Mozz Mamma meets Italian Teenage Summer

Brazilian Bikini Bottom

Brazilian Bikini Bottom

Ok, ok, I know I am a total wimp.  After 20 years of living in Rome,  I have lost my Yankee backbone. My tough New England spirit and American true-grit have morphed into something far squishier, the mushy mozzarella method.

The other day my cell phone rang on my desk as I was busily editing a report on migrants arriving in Italy.  I rushed over expecting it to be my son Nico who was supposed to stop by my office before leaving with a group of friends on a camping trip in Croatia.  I picked up and heard his voice amid a general cacophony of young people laughing and talking:

“Hey Mom, I took the 50 euros that you left on the kitchen counter to buy a tent because we didn’t have any camping gear.”  SIGH

“Nico, that money was for the plumber!!” I burst out before he continued, “And we’re on the bus now headed for Ciampino (the airport), sorry I didn’t have time to stop by your office to say goodbye.”  AAARRRGGH.

My son aggravates the heck out of me.  But being a Mozzarella Mamma, I couldn’t think of any effective response.  I sent him a text message saying “Bad Son” with all the nasty emoticons I could find: angry yellow faces,  red devil faces, thumbs down.  He sent me back a winking smiley face.  How Italian Male can you get.

My son started university this year and my plans for him to have a brilliant, challenging summer internship that would launch him into a future career quickly shrank to demanding that he get a summer job.  There I came up against the European mentality that kids need to relax and enjoy the family holiday in the summer.  My husband did not see any reason his son should be waiting tables or being a camp counselor, and my son thought it was only right that he should spend his summer with his girlfriend and his high school buddies.   I must have told him one hundred times that when I was his age I spent several summers interning at WBZ TV in Boston during the day and working at “The Magic Pan Restaurant” at Faneuil Hall in Boston at night to make money.  “Yeah, you would Mom,” was the impressed teenage reply.

As usual, me being the Mozzarella, Nico won this one.  No waiting tables, or washing dishes or teaching bratty campers how to clean latrines for my more-Italian-than-American Son.  He’s already been to Athens with his girlfriend and now is in Croatia camping with his buddies.

Before he left for Athens he asked me if I would accompany him to get a birthday present for his girlfriend Serena (that’s a fake name, I wouldn’t write about her with her real name because she is a lovely girl and I like her a lot and would not want to offend her.) So Nico and I headed off to a store Serena’s sister had recommended. Nico said that Serena’s sister suggested buying a Bikini and he wanted my help choosing one.  I told him that I have never worn, bikinis.  I don’t tan (too pale) and I prefer to swim, jump, dive, and  play in the water without pieces falling off.  We stepped out of the steaming Roman heat into a very chic store chock-a-block with bikinis (no one wears anything else in Italy), funky jewellery and cool sandals.  I saw a young clerk and passed Nico off to her saying, “My son needs to buy a bikini for his girlfriend, I am sure you can help him better than I can.” I slipped over to the sandal section and was examining some pairs of pretty bejewelled sandals when Nico and the clerk reappeared with two bikinis.

The clerk held up one and said, “how about this?” I did not want to be involved but since Nico was looking perplexed I said, “I don’t think a THONG bottom is really going to work.”  Nico started sinking into the floor.  The clerk, in a rather huffy voice responded, “Signora, this is not a THONG bottom, it is a ‘BRAZILIAN’.”   Nico had a frozen look on his face as I answered, “Well I am not sure what a BRAZILIAN is, but I don’t see any place for an Italian derriere in that thing, and on top of that the bra part is so small, I don’t think her boobs would fit into it.  Serena’s got bigger boobs than I do, she wouldn’t fit into such a tiny thing would she?” And I turned towards Nico who was steadily backing up into a rack of bikinis about to impale himself on a hanger.  “I don’t know MOM,” he managed to mutter, and the two of them turned and went back to look for others.  Eventually, they found something else and didn’t bother asking for my opinion.

