Frida, age 4, attends weekly gymnastics lessons. She comes out of the lessons beaming, chattering happily about what they did while I help her out of her leotard. She says ciao to her friends and we load up in the bike trailer to go home. She never asks me what I did while she was in the gymnastics lesson, or maybe she did once and was so bored by the answer she never bothered to ask again. Let’s play…
45 Minutes in Heaven
how to play – imagine what you would do if you had 45 minutes of free time and access to the following, all of which are available INSIDE the gymnastics facility:
- an outdoor track complete with high jump
- warm Italian May sunshine
- ice cream, cookies, lollipops, and those chocolate wafers that always seem stale except in Europe
- a smartphone
- prosecco, beer, and various slightly bitter pre-mixed aperitivi (like Campari)
You would make yourself a prosecco-ice cream float and go lie down on the high jump mattress, right? Well done, you!
The other mothers* and I either stand around chatting, stand around staring at our iPhones, or stand around smoking. Never have I ever seen anyone go for one of the adult-friendly drinks at the bar at the kids’ gymnastics school. I think we’re doing it wrong.
*I would say ‘parents’ except that there’s a word for ‘parents’ if they are invariably female and that word is ‘mothers’. It’s always the mothers. It’s Italy. In 2016. Jesus, am I ready to leave. The gender role bullshit here makes me want to scream.
One quick example : at Mother’s Day at Frida’s school, there was a nice slideshow with pictures of all of our little darlings during their school day. The head nun was announcing the pictures and reminded us that our children were watching everything we did. She then turned to the next section, which was about the kids emulating their mommies. The first slide : kids ironing on little play ironing boards. I laughingly shrieked ‘Oh My GOD!’ because I thought that it was a very funny joke. It wasn’t. Next slide : kids washing dolls in the little play bathtub. Next slide : kids pushing prams with dolls in them. Next slide : kids with little play shopping carts. Next slide : kids putting dolls to sleep in little doll beds. The audience was sighing and weeping and I was torn between being an incensed American feminist and being so so very grateful that I am an incensed American feminist instead of one of the lovely, smart, kind, capable Italian working mothers who have to put up with this 1950’s pigeonholing for the rest of their lives. (While wearing high heels! Ugh.) When I asked a trio of Italian working mom friends about the lack of kids pretending to stay up late studying to get their Phds, or grab their briefcase to go to their awesome lawyer job, or go to the hospital to perform brain surgery JUST LIKE MOMMY, each of the women I asked got really uncomfortable. It wasn’t something that was OK to talk about. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t ironic, it wasn’t changing, it was just their lives. I was immediately sorry to have asked.
Except that until you meet an actual real-live Hillary Clinton fan in person, you might not truly believe that one existed. I’m a feminism unicorn, sent to Italy to provide proof that feminist unicorns exist. We’re somewhat smellier than anticipated, but we bring hope from a land where women can have it all – kids, career, loving marriage, great friends, satisfying sex, high-quality chocolate, and toned arms.
Know this, American voters: if you elect Donald Trump, the unicorn dies.