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thought i was a donut, ya tried to glaze me


from the vault

I posted this on my special Rome blog nearly 2 years ago (!).

I'm half Italian. I am proud of my heritage, although I''ll admit that, coming from a mostly Irish neighborhood, growing up I may have have embraced my other half more. I guess it was just easier for me to embrace the "Kathleen" in me, that 50% that looks forward to both of my St. Paddy's Days, puts an IRL sticker on my car, and sings along to "Celtic Symphony" with actual passion. You could say I might have been denying my other half when I would occasionally make fun of the guidos in Howard Beach, make fun of my mom's accent that only appears when she goes to the old neighborhood or to Ragtime, and horribly mangle any word in Italian. It helps that English is the official language of Ireland.

It didn't matter, though, how much I've denied my Italian half--it's hard to hide the hair. No, I don't mean my long, luscious, naturally highlighted hair (can I brag, just this once?)--I'm talking about the hairy arms, the hairy legs, and good Lord, the facial hair. I knew Jolene was more than just a Dolly Parton song at too young of an age; I came home crying when kids would call me Mustachio McHonan; my legs were hairy at the age of 5; and people would flat out say to me "Oh, did you know you have a mustache?", like I had no idea. I've gotten myself into lots of messes trying to hide the Maria Lucia in me--always very dangerous stories that I won't put on this blog, for my own pride. I spent years praying to trade this hair for some freckles, like all the other kids I knew. Freckles were cute. Body hair was not.

I remember being 7 years old, running into my house crying because some kids on the block were teasing my hairy arms. "Your arms are hairier than mine!" some boys said. "You look like a gorilla!" said another. Their descriptions were spot on, but come on. I was extremely sensitive, and had nothing to reply back with, so I cried down the street into my living room, where my mom was sitting, watching TV.

"Mommmmyyyy" I cried, collapsing into her own hairy arms, the only place I truly felt
accepted. "All the kids are making fun of my hairy arms!"

"Oh, Katie. Your hairy arms are beautiful."

What the hell? I thought.

"They're not beautiful."

"Well, maybe not here. But in Italy, all the most beautiful women have hairy arms. If you don't have hairy arms, you're ugly."

"But I don't live in Italy!"

"But maybe one day you will. Or maybe one day you'll visit it and you'll see that the most beautiful women look just like you."

I stopped crying and actually smiled. I felt better, if only for a little while. I still lived where I lived, I was still 7 years old, and kids were still kids.
But I did dream of one day visiting the motherland, where I could see people just like me who weren't ashamed of their heritage or what it came out like on the outside.

Today I got my letter of acceptance for Rome. A whole month, away from home, in a new city, trying something completely outside of myself--it's pretty exciting. I don't even know what to expect. I'm looking forward to so much in my 30 days that I can't even begin to think of what it's going to be like. The sights, the sounds, the food, the nightlife, the history and,oh, yea, that class I'm taking--I'm looking forward to it all.

But what I'm most looking forward to is finding out if my mom was right, 13 years ago, when I was a lot younger and more impressionable. If my mom tried to tell me that now, I'd probably call her a liar. But back then, I took comfort in knowing there was a country full of people like me. I've been waiting for this hairy homecoming since I was 7 years old. I'm going be pretty pissed if I land in Rome and find a bunch of hairless Italian women walking through the streets.

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I wonder if my writing has even improved?