Tag Archives: Italy

Bye, bye belly

My pouch was visible when I visited Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily.

Close your eyes and visualize this: A toothpick that swallowed a lemon.

Now open them and you will see how I see myself, which is why I have decided to have tumescent liposuction today.

I’m 50 years and three days old. But the decision to do lipo didn’t just hit me because of my age. Those of you who know me have put up with me complaining about my belly for years. When I texted the news to a girlfriend in Chicago whom I’ve known since the 80s, she texted back:

“Awesome Girl!!! I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner because you never liked you (sic) “tiny pouch”. lol

I eat healthy 90 percent of the time, work out four to five days a week doing weight-bearing exercises and floor work for my abs and walk the hills of San Francisco to run errands since I have no car. I’m quite pleased with the rest of my body after dropping a dress size while researching The World’s Top Destination Spas story for Elite Traveler this spring. I can’t afford to lose anymore inches. My butt is practically non-existent. My boobs have shrunk. My pencil legs are now toothpicks. Still, my belly persists to the point where it is much larger than my ass. And everyone knows you can’t spot reduce.

What’s a girl to do?

I’m 6-foot-1, 152 pounds, reed thin. My legs are so skinny I have to get all of my boots taken in. Always have.

And I’ve always had a belly too. I’ve grown as adept at holding it in as I have at breathing.

When I was in my 20s, I popped laxatives before going on vacation to get rid of my bulge. Seven, 10, 12 at a time. Whatever it took.

By my 30s that no longer worked and I went to 90-year-old nutritionist Hermien Lee, who turned me into a lean, mean, machine.

And then came my 40s. I opted for more drastic methods such as the Master Cleanser or doing a raw diet with no alcohol for weeks at a time. Being that I’m a travel writer and part of traveling is eating then guzzling lemonade for several days at a time and not eating anything cooked can only work so long for me.

Everyone knows what a foodie I am and my stomach is a bottomless pit. The way I eat, I should be 300 pounds but I’m not because I exercise regularly — plus, I have great genes. Previously, if I needed to get my belly down, all I had to do was really watch what I ate and give up alcohol. Within 10 days, I’d be looking good enough to rock a bikini like I did in St. Tropez this summer.

Kelly E. Carter, Trina Turk bikini

I rocked this Trina Turk bikini in St. Tropez this summer, holding in my belly.

But age has a way of catching up with you.

When I returned from St. Tropez, I learned that the beau would have to endure six weeks of radiation. Before he began his treatment in September I offered to give up alcohol to support him. Oh how we both love our wine! He looked at me with the most loving eyes, for it was akin to me offering to shave my head if he lost his hair. (Thankfully THAT didn’t happen.) Outside of drinking at HBO’s Emmy party, during a business trip to South Beach and in Atlanta, where I went for a funeral, I stuck by my no-alcohol edict. After the beau’s radiation ended, his belly was gone and he was down 20 pounds. My belly still stuck out like a hump in a camel, a further indication that alcohol was not what was causing me to look four months pregnant.

During a visit to the beau’s dermatologist, I spotted a brochure for tumescent liposuction. Curious, I picked it up. I thought back to a recent lipo discussion with a retired dermatologist friend from my beau’s yacht club. He tiptoed around my situation but agreed that lipo wouldn’t be a bad thing for me. And I recalled a conversation from a couple of years ago with a friend from childhood, now a medical doctor with a weight loss clinic in L.A. She told me back then that I was the ideal candidate for lipo. The brochure in hand, I looked at these before and after photos and read when the procedure should be used, the risks, how it is performed and why a dermatologic surgeon should be used.

tumescent liposuction

Liposuction is most effective for removing localized fat deposits that do not respond to diet or exercise. It is not intended as a substitute for weight loss; rather, it is a contouring procedure, and is optimally utilized in a program of exercise and weight maintenance.

I know a lot of you reading this may look at the before picture and ask “Where’s Waldo? Where’s the fat?” Not me! I looked at the photo and said, “That’s me!” I gave the brochure to the beau, who said if that’s what I want then fine, I could have it. But, he made it clear, he thinks I have a fantastic bod. We returned for a consultation with his doctor and scheduled my procedure for Nov. 30. This gave me license to thoroughly enjoy  myself during a decadent birthday trip to Las Vegas with several girlfriends to ring in my 50th.

