23 Life Lessons You Get From Having An Italian Mother

Like many Americans, I am a mix of cultures. I have a Québécoise grandmother, enough Irish blood to have made me a redhead, and a proudly Italian mother (from New Jersey, no less). And it’s always interesting to see how some cultures tend to… drown out others in practice. And having an Italian mother, well, that is guaranteed to speak louder than nearly anything.

1. If there is one thing that must always be in your cupboard, even if you have literally nothing else, it’s olive oil. Even if you don’t have any food to put it on, you can always rub it on your skin as moisturizer.

2. Your hair can always have more volume.

3. Watching old Italian movies, or Italian family comedies, is a bonding experience that no holiday at home would be complete without. (Even if this means that you have seen Moonstruck 800 times by the age of 23.)

4. Hosting a party is at once the most stressful and most rewarding activity you can engage in.

5. “Hosting” a party is a loose term, because it mostly just means spending 80 percent of the event in the kitchen, making more food, and 20 percent passing it around to people and encouraging them to eat.

6. The stand-off between several Italian sisters who have made a dish for a family gathering, and wants to know which is the best, is much like an old Western film.

7. The first step to serving any dish is the five-minute apology where you tell everyone how bad it is, so they will compliment you on how delicious it is.

8. Your cousins are always up to something nefarious, and you will hear about it for approximately 20 minutes each when one of them gets brought up in conversation.

9. The cheek-pinch of an Italian mother who has not seen you in a while is one of the most painful displays of affection you can experience. (And said cheek-pinch is almost always accompanied by some Italian phrase that you don’t understand.)

10. Men who are under a certain weight are universally deemed as “needing to eat something” and men who are over a certain weight are universally deemed as “looking happy and well-fed.”

11. Makeup and hair routines before leaving the house must never be rushed.

12. Never insult New Jersey, Long Island, or any of the boroughs of New York, because you will be immediately and aggressively told how wonderful they are and how they just get a bad rap in the media.

13. Always err on the side of plenty when making food, because you can always keep the leftovers in the freezer.

14. There is never any room in the freezer of an Italian mother, because it is filled to the brim with about 500 inscrutable Ziploc bags filled with something that looks like it might have been lamb three years ago.

15. Having an Italian mother over for dinner and presenting the dish you made to her feels like what I imagine the judge’s table on Iron Chef must feel like.

16. “When are you getting married?” is not a question, it is a way of life.

17. “I want my grandbabies” is also a way of life.

18. Not falling in love with an Italian is not the end of the world, of course, but in some ways it kind of is.

19. Punishments are always best when accompanied by a 20-minute speech about how your great grandmother used to get hit with a wooden spoon back in Naples, so you had better be grateful that this is all you’re getting.

20. If someone has a nice wedding, you’re going to be hearing about it for the next year and a half.

21. When in doubt, bring cannoli.

22. The two activities that must always accompany cooking are 1) drinking a glass of wine and 2) gossiping about extended family members.

23. Family is the most important part of your life, and even though it absolutely drives you crazy sometimes, there is no feeling in the world quite as wonderful as coming home to your Italian mother and having her cook a three-course meal of all your favorite things just because she’s happy to see you. And one of the best parts about growing up is knowing that you will be able to do the same for her (and your babies, which are her grandbabies, which she ABSOLUTELY WANTS YOU TO HAVE. No pressure.) TC mark

image – Dave Kellam

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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