Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Growing up Italian or Not Fitting in.

I'm Italian.  And from the city.  Philadelphia, that is.  I grew up in an Italian neighborhood.  If you're from New York, you understand.

When I meet someone from Brooklyn or someone brought up in an Italian household, it's understood.  How we grew up, our experiences, how we operate in the world.  No explanations needed.

When you grow up in the city, you have an edge.  You learn to be a little tough.  It helps with survival.

When you grow up Italian, you learn to talk over each other and listen to three different conversations at the same time.  I wouldn't say it's a gentle culture.  Passionate, loving, but not necessarily gentle.   Kind, giving, ferociously protective of our families.  Lots of wonderful qualities, not the least of which is good food and fabulous family gatherings.  But not placid, not meek.

Move to Maryland suburbs.  The land of vanilla people.  I don't mean to insult anyone. It's really more about me and my journey to fit into Maryland culture. This is a very educated area, a melting pot of cultures.  And I have found, as a whole, it is more cultivated that the city.

So I tried changing my speech patterns, removing the long "a" sounds.  I've tried rephrasing sentences in a more pleasing way, more tactful, more benign.  In the beginning I WANTED to leave behind my gritty city-ness.  I was determined to throw out my edge and become cultivated!

In the end, I've assimilated some of this.  I still have to think about being tactful, still have to swallow my first reaction and wait for a calmer version.  Because I'm really a bottom line person.  I like to tell it like it is.  It saves time.  My friends think this is hysterical.  They wait for it.  A few of them want to be more like me.  Just put it out there.  And I want to be more like them, gentle, genteel.  

When I turned 50, became independent (i.e., divorced) and let my hair go natural (i.e.grey), I found myself just wanting to be me.  It has become so much work to try to fit in.  To try to be something that goes completely against my grain.  To explain myself to people who don't understand me.  More than that, because they don't understand my background, they judge me.  I am expected to behave a certain way in this culture.  And I feel gauche.

That's why I love hanging around with my Italian friends.  And when I go back to Philly, I slip back into my beginnings.  I'm remarried now and my husband is on a learning curve.  He asks me why I'm yelling at him.  I tell him, "I'm not yelling.  I'm Italian!"

I've come home, to me.

Angela DiCicco
Angela's Artistic Designs


  1. Hilarious! Thanks for explaining Italians to me. Have often wondered, but have always enjoyed my meetings with you folk. Life is for everyone, so enjoy being yourself!

    While you're doing so, you're invited round to visit - we'd all love to see you sometime, and maybe, you might find a Christmas present or two for those wonderful family members of yours too?

    Have a great Thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks so much Isobel! Appreciate the feedback:)

  2. Angela, I sooooo love this. Finally, someone put in writing exactly how I feel. I'm not Italian, but as close as someone can get, I'm a Jersey Pollock of a certain age, and have been known to be less than genteel. Been known to just put it out there. Thank God, my husband gets me.

    Pls visit me at

    Or my etsy shop. Will definitely look more closely at yours.


  3. Angela, Mi Amica,

    Italians like you and myself are special people. Don't get me wrong, everyone is special in their own way, but I feel for you and know what you mean. We put sole into our family, our loves and the food we eat. God knows about the food we eat. I just returned from a trip to Italy. This is my second time and my husbands first. He is Irish and it took him a while to get use to my speaking loud. He always thought I was yelling at him and was mad. My Dad was born in Sicily and next year we hope to go back to Italy and visit the Southern portion and of course Sicily. Yes, we are loud....we don't mean to be, but we are a breed of people that like to get our message across, quickly and to the point. Arriverderci e buona fortuna!

  4. Graci Jackie! I'm glad you understand! Christine - I hear you! Jersey/Philly - all the same!

  5. I know all about fitting in...moving from the Mainland into the Hawaiian way of life. It was like going to a foreign country. A virtual polyglot of cultures, each with their own language, foods, dances, etc. I lived with a Hawaiian family during the summer of '62 and got a crash course in what it was like being "local". I've now been here for 50 years and am finally feeling like a kama'aina (a longtime resident) as opposed to a malihini (a newcomer). It's a good thing I didn't have a "city edginess" as you have to have a very laid-back state of mind to make it here.

    1. Thanks Kiihele!It would be fun to be laid back surrounded by water & flowers!

  6. Angela, great story of becoming you, and coming home to you. I love it! I am not Italian, but I do know how you feel about fitting in. I have lived in Minnesota all my life, born and raised, but always a country girl...until I married a guy from Minneapolis, MN; the big city (which I always hated by the way). Moving to the city, living there in a neighborhood where your neighbor is literally outside your door, and working with people who aren't "country" people is quite a shock! Now, I am an educated woman, I'm not a country hick, but I was used to a town that closed its doors and rolled up the sidewalks at 4 p.m., and if you forgot to get something while "in town", you were out of luck until the next day. Oh how long it took for me to stop saying to my husband "let's go to town and get such and such". Long story short, I never fit into the city life. However, now we have moved to the suburbs, about 30 minutes from the "city" and I still don't fit in...I'm too "citified" my family tells me. So my point is, please yourself and don't try to fit in, it only gives you a headache! Best of luck to you :)
    By the way, as a side note, I have a sister-in-law who is full-blooded German, and another one who is full-blooded Southern Alabama, so from your story, I can see how they might feel around our family.
    Oh and as long as everyone else is giving their info, here's mine.
    Just-For-You Creations by Mary on facebook.

  7. Hi Angela:
    I so really enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to check your etsy shop as well. If you like you can check mine out too or
    Thanks again!

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  9. Growing up italian or nor fitting in Italian community. Read to know more


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