Italian women certainly seem to be happy…is it because they live their lives by La Bella Figura?
Italian women are doing something right. I say this not simply because my family is partially Italian and I feel like boasting about it, but with a divorce rate of 12% to America’s 50%, the Italian way of living, otherwise known as “La Bella Figura”, seems to be working in their favor. But what is Bella (other than a character in Twilight, of course)?
Literally translated, La Bella Figura means “the beautiful figure”. The term doesn’t just apply to looking good — although that is part of it, but feeling good and acting perfectly as well. According to Micaela Bubola Passeri, the author of For Love & Design: Love Who You Are, Love What You Wear, Love Other People Through the Clothes You Wear!, “It might be hard for us to understand, but in essence Italians take pride in the way they look, not only physically, but also figuratively and most importantly how they look in other people’s eyes. They are obsessed about making the best impression everywhere and at all times. In their minds there is a certain way that one is supposed to behave and act.This way of thinking permeates the essence of the Italian being.”
I bet you’re thinking ‘so what’? Why should I have to dress or act a certain way to please someone else? Well, you don’t. If you’re reading this and you’re appreciating my point of view, you’re an American. We think we’re dressing and acting the way we want to…but are we really? Although we may not allow La Bella Figura to dictate our fashion sense and overall presentation, we do sometimes dress to please the man in our life — just as the Italians do.
Beauty is respected in Italy, and that’s a lovely thing. Women put effort into their appearance and are beautifully turned out in glamorous gear regardless of whether they’re on a date, having dinner with a friend or simply out shopping. They are generally considered to be courteous, well-behaved and thoughtful.
As Passeri says, why shouldn’t we apply this to our dating lives as well? Is she on to something? True, looking good is part of feeling good and being the bigger person (especially when gracefully handling the blind date from hell) may feel good at the end of the day, but where does it get us?
I went on a blind date in Manhattan about five years ago where the guy in question was not only unbelievably rude, but made me pay for his coffee, as well as he blathered on arrogantly about himself. He was short, dumpy and dismissive. I so wanted to give that dorky dude a piece of my mind. Instead, we ended the evening quickly and I slunk around the corner of the coffeeshop, walked around the corner and retreated back the way I came just so he and I wouldn’t have to walk to the subway together.
I’d like to say that it was La Bella Figura that helped me to bite my tongue, but it was probably just a case of utter shock and his complete lack of manners. To this day I wish that I had slapped a $20 on the table and walked off with a casual, “Keep the change, you filthy animal” all Home Alone style. To this day I wish I hadn’t shown him one modicum of decency, that I hadn’t dressed up in a darling little NY-style summer dress, that I had held my tongue.
Sometimes, my friends, you have to say screw decorum and forget the social graces. But perhaps that’s why I’m really an American-Italian and not an actual, pure Italian donna. Forget the heels, the wrap dress, the tinkly laughter and the graceful dining skills. I’m wearing flip-flops and shorts, I sometimes laugh so loudly I cry and I will never, ever refuse to speak my mind again. The Italians can keep their La Bella Figura… I’ll live my life with l’espressione perfetta, grazie mille.