The Italian Proposal

Enrico and I maintained a long-distance relationship for over two years; he was doing his PhD at Yale, I was working in Washington, DC. At first, we saw each other about once a month, then about every three weeks, then about every two weeks… Luckily, there was an airline price war on in those days, and a roundtrip NYC-DC could be had for as little as $59 (DC-NYC cost more, I suppose because more DC residents wanted to escape to New York for the weekend than vice-versa).

We took our first vacation together in the spring of 1987. Neither of us could afford much more than airfare, so we flew to Texas and stayed with my aunt Rosie, in Coupland, about an hour’s drive outside Austin. One night we were driving back from Austin, not knowing that there had been a fatal accident on the county road the night before, and the local police were jumpy. We got pulled over because Enrico, true to his Italian heritage, was speeding. Worried about the culture clash I thought likely to ensue, and how much it might cost us, I started to get out to go around the car and talk to the nice policeman.

“Get back in that car!” he yelled. The road was very dark; he was concerned about someone driving into me. He talked to Enrico for some time, then came around to my side of the car.

“Where did he say he was from?” asked the policeman.

“He’s from Italy.”

“Well, you tell him that we don’t drive that way in Texas.” And he let us go – without a ticket.

My first visit to Italy was Christmas, 1987. I don’t now remember much about it, except being intensely frustrated that Italians, when in a group with other Italians, will not speak anything EXCEPT Italian – regardless of whether that leaves someone (me) completely out of the conversation. Which did provide motivation for me to learn Italian, though this was difficult to do well, with only weekly evening classes at the US Department of Agriculture (why the Dept. of Ag. sponsors language classes is a mystery to me, but they do, and that’s how I started).

For spring break ’88, we went to California. It was either on the flight over or the flight back that Enrico finally proposed. Well, sort of. He didn’t actually say: “Will you marry me?” or anything of the kind. What he said was: “I’d like to have children with you.”

“Uh, okay, but aren’t we missing a step?”

So we agreed to get married, at some unspecified future date.

It seems that this is not an unusual way for an Italian man to propose. Another American woman married to an Italian told me that her husband “proposed” in much the same words; they now have three lovely daughters. And Enrico and I have just had our 15th anniversary. Well, one of our two anniversaries. But that’s another story.

  1. The Italian Proposal
  2. Tanzania Surprise
  3. Coca-Cola, and an Ostrich
  4. Justice of the Peace

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