Now, a bon vivant like me disdains buffets but Kitty Yancey, a USA Today travel writer whose opinion I trust, assured me in an email that the new, $17 million Bacchanal Buffet at  Caesars Palace was worth it and wrote that her story in USA Today didn’t give it justice. You have to go, she implored.

So off me and my girls went for my birthday lunch. With each plate, I reminded myself that everything I was eating would be removed on Friday.

bacchanal buffet Caesars palace

After starting at Bacchanal Buffet’s seafood station, I moved on to Italy, pausing to pick up a slider during my birthday lunch at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

At Bacchanal, I took it upon myself to gorge on fresh East and West coast oysters, prawns, shrimp and grits, mussels, grilled salmon, pepperoni pizza, meatballs, sliders, French fries, chips and guacamole, Kung Pao chicken, edamame, low mein, crème brûlée and lots more. With more than 500 dishes to choose from, I couldn’t try everything – though I wanted to.

That night, my birthday dinner took place at James Beard award-winning Chef José Andrés’ Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan. I devoured cured ham from the legendary, acorn-fed, black-footed Ibérico pigs of Spain, 18-month salt-cured Serrano ham, white asparagus with idiazábal cheese, grilled skirt steak with piquillo pepper confit, traditional chicken fritters served in a shoe and so much more, knowing that it would all be gone be in just a few days.

Jaleo Las Vegas Jose Andres

My yummy birthday dinner served tapas style at Jaleo by Jose Andres in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas.

Before I left for the trip, I went clothes shopping in San Francisco for a couple of new birthday outfits since it was Black Friday.What a frustrating experience that was! I looked longingly at dresses that I knew were not right for my body type because they hugged the mid-section. I was nearly in tears as I went from one store to another, unable to find anything despite the Black Friday sales. I admit I do a pretty good job of hiding my belly. One saleswoman convinced me to try on a dress that she said would hide the belly that she couldn’t see. I wiggled into the cute red dress and her eyes nearly popped out when she saw my belly protruding like a beach ball. Oh, she said, before finding the one dress in her store that hid a belly. But I didn’t care for the dress. I told her I was having lipo in a few days and she said she looked forward to seeing me back in the store in a few months. I waddled further down Chestnut Street and into BCBG Max Azria, where I picked up this darling shirt dress that hides my pouch, and a couple of other items that would suffice.

Kelly E. Carter, Ghostbar Palms Casino

Me at Ghostbar, on the 55th floor of Palms Casino for pre-birthday drinks.

As much as I absolutely love, love, love this BCBG shirt dress, in a few months I won’t be limited to dresses that flow. Thanks to the beau and his generous birthday present. Even though he doesn’t think I need lipo, I do. And that’s what matters.

Check back later for updates.

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Filed under Aging, Beauty, Dining, Health, Las Vegas

Is it me or Spain?

Kelly E. Carter Lucy Carter Madrid

Kelly E. Carter and Lucy Carter in Madrid

Spain is one of those places that I can’t quite figure out. Most people love the country but I don’t. Someone tell me what I am for I know it is something.

My first trip to Spain was in 2004 when I was dispatched to Madrid by US Weekly magazine. Ben Affleck was in Madrid and happened to be in the midst of ending his inexplicable relationship with Jennifer Lopez. I was asked to get a comment from him and gladly obliged since it meant going to Spain, a country that everyone just seems to love.

I packed a change of clothes and off Lucy and I went in search of Ben. The assignment was only for one day and after I finished I decided, since it was a Friday, to go to Barcelona for the weekend. I had heard so much about Barna, as the locals call it, that I just had to experience it for myself. Although I enjoyed the tour around the city from atop a double decker bus and the popular tapas joint Cal Pep and drinking Claras, I wasn’t impressed.

Hoping for a different experience this time, I arranged for a three-day stay in Madrid before heading south for my spa assignment on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. My mission: to fall in love with Madrid. I was blown away by the elegance of the Hotel Villa Magna, where Lucy and I stayed in a luxurious Villa Magna Suite suite that I could live in forever. And the neighborhood had every designer store imaginable. A shopper’s dream! A visit to the Prado museum with a friend and her beau, who coincidentally were visiting from Germany, was educational and enjoyable. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Mandarin restaurant Tse Tang in the courtyard of Hotel Villa Magna so much that I ate there twice.

