Stellas.

 

(Previously on The War Bride: narrator watches a 4-hour Emma miniseries, experiences a moment of clarity.)

I have good, reliable friends. Smart, too. The kind of smart you trust will tell you if you’re deluding yourself.

No need for the bullet list now. Let’s go straight to the main course.

Two girls named Stella.

(The overabundance of Stellas isn’t anything to write home about, per se. Were they male instead of female, we’d be facing an overabundance of Fabios. Funny how first names can rise up and dominate a generation only to be regarded as quaint little artifacts ten years down the line.)

(But we’re not majoring in dude history here. So bear with me.)

Stella One is married, living abroad, and older – but not that much.

Stella Two is half of a lovable twosome, living in Italy, and younger – but not that much.

Each Stella knows about the Other Stella. They never met.

As it happens, though, they share an uber-feminist take on popular culture, a mate who worships the ground they walk on, an enviable grasp on current events, a warm, easy way with words and an uncanny ability to balance any household chore with a career in traditionally male-dominated fields. If 2012 brings us even a fraction of the disasters we fear will strike, and the only people in the northern hemisphere that manage to survive are the Stellas, in a couple weeks electricity’d be up and running again. I love them dearly.

Let’s see what they made of my situation, as of last week.

Stella One:

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but panic’s a sneaky fucker, therefore its trigger will change as it pleases. Just sayin’.”

Stella Two:

“You’re so bothered by our political situation because you don’t have a man. I’ve got a man, see what I care.” (sips tea; inhales, exhales; looks me dead in the eyes) “Yeah, you’re pretty much doomed to carry your unhappiness along, no matter where you move.”

It’s all in good faith, and the sentiment is appreciated, but I wonder why all of a sudden everyone decided that “unadulterated honesty” is where it’s at. Was there a big girlfriend convention while I was gone? Was it called Sorry If I Hit A Nerve?

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Marriageability.

(Previously on The War Bride: female narrator gets out of a country she hates, only to discover she can’t function in a normal environment; opts for a strategic retreat, starts wondering if that’s all there is.)

I’ve seen the Ibiza thing happen in other people’s lives.

Heather, the lead in Irvine Welsh’s “The Undefeated”, chooses the very same spot for her first break from an unhappy home life, but she can barely leave her hotel room: while her friend Marie seems pretty happy “swanning around the bars in San Antonio”, Heather spends a horrifying week as a shut-in, alternatively berating herself for the failure of her marriage and bawling her eyes out. She flies home earlier, determined to ride it out, but she knows a vacation was not the wisest choice as far as The Rest Of Her Life is concerned.

I pored over Welsh’s novels in my early twenties, hoping to feel, uh, chemically in tune with someone who employed the same recreational tools I did. In the end, what really stuck was the loneliness of a single woman. Fancy that.

I started thinking about it as I headed home again. It’s an old question.

Do feel lonely, or are you alone?

I’m not truly alone – I failed in securing a mate, but I was blessed in the friends department. (Granted, most of them didn’t know me when all I hoped was to spontaneously combust, but some people who had known me for 10+ years still took me back – turns out they did want me to get help, but were afraid they’d fare much worse with an intervention. Can’t blame them on this one.)

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Panic attacks: a history.

Ibiza lasted less than 48 hours.

And now that we’ve got the suspence out of the way, let’s proceed.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my stay in AA, is that you should always plan an escape route.
This very bit of common sense is supposed to make yourself feel better about facing social gatherings without a drink in your hand, and it does. Which is why you might be tempted to boil it down to something like “never attend a party in an isolated location without a fully charged mobile, a bona fide chaperone, a list of excuses for disappearing, an overabundance of cab fare, a .45 and a shovel”.
But it also comes with a sliver of abstract truth in it: no matter where you go, you’re bound to be fucked over again and again and again.

Many missteps were made during the planning of the trip.
First of all, I trusted a network of acquaintances over photographic evidence, and I found myself in quite an undesirable situation.
You’ll understand why I’m wary of whipping out details in a blog post – suffice it to say, there was no way I could live there for five weeks.
Second, I assumed that the sheer newness of a place was worth any possible discomfort, if only for the experience points.
I underestimated my need for comfort.
“Comfort” has become such a bad word lately – maybe because we’ve come to associate “comfort” with “luxury”, “overspending”, “narcissism” or, Heaven forbid, “bling”. (Textbook Depression mentality, if you ask me, but the next couple posts will prove how much of a Regent junkie I am, so there we go.) It’s a slippery path: if you’re not willing to make a few changes, you’ll never experience the pleasure of roughing it out; if you can’t rough it out, you’re bound to get over-attached to material items, never enjoying any peace of mind; and if you can’t deal with the healing powers of poverty, then you better take your ungrateful ass home. (Spoiler alert: why, yes, I did. But hear me out.)
Third, the world’s grittiest display of disposable-camera pictures would have never prepared me to the ugliness that we call Ibiza Town.
The first waves of anxiety hit me exactly 24 hours after landing.

