A post that has been in the making for quite some time. Far too long, truly. A post geared towards foreign women, maybe even especially American women, who come to Italy with all of their doe-in-the-headlights innocence and fresh-scrubbed milkmaid smiles, giggling at the Mediterranean men purring “Ciao bella” at them on the street. Or at the bar. Or at the gas station. Or at the bus stop. Or online. Or wherever. Hell–maybe they’re even yelling it from the entrance to the women’s bathroom at McDonald’s.
Suffice it to say, they’re everywhere. In waiting.
This will probably be long-winded and way too self-revelatory but frankly I don’t care anymore. Once you become a 35-year old divorceè raising three children under age five in a foreign country, “giving a shit” about a lot of things just doesn’t really exist anymore, outside of my family and close friends.
So before we begin this odyssey, let me provide a brief, 5-second soundtrack. Ready?
Yes. That, my friends, is widely known as the Price is Right “fail horn.” As in, EPIC FAIL. As in, you’re such an idiot you just guessed that electric toothbrush costs $90 when in fact it costs $9. Or, take poor Elisabeth here. Ok folks, this 2 min. clip is a metaphor for life, ready? Go.
Did you hear the epic fail horn? Did you hear Bob Barker correct himself when he was about to say “You didn’t win a DA….well, you get ONE DOLLAR.”
And then he goes, “I’m sick! That’s terrible!”
And please take note that only TWO products were over $9.50. All the rest were under. All poor Elisabeth had to do was choose the goddamn Garlique or the Absorbine Jr. or even the damn GERITOL, for Christ’s sake!
But noooo, she had to go for the fool’s gold and pick CALCIUM supplements. (Even though personally I think she should have just chosen the shimmering bronze powder guaranteed to “unleash your animal instincts.”)
Where am I going with this? Oh please, bear with me. It will all come full circle. I think.
*takes deep breath*
I am probably going to make some really broad and unfair generalizations. But hey, that’s life. I have had some anthropological experiences up to now in the Roman jungle, the results of which I believe make me qualified to accurately attest to the existence of a species known in the wild as the cazzaro romano.
How would you translate this, exactly? Roman bullshit artist? I think that’s my closest stab. And yes, before you ask–trust me. The Roman bullshit artist is a species unto itself.
I have a few personal examples but I won’t go into detail. However, I will say that both of the married cazzaro examples in which I was preyed upon were nearly identical in scope, format, and technique. KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS, ladies.
The cazzaro romano is looking for vulnerable but socially outgoing and friendly women who feel flattered by their unsolicited attention and affection. Once the compliments have worked their sleight-of-hand magic, and the poor girl has stars in her eyes (“he said I was BELLAAAAA…sigh…!!”) he can pretty easily deceive, because the woman is, for whatever reason, in a vulnerable enough position to believe nearly anything he says and/or overlook any ridiculousness he throws out there (ie, any shit shoveled). He tells blatant and outright lies without blinking an eye, in order to catch his prey. If this sounds a lot like the definition of a sociopath, you would be right. Trust me. I read this book a couple years back and was convinced it could be any of the cazzari I’ve met. I’m sure there are a wide variation among the species, but today I will be focusing on the MARRIED CAZZARO.
This is where I get into controversial territory. But the amount of shit I give about this is below zero at this point, simply because I know I’m not the only one who has come dangerously close to getting snared into the traps set by these jackasses.
Take an American woman–outgoing, smiley, trusting–and place her in the vicinity of an Italian man around her age who’s unhappily married but enjoys the security and social status bestowed by marriage. This may be an extension of the mamma effect, only now instead of living at mamma’s house, he’s conveniently replaced her with a wife, and possibly someone to raise his kids, present or future as the case may be. Add in sociopathic tendencies, especially agility for pathologically lying, and you’ll be on your way.
I don’t think that married men prey on women here more than in any other place I know; however, I do think there is one distinction in Italy as compared to my experience in the US: here in Italy, it seems to be widely accepted that married men take lovers and cheat on their wives.
I’m just putting that out there. I call it like I see it. I’ve never talked about this on my blog, but frankly now that I’m single again and truly for the first time ever in Italy (I met my ex-husband at age 24 on the first day I arrived in Rome 11 years ago), I’m intrigued by it and I’ve been preyed on now by more than one married man. Have not had an affair, in case you’re wondering. Ick. That would be gross. Plus my bullshit meter is still just barely enough in tact to unmask the hooded villian before he makes his move. But, let me tell you, they’re really good at pretending they aren’t attached, or, if they have the audacity to admit they are, or rather the inability to hide it, they’re also quite skilled at making it sound like they’re on the verge of a collapsing marriage, blah blah blah. They do the whole “feel sorry for me” thing really, really well. Sensitive, social worker-types like me are the perfect foil for the drooling wolves in sheep’s clothing.
