This is one of those delicate topics where I’ll have to tread the line between vanity and annoyingly overcompensating humility. But in Italy, I am really pretty.
Save your protestations, loyal friends who will insist that I am pretty at home too. Reserve your judgment, skeptical strangers eyeballing my mugshot. I know what league I’m in at home. And I’ve just been bumped up a notch.
It’s not simply run-of-the-mill flirting I’m talking about. That I could chalk up to Italian men being infinitely more forward than Harvard men. Hell, glaciers are more forward than Harvard men.
No, it’s the freebies that show I’m really punching above my weight. The old men at Trattoria Mario who flagged the waitress to have me seated at their table and were disappointed when I returned with my prettier-by-American-standards girlfriends. My inability to do efficient nightlife research because the free drinks offered at each establishment leave me stumbling door to door like the Prophet Elijah. The museum guard who asked me out minutes after the other guard in the gallery did likewise, sparking a minor controversy regarding docent decency.
I guess it comes from looking sorta Italian, but not quite. My European friends tell me that Jewish looks are “exotic” overseas. This girl from NY never counted her hook nose as an asset before and certainly wouldn’t have expected it to go over any different in a former Axis power, but shows what she knows. Get it, nose/knows? Okay, they still don’t love my Jewish father sense of humor, but I’m working on it.
Last week, I latched on to a couple American guys whose companionship I had to earn the old-fashioned way – jeez, peanut gallery, I mean through mutual interests and bad jokes – and their presence dried up the attention. Honestly, it was a relief to go back to being conspicuous only for the normal reason: talking too loudly.
So it was a shock all over again today when the attention resumed. I stepped under the awning of a restaurant to avoid a sudden downpour, and a man came out of the restaurant to hail a taxi.
“Come with me,” he said. We had not yet exchanged a word.
“I am going to my other restaurant by the Duomo. I own this one, and a couple others.”
“Come, we will have cappuccino at the other place, and then we’ll come back here and have lunch.”
See? This does not happen to me at home. And at home I don’t even consider getting in taxis with complete strangers. But I was hungry. And, well, it was raining.
So what the hell. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts. I got in the cab.