What’s it like for a Sicilian to be married to a foreigner?
Living in the south of Italy is very much like living in a Middle Eastern country, Sicily isn’t the south of the Italian peninsula but rather a northern state of Africa. Sicilian’s are very traditional and proud of their culture. An islander is foremost a ‘Sicilian’ before they are an Italian. Until a few years ago someone catching the ferry across the strait at Messina to Calabria was greeted with ‘Welcome to Italy’ signage. That is why I have personalized the title of this collective post as marrying a Sicilian was so much more complicated than simply marrying an Italian, it was about being considered a foreigner by the wider community for many years.
There is a Sicilian saying which goes:
Moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi
Literally ‘wives and cattle from your hometown.’ Now you might be going WTF does that mean? Which was exactly my reaction was when my husband uttered this pearl of Sicilian wisdom into my ear. (If you are involved with a Sicilian be prepared for endless bits of folk sayings to come your way, I suggest you do as I do, ignore them or use them as quaint decorations on ceramic tiles.)
So if the saying said to avoid foreigners in marriage unions, why in the hell did my husband marry me? His response is a laconic Sicilian ‘BOH!’ a guttural sound uttered by islanders which means they have no idea.
Something happened deep in the soul of this quiet sensitive typically Sicilian man to make him fall for this opinionated, free spirited and at times short tempered Australian girl. This ‘cow from the other side of the world.’
Choosing to marry me wasn’t the easiest thing for my man G. to do, his close knit family was convinced he’d move away to Australia and they would never see him again. But once they understood I wasn’t the wicked witch of the West and wanted to experience life in Sicily they gradually accepted me.
When we first moved back to Italy after being married in Australia we were the source of local gossip, many thought I wouldn’t last long in small town Sicily, but I’m still here! There’s no secret to it only perseverance and sacrifice.
There are still many compromises and a tug of war still going on. G. puts up with my questioning, challenging and insisting. He has been dragged to the most isolated capital city in the world (Perth, Western Australia which is also my home town), five times over the past decade.
G’s tried and failed with English thanks to a frustrating hearing problem, which has turned me into a screecher over the years.
My Sicilian male is bemused by my need for constant dialogue and can’t understand the idea behind blogging (but I’m thinking this may be a general ‘male’ problem here – apologies to all the male bloggers out there!)
I harbor ambitions which my G. cannot understand, he sulks and says to himself, why aren’t I enough for my wife? You see I’m not your typical Sicilian spouse, who is usually your stay home type. I need to travel, buy books, take photos, connect to the internet, write, be creative and accomplish things. I’m a really ‘shitty’ housewife. I have turned whites into all the colours of the rainbow by forgetting socks in the wash, I can’t iron to save my life and my house is always dusty. Take me or leave me. It seems my husband can’t live without me, go figure!
Despite our differences G. is a steadfast Siculo male who is still in love with his wife, he is proud of how I have inserted myself into his home and holds me as tightly and passionately as ever in his life. G. frustratingly may not say much but subtly supports me and still tells me I’m ‘bellissima’ even if I’ve gained a few kilos over the years.
My Sicilian man reflects his island, he is deep, intense and spell bounding, lets hope the spell lasts forever.
Map of Sicily taken from: The fashion blog Rum and Lace.