Monday, August 7
In England, when a child has a birthday party, the children invited get dropped off by their parents at the birthday childs house in the afternoon. They play organised games, pass the parcel, musical chairs etc. They all sit down together at a big table and eat a birthday tea at about 5.00pm, then the presents are opened, the givers are thanked and at the latest 7pm, the children are picked up and taken home.
In Italy it is different. The mothers are expected to go to the party too and look after their own kids. There are no games, not often entertainers, just loud, loud childrens music (theme tunes from various japanese cartoons) blasting from the stereo. The kids do what they want, or rather, what they can get away with, seeing as their mothers are breathing down their necks. The food is set out on tables, from the beginning of the party, and the cake is brought out right at the very end, which can often be 10pm, by which time there are lots of very tired irritable kids.
I recently received a phonecall inviting Skye and me to a childs birthday party. The mother of the child told me that she had also invited another 'foreign' mother, so that I would have someone to talk to, and wouldn't feel left out.
Now, I have been living here for over 8 years, and visiting often since 1986. Yet, I am still considered a foreigner who will never be accepted by certain locals. This small town attitude annoys me, but I have learnt to live with it. But for her to tell me that she had invited someone, on purpose for me to talk to, led me to understand that she knew that the other mothers would not be making small talk with me.
In fact, I went to the party, and was completely ignored by the little cliques of mothers standing around. The only really friendly 'local' mother that was there left after 10 minutes. I spent some time with the 'other foreigner', but wanted to try and break the barrier with the locals.
I watched Skye playing happily with the others, thankful that at least she was accepted as one of them. I stood by the balcony railing for a while, wondering who I could try to talk to. Three women walked over and I started to smile at them, but at the last second, they turned away. They had stopped inches away from me, and turned their backs to me, as if I wasn't there. They were so close that I found myself leaning back into the railing to gain some personal space.
It was hopeless, I felt stupid and awkward, so I decided to leave early (it was nearly 9pm). There is an unwritten law here, that you must not leave a party before the cake has been brought out. It is probably considered very rude, but I wasn't going to hang around on my own any more. I scooped up Skye into my arms, made my excuses, agreed with the ,”oh, you can't go yet, the cake hasn't been brought out!” I apologised, and left. A feeling of relief washed over me as soon as I turned the corner. I took us to the nearest bar for an icecream, instead of a slice of birthday cake.
at 7:48 PM