Yet there was still something missing. What could it be? Warmth, perhaps? Spaniards are wonderful people once you get to know them but as strangers I find that they keep their distance, don’t make eye contact and certainly don’t say “Buenos dias,” in the way that Italians greet people they don’t know with “buon giorno” when you pass them on the street. Catch a Parisian on a good day and even those snooty, chic folks will even say “Bon jour,” to a stranger.

But not the Spaniards. I discussed this topic with an American family that I met my final night in Madrid. I struck up a conversation first with the husband as we all hung out in the hotel bar watching a soccer game none of us cared about. While the patrons in the jam-packed bar rooted for Real Madrid to beat Barcelona and sang after their team won, I couldn’t help but note how the Spanish expressed tremendous passion when it came to futbol. Then why can’t they treat strangers the same way?

Or maybe it’s just me they don’t. I’m not going to give up on you Spain. I know there’s a chance for us to have a relationship at some point. When you’re ready, let me know and I’ll be back.

Hotel Villa Magna Madrid

Villa Magna Suite at the Hotel Villa Magna Suite in Madrid.

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Filed under Italy, Travel

Now that The Jet Set Pets has launched

I can’t believe that it’s been five months since I’ve updated this Eat, Drink and Pray for Love blog! Well, I have a good reason for neglecting my personal ramblings: my pet project, literally, The Jet Set Pets.

Finally, after 13 hard months, The Jet Set Pets finally launched in March. I don’t know which was more challenging: delivering the manuscript for Come to Win or building a website. Just like the hard work Venus Williams, the publisher Amistad (an imprint of Harper  Collins) and I put into Come to Win helped the book become a New York Times bestseller, I’m convinced that I have an award-winning site that wouldn’t have been possible without my biz partner/marketing guru Regina DiMartino and the rest of the terrific team.

If you haven’t checked out The Jet Set Pets yet, please do. And if you have visited, please return for the latest information for pampered pets on the go and share the link with others. The site is not only beautiful thanks to a clever icon from talented graphic artist Kimb Manson and dazzling illustration from the fabulous Marina Rankovic but functional and informative due to the brilliance of web developer Clint Crisher, who is as creative (it was his idea to perch me on the wing of the plane in the illustration) as he is on top of the latest in web design.

I know this reads like I’m delivering an acceptance speech — and I haven’t won anything. But I am super proud of the site, which has something for every pet lover whether your furry friend travels first class or economy, by Ferrari or bus or to St. Tropez or the local dog park. An abundance of pet-friendly travel information awaits but there’s also a Community section so pets can have virtual play dates in the Chat Room, a Forum for pet lovers to share their thoughts and a Directory that allows businesses to reach consumers and which gives back by donating part of its revenue to charities.

In time, I would like to start The Jet Set Pets Foundation to provide free and reduced-rate veterinarian services to the financially challenged.

But first, I have to continue delivering content essential to pet lovers and presented in a user-friendly way. Feel free to send comments and make suggestions on the site.

Now that The Jet Set Pets is off the ground, I hope to find time to update this blog on a regular basis once again. I love writing in the first person as much as I take delight in reading how much you enjoy my ramblings. Few editors allow me to write in the first person, my favorite style.

My pooch Lucy and I jet off to Spain on Wednesday then we’re on to France, followed by Italy, our adopted country and former residence. (I can taste the Bellinis now.) I’m sure we’ll have our usual exciting adventures, which I’ll write about in my (hopefully) usual witty fashion on this blog beginning later this week.

Check back for frequent posts, or better yet, subscribe so the posts are delivered right to your Inbox.

Hasta luego!

À tout à l’heure!

A presto!

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Filed under Books, Italy, Travel

To Italy and back in a few days

I’m back from Italy! And this time I didn’t even need my passport. You may not have even realized I was gone but I was. At least in my mind as I read Susan Pohlman’s delightful book Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home, which I just finished this morning and had to write about because I was so moved.