I have no doubt this happens in the States to women as well. But what I wonder is: why is it that it seems so much more commonplace and accepted here? Why is it that I have more than one couple of acquaintances here whom everyone in the circle of friends knew that the man, or both, were cheating? It becomes easy dinner conversation when the couple isn’t around, and yet, the couples nearly never break up. There’s a fairly common phenomenon here known informally as “separati dentro casa” (separated in the home) in which they basically agree to have separate lives but still stay married and live together, especially when kids are involved. What is this?
The cazzaro romano can sometimes be harmless and fun, but the married version is really good at his game. He has a lot of practice and always, always has a *just believable enough* response to any question. He can make up a lie in the blink of an eye and can really take advantage of a vulnerable woman.
I have no moral judgement against these guys. There are certainly plenty of unhappy women out there who are willing to have an affair, and that’s their business. Hell, there are women out there who fall for murderers in prison. Not my business. My only point here is that, foreign women coming abroad are by nature vulnerable, to a certain extent. I see it a lot with newly arrived (and especially younger) expats. They’ll give the time of day to any man who compliments them on the street. They strike up conversations feeling so flattered that a man says they’re beautiful. I know, because this was basically me before I got all cynical and bitter (like a few hours ago) and decided enough is enough.
Why do Italian men looking for an affair strike up conversations with foreign women?
Because the Italian women WON’T LOOK AT THEM. Because they KNOW THE GAME.
I don’t really have much else to offer here. This was more of a diatribe than any kind of helpful field guide. What I really need is an Italian woman to write a post on this phenomenon. What I really need is an Italian woman to write a guide to the Italian cazzaro and how to avoid him, for foreign women.
Frankly, I for one have come to the sad conclusion that my prospects for a normal dating life and/or healthy relationship here in Rome post-divorce are pretty slim to none. There’s still a taboo against divorced and separated women to a certain extent, plus there’s the whole MILF thing which basically makes me want to retch. And then, the simple fact of having three (wow, count ‘em! THREE!!!!) kids makes you a sort of social freak. (TRUST ME ON THIS ONE. I live in a country with a NEGATIVE BIRTHRATE. The question I get asked most often when I’m out with my kids is always, “Are they ALL yours?” I still haven’t come up with a decent, bitchy-enough response to this question, simply because when the people ask it, they’re totally sincere. Like, they simply just CAN’T BELIEVE one woman could actually give birth to and then try to attempt to raise three kids. In fact the usual response back to me when I say “Yes, all three,” is this, swear to God: “Che corraggio!” which means, “You’re so brave!”)
Sigh. End of rant. I will now go back to hiding under a rock, of course bringing my fully-charged iPod with me so that I can listen to the epic fail horn on repeat, for all eternity.
Women, we need to write a book about our stories with Italian boys. I hardly have any experience, given that I met my future husband on day one and we were together for 10 years. So basically my dating life begins now, at 35, a prospect which, frankly, makes my stomach churn.
You know what book I really need to read, folks? This one. I think Andrea and I have had a long-overdue coffee coming for a while now.
Solidarity, ladies! Strength in numbers!
And, oh yeah, the coming full circle with the pricing games part of this post? Because you know I aim to please. You see, it’s like this: the cazzaro romano is very charming, and very charismatic, and has hypnotic eyes that lure you into a false sense of security. Just like that sign that flashes out quickly $10,000 (TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!) and then all of a sudden goes down to a mere dollar, (as in: WTF just happened there? but you’re already hooked in now) with the promise that if you can only guess what goddamn stupid OTC pharmacy product is less than $9.50, then you’ll really, truly win the TEN–THOUSAND–DOLLARS!!!!!!! So you sit there, and you listen to all the b.s. descriptions of the product (cazzaro tells you all about himself and how you and he are made for each other, etc.). The Geritol is insurance that you’ll live together until old age, nice and strong with your Citracal-reinforced bones. But then, what? What’s that, you say? The Citracal costs more than $9.50? And someone already put a ring on it? Holy fuc— but, but…and it was all just an illusion. The Geritol, the Citracal, even the pills to give you all the health benefits of garlic without the inevitable stink. All of it, vanishing away in a sparkling cloud of the “costs more than $9.50″ Physician’s Formula shimmering and bronzing powder that was really supposed to unleash your animal instinct.
AND THERE’S THE RUB.
Yep. There’s Bob Barker, there’s the fail horn, there’s the revelation that, holy shite, this dude isn’t worth TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! Oh no, folks! This dude is trolling on women who giggle and smile and fall prey to his charms and… [cue epic fail horn] you didn’t even win a DA…
Well, you get ONE DOLLAR.
Thanks for playing! You’re in the frickin’ Euro Zone here! That shit isn’t even worth 85 euro cents, for the love of God!
And that, my friends, is when I will wholeheartedly agree with our good ol’ Bob cazzaro Barker.
I really want to hope to end all hope that Elisabeth took that damn dollar and went and bought herself something nice. Maybe like a small cup of Dunkin’ Donuts regular coffee or something.
With my roughly 82 euro cents, I intend to treat myself to a nice, dark, bitter espresso. The bitterer (yes, it is a word, because I say so), the better.
(Muuuuhahahaha) Evil laughter shall be my constant companion – starting – NOW!
That is all.