Would You Take Love Advice from an Italian Woman?

“How do you actually measure a year in your life?” writes Costanza Miriano in the provocatively entitled Marry Him and Be Submissive: Radical Advice from a Real Woman About Marriage, Love, Kids, Work, Play & Everything Else. “By dawns and dusks?…A year should be measured by the number of times you’ve put aside your own preferences so as to give yourself to another person. It’s measured in the life that you have transmitted to another person–not necessarily a son or daughter, but someone smaller than you, weaker, poorer.”

Costanza Miriano is an Italian journalist with RAI (Italian public television). Her refreshing addition to the genre of relationship advice provides what too many American books are missing: la gioia della vita.

Miriano’s Marry Him and Be Submissive: Radical Advice from a Real Woman About Marriage, Love, Kids, Work, Play & Everything Else is my second book for Rose City Reader’s 2017 European Reading ChallengeHer thoughts on love, marriage, and family life take the form of letters to her single and married friends, as follow-ups to phone conversations at wits’ end over boyfriends, husbands, or incorrigible bambini.

With large doses of humor sprinkled liberally about, she mixes the mundane with the sublime in ways that European women are particularly good at. American women often struggle with more angst than we need to in our life experiences and relationships. Her humorous takes on the irritations, opportunities, and benefits of life with men can help her American sisters to exhale.

Here is how Miriano explains her bold title (which sparked wild protests among European feminists when the Italian edition was published):

The rough edges that need smoothing down are many at the beginning [of marriage]….Unforeseeable will be his decree that it’s time to let fresh air into the bedrooms, despite the fact that it’s below zero outside….

To smooth down all these rough edges, there is only one way. You will have to learn from the advice of St. Paul and be submissive. That means, literally, as we say in Italian, sotto messo–“placed under” so as to be the support of your family. You must be its foundations. You will sustain everyone, your husband and your children, by adapting, accepting, suggesting, and sweetly engaging. It is he (or in this case she) who is below, who holds up the world, not the person who places himself above others.

Only you will be able to do this, because in your family you are the only adult woman, meaning the only one who is flexible, gentle, solid, strong, patient, and far-sighted.

Many women probably already know intuitively that they seem to have a quasi-mystical influence and strength which allow them to be that “flexible” yet “solid” bedrock for everyone–and everything–inside their homes. Recognizing and embracing that power can be a relief, and it helps to have it explained by a vivacious Italian with a way with words.

Here are a few of my favorite consigli:

“Accepting life’s rules means adhering to reality….Accepting the rules of life therefore means also accepting the truth of things; it means moving beyond your comfort zone and leaving behind your egotism, your hang-ups, and your idiosyncrasies….Joy…is an experience you begin to know when you stop measuring everything by how it affects you. This opens unimaginable horizons. You begin to live, and in living you begin to understand, because some things are understood not only through your brain but also through your hands and legs and ears.”

“As for kids, there can be no doubts. Small children are egotistical. Adorable but egotistical. Irresistible but tyrannical. Our task is to love them madly until love itself is awakened in their hearts.”

“Go ahead and get married, for goodness sake, and have children. If you don’t it makes no sense to carry on together.”

Read it outside, in summer, with a cosmo. And laugh.

(In case you’re wondering, Costanza Miriano’s book for men is called Marry Her and Die for Her.)

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