If you read the “postcards” I wrote when I lived in Italy then you may recall Susan. I shared her inspirational story then and continue to do so every time a parent tells me they can’t move somewhere because of their school-age kids. I point to Susan and her husband Tim, who on the spur of the moment during a business trip to Italy, made the courageous decision to give up their fast-paced lives in LA and move their daughter Katie, 15, and son Matthew, 11,  to the boot-shaped country, where life is slower and the family could reconnect.  We moved to Italy within a couple of months of each other but didn’t meet until several months later when Lucy and I stopped to visit them en route to Monte Carlo. Tim is a major player in the radio business and two of my friends in radio suggested I contact him, which I did.

Today I went back to see what I wrote about the Pohlmans (that’s Tim and Susan below on ONE of the three terraces in their apartment in Nervi, Italy)  in Postcard 7, dated March 25, 2004, and found this:

I spent the night in the small town of Nervi at the Pohlman’s, an American couple who moved to Italy from suburban L.A. last year. A couple of you guys put me in contact with them. You might recall I was going to meet them last fall but I never did make it as our schedules conflicted. I’m glad I finally got to meet them as they are so inspiring. Their story: a husband is on a business trip in Santa Margherita, which is on the Italian Riviera and near Portofino. His wife is with him. As they relaxed by the hotel pool they said, wouldn’t it be nice to move here. They both agreed and said, but what about the kids. They asked the pool man if there was an American school nearby and he said yes and told them where it was. The wife has a master’s in education and grilled the schoolmaster. Convinced that their kids could receive a proper education they wondered where they would live. They went to a nearby real estate agency and were shown a fabulous, and I do mean incredible, three bedroom, three-bathroom, rooftop apartment with three terraces facing the sea. They had to decide that day whether to take the apartment because other people were interested. They signed the rental papers, which were written in Italian, not even knowing what they were signing as the extent of their Italian was “Ciao.” They went home and told their kids, now age 16 and 12, that they were moving, sold their house, their furniture, their cars and the husband quit his job. Within two months they had moved to Italy. Is that incredible or what? After a torturous 6-week period to adapt to Italy (they moved in late July, there was a heat wave and their air conditioning didn’t work) the kids fell in love with their new surroundings. But not every story has a happy ending and sadly the Pohlmans have decided to return to the States in August. Like all the Americans here who don’t earn money in euros, the weak dollar is killing them. The American school costs $20,000 annually for two kids. Prices are as high as Los Angeles. They really don’t want to go but sometimes one has to be sensible when you’re talking about an entire family.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Susan had planned to tell Tim she wanted a divorce as soon as they returned from that fateful business trip. The move to Italy saved their marriage! The couple is still married today and lives in Scottsdale. I know what my two years abroad did for me personally. Multiply that by four and I know, after reading Halfway to Each Other, what it did for the entire Pohlman clan.

Of course I connected with the book because I was able to reminisce about the disorganization of Italy’s bureaucracy when it comes to things like getting a permesso di sigiorno (permit to stay), the lack of air conditioning during the horrific summer of 2003 when record-breaking heat killed thousands throughout Europe, adjusting to grocery shopping, the infamous transportation strikes, parallel parking Italian style, being reluctant to cook for Italians, and the sheer joy of waking up without the stress of being anywhere or having to do anything at any certain time. I laughed out loud while reading this book and teared up at passages relating to the simplistic beauty of tender moments the Pohlmans shared.

Because Susan is brutally honest in her book, it was educational for me, a true singleton, to read about real experiences of the joys and struggles of being married and constantly compromising. She doesn’t sugar coat what marriage or motherhood is.

Susan envies me for being so brave to move to Italy on my own (okay, so I did have Lucia too) but I marvel at what she did with a husband, a teenager and a pre-teen. It was not easy but my goodness, what an experience to savor for the rest of their lives. That family, especially Katie, was forever changed for the better.

If you’re not able to spend a year in Italy like the Pohlmans, do the next best thing and read Halfway to Each Other. You’ll swear you were there. I know I did.

Ciao!

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Filed under Books, economy, Italy, Travel

Eat Pray Love: Take Two

Count me among the over six million people to buy Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. And count me among the many who didn’t finish the  New York Times bestseller. My gold Oleg Cassini bookmark is right where I left it three years ago. On page 72.

