How to Fit In: The Italian Family You Married Into


  1. Double kiss everyone. All the time: This shouldn’t be hard to get accustomed to considering you’re probably pretty fashionable and/or those you know happen to run in fashion circles. And they’ve all been fairing la bise since Paris exploded with fashion in the mid-to-late 1700s. In short, you know how to do it so don’t get awkward on the new famiglia and fuck it up. Start to the left.
  2. Be nice to Nonna. And how could you not? All she really wants for the remainder of her life is to sit and watch her family eat, grow, be merry and eat some more. And I’m not kidding, this is not a cliché: she will tell you to mangia and you don’t want her to think you’re high maintenance so be prepared to dig in. I learned my lesson early on in the girlfriend years when I arrived for a family function on a derivative of the Wild Rose cleanse. Yah, no. Don’t worry, she’ll think you’re ladylike (not food-compulsive) when you ask for the teensiest portion of risotto. I mean, there are still like three more courses!? A girl has to have some boundaries.
  3. Drink the homemade wine. It’s awful, okay? Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Ten out of ten times, normal wine is better than homemade but a lot of effort goes into these batches, so have a sip and smile. “It’s really good,” you should nod and agree as you quietly suppress your right eye from squinting into oblivion.
  4. Help clean up after dinner. I don’t feel obligated to do this as a woman, I feel obligated as a human being. What I will give you is the truth; the women do clean and the men do play poker so you can pitch in and turn a blind eye (let’s face it you’re not changing decades of engrained routine) or you can stand in the corner and scowl at the exchange of plastic chips and big belly laughs. That’s right, being a bitch when you’re not with your own family is never a good look. Save that special you for Mum and Dad.
  5. Talk about your own European heritage. Chances are you’re probably not a caker marrying into an Italian family. It just doesn’t happen like that: first generation North Americans find each other. “Where are your parents from?” You know you’ve been there and if you are indeed first generation, I’m pretty sure you weren’t looking for a guy with roots in like, Barrie, Ontario. Talk about your parents coming over on the boat – they love it.
  6. Get in on the -isms. “MDF” or “morte di fame” – for desperate, greedy types – and other such Italian inside jokes will become known to you over the course of time. If you’re planning a (very untraditional, very unItalian) wedding, the amount of family smack talk you’ll endure from all angles will be epic, so know these -isms and use them with the right people when appropriate. Look, you’re starting to fit in!
  7. Procreate. It all comes back to Nonna in the end, doesn’t it? She wants you guys to have babies and you know you’re waiting a while but indulge her: “Someday soon, Nonna,” you should reply under your breath. She might not understand you but she appreciates the small acknowledgment that one day, you’ll contribute to her bloodline. And on a side note, be wary of your sartorial silhouettes – baggy up top and tight on the bottom is lost on Nonna and she will ask you (every time) if you’re with child. Again, “someday soon.” That’s all she wants to hear.

If you follow the above st–

–“Sal-UT!” the portly uncle whose name you can’t remember interjects from across the room. Raise your glass of homemade red as you silently toast yourself to a flawlessly executed, newly- appropriated Italian family gathering.

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image – The Sopranos