One thing that has often crossed my mind as I drive past high school students lingering outside in the mornings, vaping, and looking like they’ve just stepped out of a Justin Bieber ft. Fedez video, is whether they have the opportunity to any diversity in friendships and dating. Diversity, I define, on both a racial/cultural AND individualistic pretense. Let’s talk the race thing first, starting with friends.
While Italy is definitely becoming increasingly more diverse, I still find it hard to glimpse groups of young people that are “mixed”, maybe there’s a token Asian girl in a clique and the same goes for an African but you don’t see the proportions that are so typical of Canada. I remember growing up, my group consisted of me (Chinese-Canadian) and a handful of BFFs that were East-Indian, French, African, Korean, Japanese, Italian…and the list goes on of course. Most of us were first, second, or third generations of our families to be born and raised in Canada so you could say that we shared a base culture and social awareness, BUT I also grew up eating amazing homemade butter chicken at one friend’s house and Korean jap chae at another’s. You could ask any born-and-bred Canadian where the best “pho” is and the next second you’d be taking notes on where to find a dozen hole-in-the-wall places around the city. Many Italians, even young and self-proclaimed “worldly” ones, would probably look at you with a furrowed brow accompanied by that guttural “ehhhhh???” sound.
This then propagates to the dating world. If you don’t live in a big metropolitan city like Milan or Florence where there are hoards of foreign exchange students, your access to other cultures, romantically-speaking, is also quite limited. Besides a one-night stand or a summer-fling with a blonde, blue-eyed Swede studying "Italian" or doing ERASMUS, there’s not a whole lot of “availability”. Do Italians never go through phases of being obsessed with different races, even if purely on a physical level? I remember when everyone was in love with halfers in high school (even the term “halfers” itself is widely used back home to typically refer to someone half-Asian and half-“white” but then, you probably knew that if yee who is reading this is North American). Then maybe you might also relate to when there was a phase where Latin Americans were glorified thanks to the teenage soap obsession, Passions… I mean who could forget Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald?! If you’re not exposed to different cultures, do you not have any curiosity towards them? I suppose I’m just wondering out loud whether the fact that having a proportionally low “supply” of non-ethic Italians corresponds in a parallel manner to the “demand”, contrary to free market trends. Is it also looked down upon socially (here I have in mind the proverb “moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi” that basically means you’re advised to only hook up with your fellow countrymen or women, ie: no mixing and no halfer babies!)?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, I would love if you’d leave your two cents though on this because sometimes I feel a bit sad for Italians, the fact that maybe they are “missing out” on both romantic connections and friendships during adolescence. However, I know that things are changing and in the future, this may no longer be an applicable discussion. But just thinking about it, I’m not only grateful for my multi-cultural friendships, but also for my multi-cultural dating history which includes a few halfers, a Brazilian, a Portuguese, a Russian, a Dane, and strangely enough, not a single Chinese-Canadian much to my mother’s dismay. It’s really so FORMATIVE to be exposed to these opportunities.
I’m running out of breath here but I also wanted to comment on how the school system separates young people based on aptitude and future plans. High schools are divided into specialties such as Sciences, Classics, Linguistics, and Fine Arts, to name a few. Essentially this means that you spend your formative years with classmates and potential future boyfriends/girlfriends that are “similar” to you in the sense- they have similar aptitudes, similar ambitions, similar interests. There’s no such thing as the jock hooking up with a band geek here because they would be PHYSICALLY separated in different high schools in Italy. I find that extremely bizarre and for this reason, prefer the mixed nature of North American high schools. That’s not to say that instruction is better in either one but again, I just love the idea of being exposed to different types of people, different types of personalities. What if you were a super nerd and took all AP courses but had a secret love for brooding bass players?? You wouldn’t have a chance in Italy. You’d have to hope to meet this person after high school as an adult which is equally hard because you’d already go straight into studying whatever profession you wanted to pursue in university. There’s no “General Science or Arts” degrees, you specialize straight away, so again, your immediate social scene and romantic pool is quite miniscule. It’s more like a puddle than a pool. Anyways, this is just what I’ve observed as a “bystander” and by pestering my husband with questions, I’m not in high school and I didn’t grow up here so I’d love to hear some comments or feedback from anyone with more insight!
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