It would seem that I, of all people, would be able to relate to Liz’s story for I too had moved to Italy on a quest. But unlike Liz, who embarked on a “search for everything” after her marriage failed, I went to eat, drink and pray for love. And she, unlike me, had a finite number of days she wanted to spend in the boot-shaped country before moving on to more serene pastures in India and Bali. I went in 2003 with the notion that I’d never leave Italy, which I ended up calling home for just two years due to the weak dollar and failure to find a Count worth marrying. Still, I was eager to read about her soul-searching journey and saved the book until a three-week sojourn to China in spring 2007. During a brief solo stay at the desolate Red Capital Ranch, where I hiked alone along a crumbling and non-restored Great Wall, I struggled to get into the book. Although I dog-eared some pages and put stars next to passages that resonated with me, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped. Finally I gave up.

I thought it was just me who couldn’t get through the book but over the past few years oodles of people, mostly writers, have confessed that they didn’t finish it either. Just before the theater lights dimmed at last night’s screening, a colleague seated nearby told me that neither she nor her boss cared for the book either. (I’m sure Liz doesn’t care any more than, say John Grisham or Dan Brown, two commendable storytellers whose prose don’t match up to their book sales.) My failure to connect with Liz’s words didn’t stop me from wanting to see Julia Roberts, whom I adore, portray the author on the big screen for in the end it is the subject that fascinates me most.

Rarely is a movie better than the book on which it was based but even those who couldn’t stomach reading Eat Pray Love should enjoy the flick. I know I did. With my recent month-long stay in Tropea and few days in Rome still fresh in my mind, I salivated at the Italian scenes. The days of dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) and outings with female ex-pats and local men were reminiscent of my time in Firenze and Positano when lengthy dinners like the one in the photo above taken in Positano were common. Brava to Julia for nailing the Italian accent and the filmmakers for capturing the essence of my adopted country. (Although I’ve never seen such chaos in trying to order a cup of coffee anywhere in Italy.) Most of the dialogue isn’t memorable and another round of editing is needed. But the acting, characters, colors and cinematography captured my attention — and made me want to book a flight abroad.

Outside of my visits to several spas, I didn’t fall in love with Bali when I visited in 2000 but maybe that’s because I didn’t meet anyone as sexy as Javier Bardem.

I’m willing to give Indonesia another try. And despite having a visa for India in my passport, I never took the trip. I’m sure I’ll get there. Some day.

And maybe one day I’ll finish reading Eat Pray Love. I promised myself I would and now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m more inclined to do so. It says something that I moved the book from my Upper East Side apartment to Harlem then to L.A. If I didn’t want it, I would have tossed it when packing my belongings for each move. When I opened the book last night after returning from the screening I found the Oleg bookmark with the words, “To be well dressed is a little like being in love.”

Two people who can attest to that are Liz Gilbert and Felipe.

Attraversiamo.

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Filed under Beauty, Dating, Dining, Fashion, Harlem, Italy, Travel, Wine

Next time I’ll ignore the little man

I’m minding my business, wearing a pink Betty Boop tank top, Levis jean mini-skirt and Target flip-flops, waiting for my take-out lunch at Viva Fresh, anxious for my first Mexican food and Bud Light Lime in several weeks due to my travels to Italy, France and Monaco. A short white man, 60ish I suppose, approaches me and says, “You’re so tall and I’m so short. How tall are you, 6-foot-2?”

“No, 6-foot-1.”

I stare down on his pink scalp and make the mistake of asking him how tall he is as I try to pass the time while waiting for my food and the U.S. World Cup team to score against Ghana.

“5-foot-4,” he says, obviously pleased that I didn’t tell him to go f&^* himself.  “I used to be 5-foot-7 but you shrink as you get older.”

“So I guess I’ll end up 5-foot-10 at some point,” I say with a laugh.

Then he tells me that he dates a sister and that she’s out of town. I remind him of her, he says.

“Oh, is she 6-foot-1?” I ask.

“No, but she’s a sista,” he says.

As if I hadn’t heard him the first time. Now it was time to ignore him and turn away, as I should have done in the first place.

