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L’Education Sentimentale

Watched Somewhere by Sophia Coppola, a few months ago, and placed it somewhere in the middle of my personal Sophia Coppola chart (between Lost in Translation – in pole position – and Marie Antoinette – last). Or more or less in the middle between prodigy and pointlessness. But one scene I really liked was Laura Chiatti having breakfast with the little girl in the hotel room in Milan, and asking her the question “do you have a boyfriend?”. That was a perfect little gem: Elle Fanning’s mortification was absolutely timely, and something I could really relate to.

You hear that question very often, in Italy, probably since kindergarten. And I’ve always hated this constant sexualization of every relationship. It’s embarrassing and unfitting – an appropriate answer would be “And what about you? Do you still fuck your husband?”, but you never have enough presence of mind when it happens. It’s maybe because I’m naïve or because I’ve had a protracted childhood, but I bear this image in my mind: of young girls like baby giraffes or some other sort of long legged and clumsy cub – a fawn that hasn’t yet lost the spots on its fur, stuff like that.

And so, my personal concept of femininity has arisen from previous structures and subsequent clashes, just like this. I came here and wasn’t like that. And I was too old to try and conform at all costs. The conflict was really poignant. When I was at junior-high my girlfriends were all first and foremost massively interested in their looks; hallowed; loved every living creature – but especially the small and young ones; perfectionist; dressed in pink; prudish and easily shocked; pietistic; completely dedicated to smothering all unpleasant feelings; replacing any emotion with forms of the Pathetic.

Therefore, to be feminine required: suffocating all conflict and expressing it through fake-submissive claims and collateral remarks; whining; getting yourself up like a Christmas tree; undergoing a lobotomy which erases all bad language; being flirty and captivating with every specimen of the opposite sex (so that you had a ready answer for “do you have a boyfriend?”).


Humph: I’ve just made a list of all my discarded selves. I refused all of it tout court. They wore pink and light blue – I wore black and red. They had long and beautiful hair – I cut it all. They used “whoops-a-daisy” – I swore. They cooed and sweet-talked over every cot and doghouse – I exclaimed I hated cats. They loved and shrieked in enthusiasm at each rosy/tender thing – I became a dry critic of all kitsch. They batted and fluttered eyelashes – I groaned. I feel a return of all anger – how can you possibly love everything in this world? It’s obviously impracticable, you’re a human being, with all your teeth and nails and feelings. You must be phony – it’s the only explanation. And my anger means that I’m not free yet, and that these representations are alive and at work in my life, that I’m yet puerile and unable to restore them.

There is a fundamental ambiguity between good and beautiful, in the Italian language, which is at the origin of all this, I think. You can say that a cup of coffee is delicious or fine-looking, and it would mean the same. There’s the assumption that the surface corresponds to the inside, that form is content. It has certainly made this the most beautiful country in the world. But it took me 20 years to unravel this ball of wool.

So, for the coming week, I’ve decided to buy a pink dress full of rhinestone, indulge my vanity, wear cheap jewellery and complain. Just for once, for the hell of it.

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