And now, our feature presentation.
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Drugged-up wandering suicidal search of the self fuck-ups don’t have families.

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For the past six weeks, I had a date and a note that said thisistheday.

I’m leaving tomorrow.

For the next five weeks, I’ll be staying in Ibiza.

Ibiza (noun): Mediterranean island, home for the past 40-odd years to an assortment of burnouts, hippies, acid casualties, club fiends, weekend scenesters, aimless people, directionless people. And supposedly James Blunt.

I’m looking forward to all that.

Reasons to try it on: out-of-season vacation spots always had a powerful hold on me; obvious semi-historic appeal, check; the only people living there in Nov./Dec. must be truly committed to the island, capable of dealing with a semi-regular job aside from summery delights, very keen on the peace-and-quiet element, or insane.

Prep work: Italian HMO card should work fine for emergencies (thanks to the T.E.A.M – Tessera Europea Assicurazione Malattia); medical checkups confirmed I’m good to go; Euro-valid ATM card was obtained in five minutes, tops.

Morale-boosting pre-move move: finally got around to replacing broken eyeglasses; the haircut is down to what it was supposed to be in the first place; this morning I caught a look in the mirror and went all “goodness, I’m a passable hot boy. Only my gender gives me away”.

Oh, and my landlord is a trumpet player. Figure that out, you lucky so-and-so.

 

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Rules of engagement.

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Well well well.

It’s been a while, and I’m really sorry – got caught up in that big ol’ pile of Things You Should Do Before A Trip (which in my case included getting your eyesight checked and getting an Unintentional Shauna O’Brien haircut – draw your own conclusions).

I think it’d be wise of me to start explaining a few guidelines for what I’m about to do.

So, join me in the FAQ Master List.

——–

Why are you leaving?

See here. (And here, if you’re up for some nation/gender moping.)

How long will you be traveling around?

At the very least, I’ll be on the move until late 2010. By then, I hope, I’ll have landed on a better planet. Some place I feel ok living in for a couple years, if not until the day I die. Also – I’m not planning on meeting my uber-fabulous maker soon.

How long will you stay in a single place?

Depends. One-two months’ stays are probably the best fit for me: just enough to get a feel of different cities and neighborhoods, without beating yourself up too much if things turn out to be less than ideal.

How many countries will you visit?

I’m curious about it myself.

…Huh?

I’ve made a list of places and cities to spin, but I’m trying to be a c’mon-will-it-kill-you-to-broaden-your-horizons-just-a-little gal here – so, while I’ll watch out for anything that might pop up, say, in Barcelona, Portland or Brighton, I’ll also let fate decide for me. When it can be bothered to intervene.

Fate.

Dude, I know.

How are you going to support yourself?

Glad you asked. Money’s an obvious issue here – international travel is way cheaper than it used to be, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take budget into consideration. (And no, I am not living off a trust fund.)

That said, I’ve saved up enough for an ok year – this means subletting an apartment when/where I can, a single room when/where I can’t, keeping up with the freelance work (the past couple of years I’ve been hired by Rolling Stone, Wired and a number of local magazines) and at least taking into consideration any steady gig that won’t force me to get back in Italy.

I also swore to my agent I’ll be done with Novel Number Two by the end of May. So.

And I do work from home, so I’ll tend to avoid what we like to call “the Erasmus kiss of death”. (As far as I understand, ageism is serious business in several metropolitan areas, so it’s not like I’ll be breaking any hearts here.)

Will you be able to come and go as you please? Seriously?

The subtle beauty of being a UE citizen lies in not having to fill out a gazillion forms. Most of the time. Any visit to the US falls under the Visa Waiver program: should I opt for a 3-month-plus stay, I’ll have to apply for a tourist visa. (Also: Latin American countries follow different rules, but right now the chances of me successfully negotiating a Buenos Aires sublet online are pretty slim.)

Hey, I live in an interesting city/town/village/’hood/hole in the wall, I think you should give it a try.

Drop me a line: violettabellocchio at gmail dot com

Anything else?

I’ll be applying for a couple artists’ residencies here and there: getting in is a whole other matter, so I won’t be placing all my eggs of ZOMG stability in that basket, thank you.