I’m sure the Black girlfriend does not exist. It was the little man’s way of letting me know he’s available and open to Black women should I decide to step down to his level.  Or am I just jumping to conclusions?

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Filed under Dating, Dining, Italy, race, Sports

How I (Never) Met Your Mother

I know some of you envy me for being able to enjoy a six-week holiday in Europe but at times it was torture. It’s like finding the ideal mate and knowing you only have a limited amount of time together. When I told friends I was going to Italy for a month, they wondered if I’d return. Well, sadly I did. I’m back in L.A., though more determined than ever to find a way to become an ex-pat once again.

Walking down cobblestone streets in Rome’s Trastevere section or through Tropea’s narrow streets and gazing at the bluish/green sea while lounging on the beach in Tropea stirred my desire to once again become a resident of the boot-shaped country. Not that the yearning ever left me after returning in 2005. I’m so fond of Italy’s small towns that I envision myself teaching English in a medieval village while continuing to write. I even brought up the topic with a couple of residents of Tropea, where I was welcomed like a local but don’t think is the place for me, and was encouraged by their responses. I realize money is tight in small southern towns like Tropea so while parents may wish for their children speak English, being able to hire someone to teach them is another matter.

Spending my last night in Italy with five ex-pats and one hopeful at a charming enoteca near the Colosseo, or Colosseum, was the ideal way to end my sojourn. Perhaps through osmosis, the will, courage and spirit of these fantastic women (as well as my other ex-pats friends like Layne and Elizabeth, who couldn’t make the girls’ night out, ex-pat gathering) will inspire me to get my butt in gear. The euro is a bit kinder to the dollar than in 2005 when I was forced to pack my bags after 26 months in Italy. However, one still takes quite a beating earning in U.S. dollars and spending in euro, which is why I need to focus on making euros. A report released by Manpower Inc. the other day listed Italy among four countries with a negative employment outlook. (Greece, Ireland and Spain are the others.) But I can’t let depressing statistics, or reality, deter me. Layne, whom I met when we both lived in Florence in 2003, recently landed a job as an international attorney at Fendi. So there!

Plus, the women I hung out with Tuesday night, some new acquaintances and others old friends, are positive examples of how ex-pats can make it work even if they don’t have a major fashion house signing their paycheck. I had invited the other ex-pat hopeful Lynne, whom I had met the previous night through Layne. Over bottles of Nero d’Avola, the ex-pats told me they would help me in any way they could should I decide to return. As the group dispersed (not me because I was staying for more vino and a real meal since I hadn’t eaten yet), we met a woman from Chicago and her Italian husband. This couple was a hoot and what fun I had chatting with the two of them. But it wasn’t just the laughs we shared but the seriousness of our conversation as well.

The husband told me and Lynne, who had stayed on to keep me company, how he encouraged his Caucasian wife to introduce herself to us when he saw our group, which consisted of six women of color and one Caucasian, because he had never laid eyes on a collection of beautiful, sophisticated black women in Italy.

Sadly, too often the image of women of color in Italy is of us as a puntana, or prostitute, in Naples. We offer nothing except sex. And it’s constantly reinforced. On Layne’s seven-hour bus ride from Tropea to Rome, she was appalled by a movie about a Senegalese family that moves to Italy. The African wife/mother begins an affair with a married Italian man. She’s shown nude, moaning and screaming during their multiple sexcapades. And this was shown on an early morning bus ride with about 15 senior citizens, who were riveted. When the Italian wife learns of the affair, her family tells that for African women, “sex is like water. They need it to live.”

It’s these kinds of stereotypes that the women I hung with last night are able to break down. And it’s not just in Italy. Four years ago I traveled solo through Croatia and met a local on the island of Hvar who told me how much my presence in his country was doing to educate Croatians about Black people for I showed that we can be intelligent, classy and professional. That country has such a bad reputation when it comes to racism that an editor of a black travel magazine wouldn’t give me an assignment about Croatia because he was reluctant to promote such a place. It turned out to be one of my best vacations.

