Man-to-man, woman-to-woman

Don’t get too excited  . . . I’m really just talking friendship. Men in Italy think nothing of walking down the road, arm in arm with each other. The other day walking down Albizi, I actually saw a man on a bike with his friend walking next to him with arms locked. No, it really isn’t what you are thinking (stop it Will). That is just the way they are here. Old friends link arms; I do occasionally see it with women, but not as often. The really old friends, grey heads and wrinkled smiles, are my favorite. It appears as if they are leaning into each other for support. Appropriate behavior once you’ve spent a lifetime together, don’t you think?

Several things make me sad about this. First, when did American men become so uptight about showing compassion towards each other? There is assumption and often (unfortunately) stigma if two men express companionship with each other. It seems wrong in a world that needs more humanity that we can’t touch the ones we care about without misinterpretation. On the flip side, revealing another reality, is that here—based on observation and chats with Italians—women rarely have true honest soul searching friendships with each other. Female friendships revolve around talking about husbands and children. One Italian told me she wanted to move back to the US mainly because her friends there meant more to her than the ones here. Italy, for all of its love of the Madonna, the mother, the lover and the feminine seems to lack a community between women. For someone who is incredibly fortunate to have female friends that give guidance, strength, memory, (therapy!) and love that void would be too much.

And on a completely unrelated, related note, read this poem.

7 responses to “Man-to-man, woman-to-woman

  1. I am afraid that the fabulous, incredible movie Brokeback Mountain may have set this concept back a few thousand years.

    And as to that therapy, sometimes it’s a little harsh girls. Tough love is overrated. However, I look forward to walking arm-in-arm with you along the Arno. We’ll show those Italian women how friendship is done!

  2. Rub it in why don’t you, Shelby!

  3. good thoughts!

    u go, girl!


  4. Tough love, me? Shocking. However, I do recall that same tough love coming my way too. And Miche, you need to come back in the summer! And Björk fan, if you go for an arm in arm stroll with the fellows, please take a picture because I’m loving that visual right now.

  5. And Julia hasn’t even seen Brokeback. Holy Cow is she in for it.

  6. Hey Julia,
    I love your description of the old Italian men who’ve been friends forever and aren’t afraid to show their love. It is unfortunate that American men can’t seem to touch each other without being labeled “gay.” Not that there is anything wrong with being gay, mind you, because there absolutely is not. But I know our male friends love each other (platonically…here we go with that “only one word for all kinds of love” thing again) and yet feel completely restrained by the societal expectations of being a tough guy. I hope this is changing a bit. I think gay guys can actually lead the way here. I’ve noticed that my gay male friends are much more comfortable with hugging other men in public than are their straight conterparts. And I’m NOT talking about their boyfriends, here!

    Interesting about Italian women and their lack of support for one another. I don’t want to think about a world without girl friends. Hang in there. Sending love across the ocean. 🙂

  7. You know Jessica, you may be right about gay men leading the way with more affection between the friends. Maybe it is because for (what I think are) most gay men having to overcome more societal issues about their sexuality, they do feel confident about who they are and know a hug can be a hug. On the flip side, a friend here who is male often will touch my shoulders or grab my arm, and he is happily married (to a lovely Italian woman) but I feel like it gives people around us a pause, as if there is something sexual about it. Bodies, for all of the joys of touch, can really get in the way of meaning. Of course, our limited language can do the same. Will we ever know true meaning or communication?
    Needless to say, I’m thrilled you are appearing on the blog!

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