Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cultural Ransom Note

Today, while waiting for the funicolare in the cool of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele station, an elderly woman stood over La Bimba and said, "She looks just like that little girl they kidnapped from that resort." Then, evidently to make me feel less like running screaming home from the station and locking us in for good, she said, "But that little girl was like four years old."

I grew up in Brooklyn and have lived most of my life in bustling, multiethnic metropoli, mostly in the USA. Naples, despite its growing immigrant population, is a homogenous society. The aspect of its homogenity that continues to be a bitch to get used to is the uniform way the Neapolitan people respond to various stimuli and situations, give or take more or less exaggerated versions.

If it were, say, noon and windy in Manhattan, and I were strolling along with La Bimba, it is unlikely that anyone would stop to say anything about it. If a cross-section of the population at Bleecker and Sullivan or 59th and Lex were to stop and talk to me, I could hardly guess what each would have to say. Take the same scene to Naples and I could guarantee, would bet a lot of money, should find a sucker to take me up on the bet, that a large number of people of different ages and sizes would say, "Shouldn't she be home for lunch? And she's going to get bronchitis! She should be wearing a scarf!"

The woman who told me that La Bimba resembled the little kidnapped girl is just an hyperbolic version of the usual comment, "She is so cute! How can anyone hurt children? Why do they abuse children?"

I'm sorry, I just don't follow, and I doubt I ever will.


Delina said...

I don't have kids but I have a friend who really gets wound up by the comments here. Even the porter told her that her kid should be wearing a hat.

I wonder if Italian mothers get so many comments, probably not as they tend to follow "the rules".

Kataroma said...

WTF with that comment? Was it because la bimba is "foreign" and so was the little girl who got kidnapped. Nice, anyway.

If I ever have kids here I'm not looking forward to the comments either. I already break lots of rules here just by being my usual self (being really really tall, liking to drink glasses of milk occasionally, not blowdrying my hair, liking Indian food, not sunbaking on the beach - that kind of thing) -so any future bambini will probably be little eccentric copies of their crazy stranieri parents.

What does your Neapolitan husband think of your foreign "eccentricities"?

Anonymous said...

Hi I've just discovered your blog and it is all sounds so familiar I also live in Naples and your descriptions, complaints, comments etc.. made me smilie. I've seen children crying because there too hot but their Neapolitan mothers are forcing to put their thick winter coat on in the middle of April!