But back to Italy and my oh-so-fab group of ex-pats that I want to join. There’s Bunmi, who is from the UK, married to a New Zealander and is the mother of two. Courtney, who is married to an Italian and approaching her second anniversary. Charmaine was divorced from an Italian when I met her several years ago but she wed another Italian about a year ago. I didn’t have a chance to ask Arlene, who moved to Italy in 2008, about her relationship status. Nancy, the lone Caucasian, dates John, an American sportswriter in Denver whom I have known since my days covering sports. Nancy and John had moved to Italy together and left due to finances shortly before I arrived in April 2003. Now she’s back and hoping John returns as planned. When living abroad is in your blood, it doesn’t leave. And there’s Lynne, who like me would like to live in Italy and is traveling solo on holiday. I wanted her to meet these women so invited her. Lynne, also like me, never can get a date and can’t figure out why.

That brings me to Paolo. Some of you have wondered what became of the Italian who fell madly in love with me on first sight and on our first date invited me to his house to meet his mother and called her on the mobile so I could speak to her. No, I didn’t meet mama but she did call me on my final night in Tropea to tell me what a pity it was that we didn’t get together and that she hopes that the next time I come to Italy that we meet. I told her that I was sorry that it didn’t happen either, even though I wanted very much to meet her.

Layne and I scream with laughter trying to figure out what happened with what looked like a promising start to something, although I wasn’t quite sure what. But something more than what I ever have going on in the States. Maybe it was my lead pencils, my vacation hair, my strong deodorant or writing “ciao amore” that put the brakes on Paolo’s fast-moving train.

Let me explain in detail:

CIAO AMORE
As you may recall Paolo, a single attorney with no kids and who I found out is 46, lives 120 kilometers from Tropea and came for a weekend to hang out with his brother and another friend, both of whom live in Rome. That’s when we met. Thanks to a mid-week holiday in Italy, Paolo returned to visit me a couple of days later.

Before he left his city he asked if he could stay overnight with me since it was a long drive back. I told him of course, but he had to sleep in the extra bedroom. He scoffed at this so I relented and told him he can sleep with me in my room but we are NOT having sex.  Once he arrived, my self-control didn’t stop me from wearing a revealing baby-doll nightie with a thong to bed because hey, a girl’s gotta feel sexy even if she has no plans to give it up on the second date. Being that he’s a man, and Italian at that, of course he brought up sex when we were in bed. (We always spoke in Italian but I’ll write in English.)

“I don’t know you well enough,” I said as to my reason why he wasn’t getting any.

“How long do I have to wait?” he replied.

“How long do you usually wait?” I asked, knowing that he had dumped his girlfriend of 10 years just three weeks prior.

No answer.

Anyway, the sex, or lack thereof, didn’t turn into an issue during his two-night stay. At least not then. Interestingly enough he brought it up after returning to his city. At his request, I emailed him photos of us and began the email “Ciao amore,” or “hello love.” He wrote me back and asked “how could I write ciao amore when nothing happened.”  For Christ’s sake! I say “ciao amore” to cute Italian babies on the street who I don’t know. Was it really that big of a deal?

And we had gotten along swimmingly during the two days together. I was thrilled to discover how health conscious he is: he works out at a gym three times a week and jogs — and I’ve taken up running because of him; we both drink soy milk and abhor cigarettes. And he’s clean. When he returned from our morning run, he washed his workout clothes in the sink and hung them out to dry. This was huge because I consider him a mammone, an Italian mama’s boy who lives at home and relies on his mother to do everything for him. He does live at home but he explained that it’s in a palazzo with five apartments on the bottom.  I can overlook this as it is not completely atypical in Italy. Plus he’s affectionate and thoughtful. We cuddled on the beach and when my iPod froze, he offered me half of his earphones so we could listen to his music while soaking up the rays.

We took in sunset from my terrace while drinking Martini Bianco, my favorite apertivo, he cooked dinner for me both nights, and when we walked Lucia at night we stopped for after dinner drinks.

In just two days my Italian improved exponentially because I took my dictionary and notepad everywhere, looked up words he used and jotted them down so I could remember them. I also looked up the word “rebound” and showed it to him as I figured he was on the rebound, which he denied since he was the one who called off the 10-year romance. During his visit, he called home to check in with his family and tell them how he cooked dinner for me. They were shocked because he NEVER cooks.

