Over a quiet coffee very early on in our marriage
“babe, your tyre is a little flat, you need to pump it up next time you fill the car with fuel.”
Pause… “how do you pump the tyre up?”
Longer pause… “what do you mean how do you pump the tyre up? Do you not know how to pump the tyre up?”
“Yes, you get the thingy and put it on the thingy.”
Pause… “You don’t know how to pump the tyre using the thingy do you?”
“No, but you don’t know a good pair of shoes from bad ones…”
“It’s true, I do not know a pair of bad shoes from good ones but…now you are just changing the subject.”
I am bound to be accused of mass generalisations in this blog and I want to remind you (since you have taken the time to read my blah) that my point isn’t to stereotype men, it is simply pointing out a common theme – men tend not to share their soul very easy. Men find it easy to engage in a conversation when they are in familiar territory and there is little risk of vulnerability – like pumping up tires. Men are happy to describe the journey only when the journey is finished because they can regulate their emotions and stay in their head when they are simply recalling an event. It is much more difficult to engage in conversation and offering commentary in the middle of the journey because the unknown prompts elevated levels of emotion and we generally don’t like that much
Awkward moment after dinner – woman crying. “What is the matter?”
“Nothing, no really nothing at all.”
A terrible attempt at talking about more than just pumping tires – “Is it that monthly thing again?”
Deadly look that tells me I said something very bad.
Through gritted teeth, “I just had a bad day….grrrr.
In contrast to what I just described, there is something going on with Italian men that we should take note of. On a recent trip to Europe we noticed Rome is a buzz with chatter from morning till night and it isn’t just the women. The men are affectionate, they hug, kiss each other with a two handed grip on each other’s head, they laugh, cry and yell all at the same time!
My first experience of Italian male expression was our taxi driver who drove my wife and I from the train station to our apartment. He told us about the financial crisis, nepotism in politics, high taxes, the weather cycle, corruption, his daughters, married status, past relationships and gave us a tour on what we were seeing all in 15 mins. His hands left the steering wheel regularly to punctuate his many points and returned only to toot his horn.
We soon arrived to our apartment but the street was tiny with nowhere to park. Our driver stopped in the lane way as I passed him my credit card and Helena (my wife) jumped out, within seconds the traffic was banking up and he was forced to go around the street in a tight 10 meter circle with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the credit card machine.
Unfortunately he couldn’t get the credit card machine to work, “whatsa, costa, mamma Mia” (terrible phonetics I know). In an attempt to get reception he held the machine out his window continuing to drive around and around. Message on receipt – decline. “Fascia uno mazeratie, Ferrari!” Helena is standing on the side of the road watching him go around and around able to hear his rants and sees me looking through the window in the back seat with a big smile. As he passed Helena every 30 seconds he called out, “so sorry madam!” After 4 attempts and lots of sweat, the machine succumbed to the Italian intimidation and the payment went through. Our taxi driver offered a tone of relief and directed his last rant to a fictitious being in the car, “lambino musca luvata messa!” We were done.
Soon we we’re standing on the ancient cobbled streets of Rome having just witnessed an avalanche of emotion from our taxi driver that would take an Aussie 3 years to unload (if prompted). On our first walk that evening we took note of all the men outside cafés passionately engaged in conversation. We sat down at a table and straight away the men and women were playful in their conversation curious to who we were. It wasn’t that unusual to hear an inspired expression of song from a boy on a bike to a man minding his own business in a “bric a brac” shop.
It got me thinking how inward living we men can be, fearful of expressing ourselves for the fear of being known – conservative. I think we could learn a thing or two from our Italian brothers and sisters – I am a singer and I rarely sing out loud unless I am rehearsing or doing a gig, what is with that?
So men, let’s express ourselves and surprise the loved ones around us, surprise someone you don’t know next time you are meandering the streets with your best rendition of your favourite song. Let’s change the misconception that we are a land of beer and belly’s to a land of loooove and wine. Who knows you may even like it!