As a proud Rhode Islander, we are, in fact, the state with the highest percentage of Italian Americans, a whopping 19% of our teeny tiny population is of Italian origin. I don’t know. Maybe they were all en route to Long Island and got confused and ended up in Rhode Island instead. I get that mix up everyday over here.

Growing up and well into my teen years, I can remember it being the ‘cool’ thing to say you were Italian. And when you get to be at that prime dating age, it’s the golden pick up line for guys. I used to feed right into it too. Then I actually moved to Italy. Now I’m just a bitch.

Last year my Canadian friend who I had met in Milan, came to visit me in Rhode Island. She had always asked me what Rhode Island was like, and at one point I mentioned that it was full of “Italians” who brag about being Italian because they eat meatballs on Sunday and wear gold chains and have seen the Godfather trilogy “like a hundred times”.

When she came to visit, we had this ironic run-in that couldn’t have happened more perfectly.

We were out at a bar, standing alone talking, when two guys made a bee line for us, because two girls standing alone must want company. They did their whole divide and conquer routine, one got my friend’s ear, the other got mine. His first question:

So, where are you from?

Me: Cranston, you?

Him: North Providence. Cranston, so what are you?

What am I? I knew what he meant but I could already see where this was going and I had to try really hard to not roll my eyes.

Me: So you mean, what’s my nationality? I’m Italian.

Him: ME TOO! A HUNDRED PERCENT! MY LAST NAME’S ROSSI! So, how Italian are you?

Me: Excuse me, what? What does that mean?

Him: You know, I’m like a hundred percent, Rossi, ya know.

Me: Well, Rossi, Let’s see. My great grandparents on my mom’s side were born in Italy. Coincidentally, I currently live in Italy. Um, I speak Italian, and I have Italian citizenship. So, yea, I’d say I’m pretty Italian. But if you want, I can throw you a percentage if you do better with numbers.

Him: Wow, so like, where’s your family from?

Me: Calabria

Him: That’s in the North, right?!

Me: No, no it’s not, quite the opposite in fact. So, Rossi, you don’t know the geography of the country in which you’re so proud to have family hailing from?

Him: Nah, but I told you, I’m a 100% Italian. I speak some Italian too. Ya know, puttana, vafanculo…

Me: Right. So you don’t speak any Italian at all and you have no idea what a map of Italy looks like. I really can’t stand people like you…

It only escalated from here. He kept yelling “a hundred percent” I told him to “get out of my face and open a damn book.”

At this point my friend removed me from this potentially dangerous situation. Needless to say 100% Rossi made my point quite clear. 

First and foremost, Italian guys and guys born in America with Italian grandparents are two different things. “Italian” men in America have somehow misconstrued being Italian with being a tough guy. Italian guys don’t fight. In fact, I’ve been here for over four years, countless weekend nights, countless clubs…A veritable recipe for disaster for all the meat heads back in RI. I’ve seen maybe two fights in Milan. No roid rage here. This also brings me to my next point, which is that nobody’s obnoxiously large here. I actually find Italian guys to be rather small. You’ll see some defined bodies, but nobody with a bicep the size of my torso, nothing exaggerated. And that’s probably due to my next point: the clothes. By nature, the pants are just tighter in this country. I always used to joke, an Italian American guy would never dress like an Italian because they would think it’s gay. Tighter pants, scarves…Jesus Christ some of them have man purses for God’s sake.

I dated a guy from Calabria once who had a man purse. We got a half an hour from his house and he had to turn back around because he had forgotten his “borsetta.” When I suggested we just get it tomorrow, he had a mini panic attack…”No, my borsetta, I need it! There’s thing’s in there that I need.” For the life of me I still don’t know what it was that he so desperately couldn’t part with for 24 hours. What’s worse than the purse, is the fanny pack. Yea, fanny pack, I said it. Hello 1990’s! I can’t tell you the feeling I have inside when I see a guy wearing one here. I have nightmares of my mom’s purple Mary Kay fanny pack from our summer vacations at Busch Gardens. It’s something I’ve always asked myself: how is it an American guy can go out with just a wallet in his back pocket and somehow everything he needs, yet an Italian guy needs extra carrying space? Are the pants just too tight to fit anything? Do they require more “things” when they leave the house? So perplexing.

Another thing you won’t find on a lot of guys from Italy: tattoos. BUT if you’re Italian in America you gotta get that Italian flag tattoo, what are you waiting for?! A pretty long term commitment for most people who will never come to this country and will continue following Italian traditions that are not even Italian. I once had an ex-boyfriend who had surgery on his arm, and got a cast in the colors of the Italian flag. My right hand to God. How’s that for pride? I’d like to say “love is blind”, but my eyes were wide open and I was pretty fuckin mortified.

These “habits” we’ve adopted in the States start with the food. I’ll eat chicken parm all day when I’m home because it tastes good, but it’s not Italian. Spaghetti and meatballs: no. Anytime you go to an Italian restaurant and see Penne Pink Vodka on the menu or any kind of pasta with chicken in it: nope. I know it tastes good, and I’m sorry to shatter your dreams, but I need to save you from the embarrassment of asking for these things before you come here. The only time an Italian would mix meat with pasta is for some kind of ragù sauce, never chicken.

Side note: people take eating very seriously. There’s unspoken “rules” of what to eat when, what to never mix together, what month you can eat certain vegetables and fruits. But nobody, I repeat NOBODY here is obese, or even fat for that matter. We tend to have this image of Italians as fat, jolly, happy people eating a bowl of spaghetti. In the South of Italy they’re a little more “filled out,” but that’s the extent of it. My first time at the gym I became very aware of the fact that these bitches don’t have cellulite.

Another side note as we digress: if you decided to move here, don’t expect to live out your Good Fellas fantasy either. You can’t have a gun here. It’s not impossible, but it’s far too complicated to have one. And nobody complains about it either. Italians can’t see what our problem as Americans is. Nor can I.

I reiterate, I’m a complete bitch. At one time I used to let the guy brag about how Italian he was, now I just do the whole lips pursed, resting bitch face. I’m sorry, but until you’ve waited at the post office in Italy for an hour only to learn you were told to wait in the wrong line, I don’t want to hear how ‘Italian’ you are. Until you’ve travelled on any sort of public transportation in this country while getting shoved and getting no apology, I’m not interested. Until you’ve had to go to a public hospital and tell 8 doctors behind a glass window the symptoms of your lady parts and oncoming UTI while 20 people stand behind you and listen, no. Just, no.

The ironic part of this whole scenario is that real Italians aren’t even so proud to be Italian, ask any one of them. In my past life as an English teacher, I talked to so many Italians who expressed such disappointment in their country and sometimes embarrassment. Well! Pop on over to ole’ Rhody and boost your Italian morale! I guess the flip side of this is that our enthusiasm for this culture reminds Italians of all the good things they should not forget and that they should take pride in: the food, the culture, the scenery, the tradition.

Obviously there are people at home who are very well connected to their roots for all the right reasons. And not everybody has to get on a plane and move here to prove it. Being Italian is cool. I thought that before moving here, and I’ve also seen the negatives to being Italian after living here, and you know what? I’m still here and I still think it’s cool. But really guys, nobody likes a bragger. Especially one who talks out of their ass.

One time I told someone I had never seen the movie Casino. They replied in shock: NEVER SEEN CASINO? WHAT KIND OF ITALIAN ARE YOU??

What kind of Italian am I…..