I talked to Paolo’s brother Dino (for the second time) as well as Dino’s girlfriend Gabriella. Everyone had seen my photos on my website and agreed that I was bella. Lucia was a little cautious of Paolo at first but she became his little buddy, curling up at his feet when he watched TV and staring at him as he shaved. We don’t get many men spending the night so this was an unusual activity for her.

LEAD PENCILS
When Paolo returned home, he told me his mother continued to ask when to expect me for dinner. I never received a formal invite and couldn’t take the train three hours and show up on my own. After he returned home, Paolo also repeatedly complained about the stress he was under at work and home but provided no details. While Skyping one day, he asked if I noticed how he didn’t sleep during his two-night stay with me. Sure I had, but I figured it was because of me.

My bed, which I had slept like a baby in until his arrival, squeaked with him in it. Every time he moved, it creaked. And he moved constantly because he hasn’t slept in a while. He periodically dozed off and when he did, he snored something fierce, which awakened me and pissed me off. So for two days I barely slept at night. (Earplugs don’t stay in my ears so are not an option.) Thankfully I slept fine on the beach and my ability to fall asleep anywhere on a moment’s notice became a running joke between us.

Because my bed, like most in Italy, was only a double, we slept VERY close. Okay, he wrapped his arms around me and our legs intertwined, if you need details. By the second night, he told me my legs were heavy. I pulled them away but stayed in his arms because when I rolled out of his grasp before, he asked if it was uncomfortable being in his arms. No, I like being in a headlock. No problem. Deal with my legs. Heavy, I thought to myself. My tooth pick legs? How can they be heavy? Now Layne and I jokingly call my legs the lead pencils.

STRONG DEODORANT
During another point in the middle of the night Paolo told me my perfume was strong. I was 99% asleep and therefore very proud of myself when, without thinking I need to speak in Italian, I replied, “Non ho usato perfuma.” (I didn’t use perfume.) He then made a comment about my deodorant being strong. Yeah, I wear Secret, which is strong enough for a man but made for a woman. But it’s powder-fresh scented. Strong as it may be, my underarms still smell fresh. Dude, be glad I don’t come to bed smelling like a goat.

VACATION HAIR
When Paolo initially called his mother to tell her about me, he told her that I am as tall as him and have curly hair. When he later checked out my website, he saw photos of me with longer, straight hair. He commented about the different hairstyle and said “piu bella,” telling me that I am more beautiful with long, straight hair. I replied that I agree but it’s shorter and curly now because this is my “vacation hair.” And I left it at that. I didn’t feel like explaining/couldn’t explain in Italian that I’m wearing a weave during this trip because I can’t deal with my natural hair while traveling for six weeks. I’d have to explain what happens to my natural hair when it gets wet, how I didn’t want to wear it in its natural state for six weeks because maintaining the spiral curls requires lugging around a lot of products,  define a hot comb and pressing, tell him about my aversion to creamy crack relaxers, convince him that I really do have thick, shoulder-length hair like my website shows but it is braided for now and I have some Indian chick’s hair attached to the braids. This is complicated enough to explain to a non-Black person in English, let alone an Italian in Italian.

Paolo sometimes caressed my hair and I’m sure he had to feel the tracks. But he never said anything so I adhered to the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Most black women who wear weaves impersonate a boxer by ducking and dodging when a man reaches for their hair. But not me. Go ahead, cowboy. Touch my weave. It’s not coming out and your hands aren’t going to get caught in the tracks. I am most positive Paolo never felt tracks before so he had no idea what he was feeling. Maybe he thought I had growths on my scalp and couldn’t bear to fall deeper in love with me and then lose me to some outlandish skin condition.

So it could have been the vacation hair, strong deodorant, lead pencils or “ciao amore” that kept me from meeting mama and prevented him from returning to visit me on the weekends, when I know he was free because we talked all the time. Maybe Paolo, whose is not without faults but is workable as no one is perfect, didn’t see the point of getting wrapped up in somebody who would soon depart (especially after breaking up with someone after 10 years) and doesn’t live in the moment enough like me to enjoy hanging out only for a few weeks. Although we stayed in contact daily through Skype and SMS while I was in Tropea, I was thrown for a loop when his mother got on Skype my final day.

So although I didn’t meet the mama, I return with fantastic memories of new experiences and having fallen in love – all over again with Italy. Baci!


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