I always say the thing about being a mother is that you never learn to get it right.  I have worked for years and years at being a journalist and a tv producer and I have gotten more experienced and better at what I do.  I am a better interviewer, a better editor, and a better researcher than I was when I started out in my career.  Being a parent, though, you can’t get better because with each year the game changes, the challenges are different.  Dealing with the terrible twos is totally different from dealing with the terrible teens.  Although it is all about bottoms, changing your two-year-old’s dirty diaper is totally different from choosing a bikini bottom for your son’s girlfriend.

That’s just my son, I also have two teenage daughters I am dealing with.  Caterina managed to harangue me one Saturday until I finally agreed to take her to Rome’s water park  Hydromania on that Sunday.  I would not recommend Hydromania to any middle-aged Mamma. Actually, scratch that, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  It’s a cheap water park on the outskirts of Rome with no rides but lots of water slides.  We got there at 9:25 sharp so we could be there precisely at the 9:30 opening, my goal being to be out of there as soon as possible.  The place was packed with a massive crowd pushing and shoving in front of the several ticket windows.  Cate and I took our place in line amidst a group of “coatti” — I sound so terribly stuck up and snobby using such a term in Italian that I hesitate to translate it but basically it means sleaze balls (My on-line dictionary says it means a “lout, a cad, or a low-life”).  Most of them were teenagers with several tattoos and an incredible amount of body piercing.  Their language was atrocious with the word “cazzo” popping out about every 30 seconds.

Their conversation went more or less like in this:

Coatto 1: Ma quanto cazzo ci mette questa cazzo di fila?

Coatto 2: Ma che cazzo ne so io?

Coatto 3: Cazzo ho scordato l’asciugamano.

Coatto 4: Cazzo!

Here is a rough translation for those of you who don’t know Italian.  Let’s just say the word “cazzo” is similar to the F word in English.

So translating the conversation it went like this:

Sleaze ball 1: How the F Long is this F-ing line going to take?

Sleaze ball 2: How the F do I know?

Sleaze ball 3: F! I forgot my towel.

Sleaze ball 4: F!

At this point the cashiers opened the windows and the crowd shoved forward.  Two of the “coatti” sleazeballs figured that it was a good time to start making out passionately in line.  My 16-year-old Caterina stood staring at them in shock.   I was rather shocked myself.  Then one turned to the other and said, “Ma che cazzo sta guardando lei?” (“What the F is she looking at?” ) At that point I sent off my sweet, innocent, still un-tattoo-ed or pierced Caterina to wait at the side while I continued the ticket torture line.

I won’t even go into the description of Mozzarella Mamma in her one piece bathing suit on all the water-slides (at least it wasn’t falling off) with all the coatti.  Let’s just leave it to say, I nearly lost my lunch in a long, completely dark tube that turned and flipped Caterina and me around in a rubber raft before spitting us out into a swimming pool far below, and when I flew into the swimming pool and all the water went straight up my nose, I was almost tempted to say that C word myself. (Cazzo!) But I didn’t.

So Mozzarella Mamma is doing her best to keep her daughters tattoo and piercing-free and hoping they never use the big C word.   I got some helpful advise on surviving the teenage girl summer from my sister across the Atlantic (who still has her Yankee backbone).  Ten pm is “check-in time” for all electronic devices; all cell phones, iphones, samsungs, ipads etc, get handed over to Mom at that time.   My sister diplomatically uses the word check-in instead of “confiscate” or “sequester” and if she gets a complaint she suggests “try reading a book or chatting with someone in the same room with you.” Brava!!  I am going to try to enforce that one.

I have two beautiful daughters and several gorgeous nieces and I made a mozzarella mamma attempt to tell them today before a mid-morning trip to Cambridge that they are all so pretty and there is really no need for mascara or other makeup, they just do not need it.   Chiara let out a pained, “Mommmmm, stop it.  Mommmm, it is none of your business. Can you just CHILLLL,” from the backseat of the car. Chill.  Short for Chill Out.  I hate that expression, and Chiara says it to me all the time these days.  I tried to abolish it but failed, so I am concentrating on making sure the other C word remains out of her vocabulary.

