an interesting blog, Countries that begin with I.

6:26 AM

 
Anonymous Jennifer said...

David,

How long did you live in Italy? I read your writing about it, and it's so obvious that you really loved it there. I think if someone is open enough to live, by choice, in another country with a different culture, then there is always the chance that the person will identify more with the new than the old. When you are away like that, it also gives you more opportunity to look objectively at the culture you left behind, and the flaws seem more apparent.

10:23 AM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jennifer I lived in Italy for about 20 years in all, let's say my entire adult life.

When I went to Italy I was not excited. My first wife, 3 months pregant, told me she was returning to Italy and that if I wanted I could come along...

Italy has its problems, as does the US, my personality flows through in what I write, I prefer to accentuate the positive and let the negative go.

I would not like to say I see flaws, I do see problems that could become serious threats should they not be taken on with resolve.

I think you are right, I most likely see things differently because I have not had the gradual changes that others have lived.

11:02 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David

I feel isolated in the country of my birth! I'm convinced though that its because I've travelled, seen and experienced other cultures. It opens the eyes and makes you see, think and feel differently. As a result a travelled person thinks out of the box, without the constraints that an untravelled person has! Could it be that having lived abroad in a different culture, you have learned to 'just be'! Not everyone has that ability!

The girl doth ramble!

Dianne :)

11:06 AM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

Dianne I am impressed by the insight you all bring to the table.

How do you deal with the isolation?

I think I am pretty indipendent but it would be nice to be able to discuss various arguments with others.

11:14 AM

 
Blogger RennyBA said...

It's easy to get disorientated when you have your feet in two countries, and your heart is divided, even easier when you wake up one day and find suddenly not only are you a grown up but some might say you are middle aged. Life goes at light speed sometimes and its hard to keep up. we all lose our footing from time to time. Keep the faith!

12:07 PM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

Renny I think you are saying that I might be in a mid-life crisis, needing to feel young. Yes, I turn 46 this October, but I hope this is not that type of crisis, I barely feel 20!

As I have been analyzing, with everyone's help, what was an immediate emotion, somehow I keep coming back to passion. I am not sure, but I believe that somehow, I am unable to express the passion for life here.

12:35 PM

 
Blogger AY said...

I always see my homeland with rose-tinted eyes. It's possible you're doing the same with Italy. :-)

I agree with most of the posters... but it's important to note that Anglo-Saxon cultures don't seem to have the same regard for inter-generational connection/support c.f. to other cultures (say in Italy or Asia)... this is an example of how overt-individualism can backfire.

Btw, 50 is the new 30!

4:02 PM

 
Anonymous Deirdre' Straughan said...

In my case, things are complicated by the fact that I didn't grow up identifying with a single culture - I'm only sort-of American. When I went back to the US for college, after years in Asia, I felt rejected because I thought it would feel like home, but I was a stranger. Eventually I learned that I'm a TCK (third-culture kid) and have come to terms with that. Most Americans still don't get me, but I no longer care!

12:12 AM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

Aussie I think you are generally right on about intergenerational relationships and egoistic attitudes. Most likely we are "paying" for a "it's all about me" attitude in our "what have you done for me lately society!"

Deirdre' I know what you are talking about. I have long thought that it would be valuable for kids in the US to live overseas for 2 years as part of their education. It leads to a different perspective even on fundamental issues and could create a discussion for a "better", or at least different, future.

7:25 AM

 

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