I’m questioning your badassness.

Don’t.

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s ON.

stealthdisco1

Found on choiresicha.com - do not sue.

Hey y’all,

just a quick update for today – I finally found a place to stay for my first foray into self-exile.

Destination: Spain.

Exact location: will be revealed only after my friends stop laughing at me.

Will be posting the Master List of Rules and Regulations on Friday – that should help explaining just how I’m doing it, with “it” being “travelling around for 14 months in search of a new country to live”.

Until then – I am so happy. I am.

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Pet and/or cattle (I should not be blogging right now)

So.

I should not be blogging right now because I spent the whole morning trying to get paid for work I’ve done in the past three months.

I should not be blogging because when your head hits a ceiling made of anger, frustration and sheer loneliness, you should turn to useful things like taking a walk or making a sandwich for your blind neighbour. Nice, mature, gender-approved and age-appropriate things.

What I am doing is blogging. Bear with me.

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If you’re a girl, and you’re born in Italy, there’s two career paths you can take.

Pet.

Find rich guy

Date rich guy

Live with / Marry rich guy

Aaaand you’re set.

(Pet /2: land influential boyfriend/lover that will take care of your professional future. No. Different. At all.)

Cattle

Hope you won’t die today.

And that is all.

(And this, apparently, is how an entire nation becomes a plotline from “Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso“. Can’t vouch for that, but I’m afraid the reference’s spot on.)

A jilted boyfriend can – and probably will – kill you out of spite. Any male relative can beat you up until he damn well pleases. And now, you might want to check out some stats – Italian text only, ’cause we sure don’t want other people to find out how bad things are going around here.

Despite that, the public debate on women seems to have narrowed down to a parade of talk show hosts asking, “Scantily clad babes on our TV screens: Yes or No?”. (Think about “Even Stevphen“. Then take it down a few notches.)

So you protect yourself any way you can.

Money. Doors. Marriage. Lack of eye contact. Earplugs. More money.

I’m tired of making myself invisible so that pretty please maybe I get to come home safe.  I’m tired of hiding.

And I can hide behind anything – long hair, oversized clothing, displacement, old tricks, cigarettes, bouts of laziness, workaholism, not leaving the house, claiming I’m short on cash or hope, saying I’m too old for it anyway.

My parents tried to make an convincing argument out of the whole “oh noes, if you move away we’ll never get to see you anymore” (true), but they also said, “with an itty bitty bit of luck you can find someone here, too”.

Not true.

Guys, I can’t fall in love with you when I hate this country so much.

Provided there is someone ok out there, I won’t even see him.

I can’t get over the fact that, to me, Italian men and Italy are one and the same. That I resent you for never noticing bruises on a co-worker, always leaving things alone, always hiding behind your own alibis for not stepping up. Always pretending you weren’t there when atrocious, uber-anti-woman laws were being debated. So fuck you, nice, ineffectual boys who never say (let alone do) a thing about sexual harassment in the workplace. Witty, cultured boys who make “oh, you slimmed down” jokes to girls and *know* they’ll totally get away with that. Boys who still think they’re too young to vote. Boys who never take a stand. Boys that still think being boys will let them get away with anything.

But fuck me for thinking there was no rush when everyone else was pairing up, and fuck me for being deluded enough to think being a girl would let me get away with anything, and fuck me for getting sober when chances I’d ever be able to touch someone without getting smashed first looked slim to none, and fuck me for not doing it sooner, because, really, did I have to bat my eyes and hide behind my oh, I’d be lost without my native language fan until it was too late to change a single thing?

Yeah, you might see where I’m coming from.

And I don’t love myself for turning my back to this desperate, sick country, but fuck if it isn’t my last chance to save myself. To find out if I can even function in any environment that resembles normalcy.

If I don’t feel ok with who I am, I can’t fall in love.

If I don’t fall in love, I can’t really stick around in a relationship

(ed: I might still start one, but chances are I’ll bolt in two months’ time and/or start feigning panic attacks –  btw, if you’re reading this and I dated you in my twenties – er. sorry about that.)

If I don’t stick around in a relationship, I’ll forget  the reason I’m doing this.

And if it all sounds a little too Saving Private Ryan-ish for your tastes – there’s nothing I can do about it. Sorry.

—–

So, before I turn into a female dude from Gogol Bordello and start spouting ancient wisdom that doesn’t make a lick of sense, I’ll leave me with two words of advice:

This is where you came from.

Don’t let it fuck you up more than it already did.

—–

(coming up next: Let’s get down to details: travel itineraries, savings, visas and short-term plans.)

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