1. Your mom chooses (in one way or another) your girlfriends.
Italian mothers can become extremely jealous and possessive over their sons. After the first date, they’ll enquire into how good of a cook she was, how clean and tidy her house was, and if her clothes were nicely ironed. But never say that your new girlfriend’s pasta sauce is better than your mom’s or she’ll hate her from the beginning.
2. You never stop suffering her public displays of affection.
It doesn’t matter if you are in your teens and hanging out with friends after school, or if you’re 40something and socializing with colleagues, your mum will always address you as Il mio bambino. She will hug and kiss you as if she hasn’t seen you in years, when in fact you just had lunch together.
3. You grew up eating the best food in town.
For an Italian mamma, food is more than just a basic human need; it’s religion, culture, identity and love. Every time you return home, the first thing she’ll ask you: “Have you eaten?” If your mamma offers to prepare you “a little something” to eat, you can be sure it is not a sandwich, but a freshly made seafood spaghetti, which is better than any other you can have in town.
4. You know how competitive Christmas can get.
Christmas is the most important celebration of the year for an Italian mother, and not only because of its religious values but as a culinary show-off opportunity among the various women in the family — grandmas, aunts, daughters in law. The competition is fierce, and you’ll have to prepare yourself physically and psychologically months in advance for the massive 30-course meal. They’ll start planning it in August.
5. You know the pressure never ends.
While a regular non-Italian mother will accept your decisions once you’ve become an adult, an Italian mother will make sure you are constantly under pressure about finding a good job, getting good marks at university. She’ll nag you constantly with questions like: “Have you done your homework?” (at age 21 at university) or “Why are you not at work?” (even if it’s your day off and you keep reminding her every single weekend). She cannot comprehend why you are not doing “something.” If you are relaxing one afternoon on the sofa, she’ll make sure to let you know how upset she is about seeing you idle.
6. She always takes your side…publicly anyway.
Your Italian mum may nag you, but she won’t expect you to be the best. She’ll compliment you and treat you like a hero only because you passed an exam, or because none of your marks are lower than the passing grade. In front of the other parents, she’ll publicly announce your ‘high grades’, even if it was only in Physical Education. At parent-teacher meetings, the teachers may tell your mom you don’t always finish your homework and she’ll complain that perhaps they are giving you too much homework. She’ll take your side, but once you’re home, she’ll keep nagging you about your homework.
7. Your fashion sense is taken as reflection on her failure / success as a mother.
Even if you wear mismatched colours or pants with square patterns and a shirt with stripes to go to the post office, she’ll rant for two hours about how you look like a hobo and how miserably she failed as a mother.
8. You blame her for being a “mammoni.”
Young Italians have been known around the world to be too attached to their mothers and they are infamously called ‘mammoni.’ Mothers are to blame for this!
If you, as a young professional adult, have begun openly talking about your plans to leave home, your mum will surely think you don’t want to live with her anymore and she’ll take it as a personal offense. You won’t know how she’ll react: she may get moody, very quiet or hysterical at the dinner table, worse than a jealous lover who found out you’ve cheated on her. But you can be sure that one way or another, you’ll feel like the worst human being ever for having even thought about leaving home. If you manage to overcome your guilt and you do move away from your mamma, she’ll make sure you move into an apartment not more than 3km away from her, possibly within walking distance.
9. She is your constant clothing inspector.
You can try to move out and keep away from your mamma, but even if you go hundreds of miles away, she’ll always come to see you and, during each visit, she’ll wash and iron your clothes. Then she’ll complain about the way you folded your socks and boxers. Although some might find this a bit OCD, it’s not so bad, especially if you are a young, incompetent adult male.
10. You can only leave Italy to go to the beach.
The average Italian guy will make his mum worried every time he mentions his desire to visit a new foreign city or country, and she’ll try to discourage any trip abroad. Every single place is considered hostile or unworthy.
- Me: “Mum, my friends and I are planning to visit London next month.”
Mom: “Why, what’s there you cannot find in here? People get killed there; it’s too dangerous.”
This is the same attitude for pretty much any other destination outside Italy. However, if you mention a beach destination, preferably in Italy but not necessarily, then you are excused. If you are planning a trip to Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular beach destination in southern Egypt, she’ll approve and you’ll most likely have to take her along with your wife. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though — after sunbathing for 15 hours, she’ll massage your burnt lobster-colored skin with her trusted homemade fresh tomato sauce. La mamma always knows best.