Let that sink in for a second.
In Italian, alone and lonely are, essentially, one in the same.
Yes, there is a slight difference in that one “feels” lonely but is “alone,” but this oddity of the language (to my American ears) has always intrigued me, particularly as the interplay of the two concepts has come up repeatedly during my time in rural southern Italy.
You see, I’ve never needed to take any online or magazine quiz to determine whether I’m an extrovert or an introvert. I am, indeed, a classic introvert. Although I perform decently in social situations (I think so, at least), I absolutely need time to decompress after being “on” for any length of time. I could literally spend days, weeks not speaking with anyone and be perfectly happy.
For me, alone is not lonely . . . it’s lovely!
Late nights snuggled up in front of a fire, long walks into the mountains, never-ending days of coffee and good books . . . aaaaaah . . . the stuff of fantasies!
In fact, I spent long stretches doing just those things when I first moved here nearly twelve years ago. It was easy to do. I didn’t speak very much of the language, and approximately two people around me spoke English.
And when I was out and about, conversations were limited to the weather, the hundredth recounting of where I was from, what I had studied in school. You know, exactly the kind of small talk that introverts love so dang much.
And oh, the recurrent question of whether I felt “sola.”
It was a logical question from the mostly elderly Italians around me, who seem to do just about everything in groups, or at least in pairs. This buddy system makes sense when I think about it. In this hilltop medieval village, my neighbors have lived here most if not their whole lives and have many relatives and friends literally within walking distance.
So if your mom or best friend or adult daughter or second cousin twice removed is willing to buddy you to the gynecologist or to the post office? Why the heck not?
I think I confused many a well-meaning adopted nonna by insisting I really wasn’t lonely though I was alone, even in the early days, as I could always count on a good book or my own writing to keep me company (Internet in the house was still a few years off at that point). I had an extremely difficult time communicating this to the older women here, and not just because of the language barrier. I think they just felt sorry for me for a long time, poverina all alone in that house . . . what does she DO all day?! Poor thing!
On the bright side, I’m pretty sure this translated into a lot of little gifts of food and such left at my door. Lonely wasn’t so bad after all.
Their concern for my loneliness, by the way, extended to my mother in the United States. Surely without her daughter around, she must be lonely! I would assure them I also have a brother and he had two small children at the time. That seemed to ease their concerns for my mom. Mostly. But not entirely.
Povera mamma, they’d say. Poor mom!
Meanwhile Mom was still working full-time, carting around the grandkids, making and selling cookies and candy at Christmas, lunching with the ladies and whatnot; she really had little time to dwell on her absent daughter, although of course she missed me (which is why she’d call me every day).
But now? Now I have a daughter!
“Almeno non sei sola,” they say! At least you’re not alone!
Men apparently don’t count for much in this “alone” equation since P has been in my life for ten years . . . but finally I am no longer alone since I have a daughter!
Meanwhile, this here mommy, like most mommies of small children I know (including Italian ones), lovesloveloves her teeny tiny taste of alone time almost as much as life itself. I jealously guard those wee hours of the night when the house has curled up and gone to sleep like a toddler holding all the toys.
But don’t tell the nonne that.
I’m not even going to attempt to explain “me time” now that they can finally breathe a sigh of relief for lonely ol’ me.
As you may have guessed from the graphic above, this is my first post with the Italy Blogging Roundtable, a group of seven bloggers who write about a chosen theme each month. This month’s theme was “lost in translation,” and you can read the posts from my fellow Ladies of the Roundtable here:
- Jessica (Italy Explained): False Friends and a False Sense of Security
- Gloria (At Home in Tuscany): Senza Parole . . .
- Rebecca (Brigolante): Lost in Translation
- Alexandra (ArtTrav): The Alphabet of Impossible Italian Translations
- Melanie (Italofile): Lost in Translation: Ancient Stories in Art
- Kate (Driving Like a Maniac): Things my Sicilian Boyfriend and I Fight About
I am thrilled to report that I have been short-listed for Italy Magazine’s Blog Awards in the category of Best Overall Blog for Lovers of Italy. Fellow Roundtable Ladies Alexandra of ArtTrav (Best Art & Culture Blog) and Kate of Driving Like a Maniac (Best Travel Blog) are also nominees!
If you’d like to vote, visit the Blog Awards site and click away; no registration necessary! Seems like you can vote as many times as you’d like (?) FWIW 😉 Voting ends February 27.
Grazie mille and see you next month round the ‘Table!