CHIAVARI, Italy - Andrea and his girlfriend are going to move in together at some point in the future. He bought an apartment about a year ago, but for reasons I don’t really understand the deal isn’t going to close until sometime next month. In the meantime he has been halfheartedly shopping for furniture.
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I don’t know how much input his girlfriend has had in choosing the furnishings, but I don’t think she’s had very much. He told me once that she wanted to furnish the apartment with antiques but he was leaning more towards less permanent furnishings, aka cheap stuff. Not too cheap, but not investment furniture either. He also said he had asked his mother and his aunt to shop around for him and come up with some decorating ideas, and from the way he said it I understood that was the way it was going to be.
There was one point, however, that the girlfriend was insisting on. She wants a clothes dryer.
“I don’t see the need for it,” he said to me. “My mother and my grandmother never had a clothes dryer and they got along just fine. You wash your clothes, you hang them up, the next day they are dry. And if you hang them out on the balcony they may even dry the same day. Beside, where are we going to put it? The apartment isn’t that big. There is space for a washing machine, but a clothes dryer? I don’t think so.”
I think the problem is cultural. Andrea’s girlfriend isn’t Italian. Where she comes from people need clothes dryers because it rains a lot and the winters are long and harsh. Another part of the problem is that Andrea does not think of this apartment as his “forever” apartment. That is also the reason why he does not want to invest in appliances like a clothes dryer. He knows it is only temporary, but unfortunately I don’t think the girlfriend does.
Andrea’s brother also bought an apartment recently, but he did buy a “forever” apartment, which loosely translated means an apartment with two bedrooms, one for him and his wife to be, and another for any and all future children they may have. And there was no discussion about a dryer yes or a dryer no. The bride-to-be is Italian, Sicilian actually, so it’s a moot point.
The last time I saw Andrea I asked him if the dryer issue had been resolved and he said yes. He had given in and it would be part of their new life together. So that’s one for the girlfriend. But how she’s going to feel living in an apartment decorated by Andrea’s mother and his aunt, well that’s another question, and not one I’m going even going to try to get near.
The idea that Italians don’t embrace clothes dryers in quite the same way as Americans do has come up before. The most recent discussion took place when my Best Friend was here. She just didn’t get the Italians resistance to such a fundamental part of American life. And no amount of me spouting eco-explanations or cultural differences could dissuade her from her pro-dryer stand.
It wasn’t as if I was asking her to abandon her dryer and drape her clothes on a rack when she's at home, all I was saying was this is a different country and we do things differently here. Last week I found out how that all translated when, in a casual conversation, she told me that she had been asked to speak at her local elementary school again this year as part of Grandparents Day. She was a big hit last year with her talk on what it was like growing up with 10 brothers and sisters. This year she talked about her trip to Italy. Part of what she told the eager 9 year olds was that everyone in Italy lives in a condominium and that Italians don’t have dryers because they don’t have the electricity for it. They don’t have 220.
Like the question about how Andrea’s girlfriend is going to like living in an apartment decorated by his mother and aunt, I’m not going to get near my BF’s version of the dryer story either, especially since we spent half a day shopping for a new hair curler for her because her hair curler, which runs on 110, would not work here without a converter as we only have 220.
I confess, some days when I'm trying to understand things I'm as confused as I have ever been, or maybe even just a little bit more. It's starting to feel like my new normal.