Sunday, January 13, 2008


When I first came to Italy, nearly 40 years ago, the family I lived with would jokingly call me by two nicknames, “Pat” without a vowel at the end being impossible for them to pronounce.

So sometimes I was “la Patti suora” [“Pat the nun”] for, as I was young and blonde and Italian men used to follow me around, the grandfather of the family thought that, for my own safety, I should become resident in the convent opposite the house! But I would pretend to concur, laugh with him and cajole him and by the end of supper every night he would agree: “Va bene, niente suora”. [“OK, not a nun”.] Actually, I used to watch those nuns going to pray in the early hours of the morning, when the whole city was silent, the sun was just coming up and an Italian “heat mist” lay upon the town: the silence was punctuated only by the bells of the convent and I used to imagine the peaceful life the nuns had. However, reader, I lacked the sense of obedience that would have been required and soon I lacked another essential qualification!

The other name that the family bestowed upon me was “la Patti Pravo” because of my name and again, because I was blonde. Now, Patti Pravo, unlike me, had and has quite a deep voice and I’ve always wondered why men, whilst claiming to love femininity, really go for this: consider the women they find sexy – Pravo herself here in Italy, Bacall, even Thatcher [the latter having been professionally trained to lower her voice]. Could it be that what is really attractive in our times is androgyny? Does this not explain why models no longer have curves but have to make clothes look as if they are “on the hanger”? Twiggy, I notice, is these days on the cover of mainstream women’s magazines like “Good Housekeeping” looking feminine and curvy but it was not always so. There was a time when, if you had a few unfashionable curves, you were deemed undesirable. Thus very feminine women lost out, especially if they were cursed, as well, with that old “disadvantage”, a brain.

All this is a preamble to telling you how much I have always liked the song in the second clip below, for here, in a [just] pre-feminist era, we have a feminine woman telling a man, in no uncertain terms, that she will not be treated as a plaything and discarded “among the 10 other dolls who no longer please you.” Sing it again, Patti!


Whispering Walls said...

The BBC's been showing Sense & Sensibility and last night Marianne Dashwood made the very same remark about women being men's playthings.

Claire said...

I have always felt that the place for curvaceous women should have priority but not this need not be a licence for fat girls.It is possible to have shape with out being overweight and there are plenty of good examples of such women Nigella Lawson 9 well she may be a tad heavy) pops up here with her cookery programme now she has ample curves and I bet many men have suddenly become interesed in her recipes! Your second clip what an incredible voice and so unexpected.

Chelsea + Shiloh said...

I loved your story on the bought a smile..

The issue with body size is still there, although there are a few curvaceous women, it is not the norm..and it starts in the 'goss' magazines before teens now...its wrong.. also the models actress's photos have been air brush beyond recognition. (if anyone is interested Dove has an ad on youtube showing this)

My daughter tells me their are girls in her class 'dieting' and shes 11 years old! .. I'm almost 40 in age and I am only now becoming comfortable and accepting of my own body size and flaws..

bring on and celebrate real women!

James Higham said...

Lovely to get the true story and glad you didn't end up in the convent.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks for reminding me of that, WW. Totally agree, Kissa, though I haven't looked at Nigella lately. Thanks, Abbey. I will look up the youtube clip you mention. Let's hear it for real women! Hi, James. So am I!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Hi WL son loves Nigella Lawson, he says he likes her "womanly" figure!!!

Couldn't imagine you has a nun!!! :-)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Anne. Good for your son. No, I don't think I'd have lasted very long!

Gledwood said...

You know when you were a language teacher, do you mean a school teacher?
What language(s) did you teach... was Italian among them..??

Gledwood said...

Actually my ONLY severe regret from my squandered drop-out university time was that I didn't get the TEFL certificate for £300 or £400// whatever when I had the opportunity

i reckon I'd make a really good English teacher

and unlike certain people I can think of (known to me) I have actually put in some welly to learn foreign tongues

(I mean! These people who go half way across the world to South America to teach English to the locals... and yet they barely bother to acquire a single WORD of Spanish before they go!!!)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Gleds. Dare I admit it? Yes, a schoolmarm! I taught French and Italian. After leaving sec schools [had enough after 23 years!] I did CELTA and got into teaching Eng to adults - much more work available in that field. You would make a fine ESOL teacher, I am sure, because you know what language is all about and you understand people. I despair of people who move to another country without a clue about the language but when you are teaching you should ideally use the target language all the time. [Whether this is always possible might make another post!] Gleds, it's never too late - think about doing that qualification!

jmb said...

Now that is an interesting thought about androgyny.
Well all the convents in Italy are becoming hotels now, because no one wants to be a suora any more.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. Yes, you are right. x


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