June 18, 2008

It costs to be beautiful

I have never given a moment’s thought to my lack of resemblance to Monica Bellucci. In spite of having lived in Europe since 1986 (most of that time in Italy but eight years in Southern France) I don’t think Italian standards of beauty, or even bella figura, have a lot to do with me. Okay, I carry an Italian passport. Okay, Italy has more UNESCO-certified treasures than any other country in the world, meaning that the culture here knows a thing or two about beauty. Okay, Italian women spend more per capita on clothes, gold jewelry, watches, and furs than anyone else, so they have every reason to look better than the unfortunate mortals who were not born Italian. Bella figura permeates society, male and female alike. That’s why fashion designers wield such power here. That’s why women (and men!) generally take great pains with their appearance, even when going to the supermarket or walking their dog.