Chiara is now with me on vacation near Boston.  This morning we were contemplating a swim at Walden Pond.  Chiara said, “I can’t go swimming Mom because my new orange bikini is not cool for Walden Pond and I hate my one piece.  I asked her if I could take a look at the orange bikini that I had given her the money to buy in Rome before she left. SHOCK AND HORROR!! It was an itsy, bitsy, teeny-weeny BRAZILIAN!!  HELP!, “The Life Guards’ eyeballs will be popping out of their heads and the American Moms at Walden Pond will have me arrested!” I thought to myself, “Brazilian bikinis are not a New England thing.”

“Yeah, you’re definitely NOT wearing that to Walden Pond,” I said.

“CHILL MOM,” she replied and went back to her cell phone.

So that is where things stand so far in my Italian-American-Brazilian Teenage summer, and it is only July.  I think I will go make myself an ice tea (American style, filled with ICE) and CHILL. Or maybe I should make that a Gin and Tonic.

(Postscript: I took the photo off the internet, it does not belong to anyone I know, not my daughters or my son’s girlfriend!!)

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Trisha Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

34 Comments

  1. Alan
    2014/07/22

    . . makes me glad I was in the army during much of those formative years – seems to me it was a lot quieter and a lot safer!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/23

      Yes, I think the army might be safer for those late teen males. (actually let’s say the Italian army– wouldn’t want my son to be in the US army)

      Reply
  2. Paul Burnell
    2014/07/22

    Trish wonderfully written and so funny I hope it was cathartic

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/23

      Yes, indeed it was cathartic! It made me laugh at myself.

      Reply
  3. Annette
    2014/07/22

    Oh dear, I have a 16y.o. boy and 13 y.o. twins. I’m going to be in for it, aren’t it….

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/23

      Yep! You sure are!

      Reply
  4. Kay
    2014/07/23

    What a great post – and I love Walden Pond. I worked with Don Henley with his Walden Woods Project and subsequent concerts in the 90s and came to love and appreciate the writings of Thoreau and Emerson through Don’s infinite passion for this project.

    What a great place to be this time of year. I hope you and your family have a lovely time.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/23

      Thank you Kay! Walden Pond is gorgeous — actually I will be heading over there shortly for a run and a swim. Yippee!! Wow, I would love to hear more about working with Don Henley and his Walden Woods Project.

      Reply
  5. Dana
    2014/07/23

    Priceless. I love so much about this entry. I hope that Chiara is able to wear her bikini at least ONCE while in the States & that you have a great story to tell about it. I have a ten year old who requests two swimsuits each summer, one to wear among Italians & the other to wear among Americans. She’s very definite in her ideas of when each is appropriate and feels equally uncomfortable if she has the wrong suit for the group or occasion. Modesty (or lack thereof) is not the issue, fitting in is always the overreaching one as she navigates both cultures, with two parents outside of the host country culture.

    Enjoy Boston!
    D

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/23

      Oh gosh Dana, you summed it up so beautifully. I think the same is true for my daughter– Modesty is not the issue, fitting in is the issue. The teenagers have a real antenna. Thank you for your comment and yes, I am enjoying Boston — despite my complaints.

      Reply
  6. Nancy Rockwell
    2014/07/23

    Hilarious, and so true as description on parenting – I love the part about the game changing every year so you can never improve, and are always behind the times. Yet, in the midst of it all, you are providing and defining a base line of integrity, and all of your children have it hard-wired in them, thanks to you. They are not coatti, and they know it. Thanks to you. Work is a harder thing to teach kids. I hope you succeed in getting them to do some summer jobs eventually, as it is there that we all learn the basics, showing up on time, working on days we don’t want to, learning to value our performance, even in menial tasks, rather than being entertained by work. But remember, Gustavo turned out to be a dedicated worker, so it will be all right . . . hope to see you in MA –

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/24

      Hi Nancy, you say two very important things….the reason a summer job is so important is that they have to learn the basics and sometimes learn why they need to set their goals to something they love to do. It also can be frustrating and sometimes humiliating. I didn’t mention in the post that I got fired from a weekend job at a shoe store in Newton (The Barn) for goofing off on the job. I think I thought I was a cool college student and smarter than everyone else, and I was not taking the job seriously. After a week, they fired me. I also had a terrible job making crepes at the Magic Pan. That was an afternoon duty on weekends given to the lowest person on the totem pole at the restaurant and I was terrible at it. My sister worked nights at McDonalds and one time the milkshake machine exploded on her and she came home covered with sticky milkshake makings. And the second point you make that is very important is that my husband Gustavo, who never worked a summer job, is the hardest working person I know. He loves his work and dedicates himself almost 24/7 — so there may be some hope for my son.

