January 30, 2013

Italian Perspective

Negative 10° Celsius. Fourteen degrees Fahrenheit. This is how the spring semester at Dickinson began. I probably have never been this freezing cold in my entire life, even though in Italy we have four regular seasons and get really cold winters. I’m wearing layers over layers of clothes and still this bitter North Pole-like wind manages to find its way to my face and whips it with sadistic pleasure. Alas, I can only share my feelings with my fellow international students; apparently, you Americans have some kind of special genes in your DNA that prevents you from feeling what we feel.

In spite of the cold weather, I’ve seen American girls going to the gym wearing leggings that leave their calves completely exposed. I’ve seen American guys in t-shirts making their way to class. I just walk past them with my eyes tearing due to the cold breeze.

Another typical template of this supernatural American resistance to very low temperatures is the line at Alibi’s on Friday and Saturday nights. There are no jackets around whatsoever, except for my international friends’ and mine. It’s not that we don’t pregame and warm up before going out; no matter how many shots I gulp, if I don’t wear a jacket outside I wake up the next morning with my nose stuffed and my throat sore. I’ve heard no complaints of that sort from Americans. In Italy, we’d rather keep some change in our pockets and pay 3€ to check our coats at a club. If someone decides to save money and leave his or her coat in the car, chances are that he or she will be sick in bed the next day. But that’s certainly not the case with you guys.

However, even these examples are not the most shocking to me. What I really don’t understand is the apparent American allergy to blow dryers. In Europe, for your information, after washing our hair, we blow dry it. Have you ever heard of such a practice? It’s not just a womanly thing; even men with a little bit of hair use blow dryers as well, precisely because in the winter it’s too cold to go outside with wet hair without catching a bad cold. Summertime is the only logical exception to the rule. It can reach over 100° F in Bologna—if I do dry my hair, I’ll be drenched in sweat and in need of another shower. But Americans seem to not be acquainted with the existence of such electronic devices. When I studied abroad in California two years ago, my very first purchase was a blow dryer; it’s among my top ten essential belongings. My roommates asked me why and thought it was pretty bizarre. It’s California, they told me. It’s always warm—you don’t need to dry your hair.

True. But I later came to find out that it’s not just a California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Texas thing. When I traveled to Boston and Philadelphia and asked my hosts for a blow dryer, they looked at me as if they couldn’t even contemplate owing such a thing. It was as though I asked them if they had a sauna in the backyard. Only in Seattle did I find a blow dryer, though not because my American friend had one. Funnily enough, her Italian boyfriend bought it. As a result, when I’m staying over at most of my friends’ houses in the United States, I can shower only at least two or three hours before going out in order for my hair to dry properly by itself.

I take 10 to 15 minutes to blow dry my shoulder-length hair. In a year, that could mean around 30 to 40 hours of my time. I hope you guys are making good use of the time you’re saving by going outside with wet hair.