      Reply
  7. Lin Celoni
    2014/07/23

    Oh my goodness I remember those days in California with my two daughters! Everyone just trying to be part of the group – any group. All I can say is Bless Your Heart. I am in the South now and soooo much more comfortable.

    Reply
  8. Joan Schmelzle
    2014/07/23

    Ah teenagers!!! I never had any of my own, and most of my nieces, nephews, and now their off-spring (my “greats”) always lived too far away for me to experience them much first hand. However, my 45 years and who knows how many other people’s teens gave me a lot of experience watching and listening to them. (At times a teacher in a publications class can become invisible as long as she sits at her desk!) And I knew lots of parents well enough to hear similar stories to yours. Can’t say I ever learned the U.S. version of the C word from them, but I must admit to learning the U.S. version of the M word rather handily.
    But, not to be misunderstood, I loved what I did all those years. As I said ” Ah teenagers!”

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/24

      I think you must have been an amazing teacher Joan and your students must have loved you. I imagine you were great with teens and important figure in their lives.

      Reply
  9. Pauline
    2014/07/23

    I love it when you write about your family! Enjoy America and the gorgeous summer we’ve been having! Actually, I’m not sure about other parts of the continent, but it’s been stellar here in Toronto. Lastly, I’m going to visit Boston over Labor Day weekend, so you can expect an email from me asking for a local’s recommendation of food to eat and places to try! :)

    Reply
  10. Kathy
    2014/07/24

    This is sooooo funny. I love the description of the line at the water park and the tattooed and pierced Italian kids making out and swearing. It’s exactly the same here. They’re pierced, tattooed, swear, snog in inappropriate places and also exclaim ‘what the ‘f’ are you looking at’. Borders are meaningless. So is language. These type of kids exist everywhere – much to my conservative Australian mother horror!

    There are also the beautiful ones who are still untattooed or pierced and revel in the joy of being kids. When I was in Rome last October with my then 13 year old son we went to the Capitoline Museums and came upon a school group on a field trip. My son quickly blended in with the group. He was dressed in clothes that were very similar, he was the same height – he just didn’t speak Italian – and the kids soon realised this as they were asking him about his t-shirt but disappointingly, he couldn’t reply. One of the exhibits was similar to a kids’ playground ‘see-saw’ and a bunch of the Italian kids sat on one side and some on the other. They realised they needed an extra body to make this thing work so they called my son over to sit with them, using gestures as well as words. They were soon all laughing and mucking around while this equipment bounced them up and down. My son had no Italian and no way of talking to these kids but was having the time of his life with them. Their teacher soon called them away and they all said ‘ciao’ to Sam and were gone.

    Teenagers are such a confusing bunch with their own rules and codes but that’s one of my happiest memories of Rome – my son being an Italian teenager and belonging for just a few fleeting minutes and those lovely kids welcoming him as one of their own.

    Thanks for the huge laugh, Trisha!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/24

      Kathy – You are so great at seeing the positive side of things! What a lovely story about Sam in the Capitoline Museums. I met Sam too and he is a great kid. I think it is an indication of what a terrific Mom he has. Anyway, we all know it is not easy being Moms of teenagers, but they do grow up.

      Reply
  11. Elizabeth Minchilli
    2014/07/24

    hahahahah! I have so been there, done that. Including that very slide and that very same experience of water up my nose. Soooooo glad that part is over. By the way? Both my girls spent this past summer as waitresses. It was hard, but I won out!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/24

      Wow — you got your daughters to work as waitresses? In the US I imagine. How did you win that battle, you must teach me your trick because I am bound and determined that I will win next summer.

      Reply
  12. Tom Lansner
    2014/07/24

    Summertime blues? Kids of course want the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny version…. especially if they need not buy it with their own money… Only solution is to go to a cold place…perhaps ‘chillax’ in Chile in the northern summer! And thanks for the photo… I immediately thought, ‘what a fine looking beach!!!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/25

      Well, we are going to the Italian Alps in August, so the bikini problem is resolved. I think that photo has upped my blog readership significantly. I will repeat again for anyone who is reading, that I got that photo of internet, it is not the bottom of anyone I know. I simply googled “Brazilian Bikini Bottom” and chose a photo.

      Reply
  13. Ciao Chow Linda
    2014/07/25

    I was laughing like crazy reading this and so glad I’m finished with that part of parenthood. I have to say, if i were a teenage girl in Italy, I’d probably be wearing one of those Brazilians too. I noticed a lot of them on the beaches in Puglia recently – even among women over 60. They do look nice when you’ve got a great butt like in the photo, but on a 65 year old? Not so much. I felt like an old granny in my one-piece. There’s such a dichotomy at work in Italy. On the one hand, it’s “let it all hang out” on the beaches, even if you’re 65, and yet, so many women have breast implants, “fish” lips, to try to attain a youthful appearance, even though it can look grotesque so much of the time. what a mixed signal to send to kids (and all women). But to the subject of your daughter, just be glad it is just a bathing suit that’s the issue. At least she’s not having body piercings or tatoos (yet). By the way, how does Chiara feel about your writing all this?

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/25

      Thank you Linda for your comment. Dealing with teenagers is a stage that so many of us pass through and I should not be complaining. As you say, it could be worse. No tattoos yet. I didn’t mention that my son went on and end-of-highschool eurorail pass trip with a group of friends last summer and managed to get a stud earring in some weird part of his ear. Of course he didn’t care for it properly and it got infected and he had to take it out and let is close up. My husband and I were relieved that we did not have to be involved in that one– it resolved itself without any arguments with us. As far as women in Italy are concerned, I am highly aware of that pressure on women to be beautiful as they age and the destruction that some women do to their own bodies with the silicon that results in the “fish lips”, or absurdly large breasts. It is hard for women to age gracefully. You asked if my daughter and seen my post. No, none of my children has. They generally don’t read my posts, although they are free to. I don’t hide them. But I do hope you noticed my postscript that the photo is not of one of my daughters or my son’s girlfriend. Several people didn’t reach the postscript and thought I might be posting a photo of my daughter’s rear end. I would never do that.

      Reply
  14. Chris
    2014/07/25

    I wish all that Zumba would do that for me! Please feel free to keep on top of any teenagers under the roof at Lincoln. I’ll be there to back you up soon. Maybe we can have a competition for most conservative swim suit…

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/25

      Can’t wait until you get here Chris…definitely up for the most conservative swimsuit contest!!!

      Reply
  15. Debra Kolkka
    2014/07/28

    I had school holiday jobs and I insisted that my son did. I think it is great experience in dealing with money and learning a bit of responsibility and I think it is time Italian kids stepped up. I don’t know any Italian teenagers who have part time jobs. I have asked a couple that I know and they just look at me as though I have grown another head. They have no idea what I am talking about. Most Australian kids have part time jobs as soon as they are old enough because they want to have a bit of independence.
    I guess Italy is just different.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/28

      Yes, you are totally right. Working college students is not an Italian tradition…I should probably learn to go with the flow since I live in Italy, but it goes against all my instincts.

      Reply
  16. Debra Kolkka
    2014/07/28

    I forgot something…I wish my bottom looked like the one in your photo at the top.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/28

      yeah, well I wish mine did too!! But as I said, I stole the photo off the internet…probably has been touched-up a bit!

      Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/07/28

      Yeah, well I wish mine did too, but I am well past those days. Anyway, I stole that photo off the internet, it had probably been photo-shopped.

      Reply
  17. Debra Kolkka
    2014/07/28

    I forgot something…I wish my bottom looked like the one in your photo at the top. It may have once, but that was a long time ago.

    Reply
  18. Alessandra
    2014/08/22

    Great piece! Trisha,hai fatto ridere, e a tratti sorridere, una romana che ha vissuto per tre anni in New England e ora in DC…e non si spiega perché il costume intero vada così tanto per la maggiore da queste parti!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/08/24

      Thank you Alessandra!!

      Reply

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