Showman from Lajatico

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A man is found unconscious on the floor of the Edinburgh Cathedral, so I read in the newspaper. A month later the Scottish police finds out his identity. It is a 52-year-old man, married, four children, who has mysteriously disappeared from Lajatico, in Tuscany. That’s the same village where tenor Andrea Bocelli lives.

His worried family of course immediately visits him, but he is not able to recognize them. He doesn’t even speak and understand Italian. Later the man is brought back to Italy. In the police car at the airport, an officer asks him to move up a bit in the back seat. The man does so, which shows that he does understand Italian. As the police investigate further, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. They tighten him the thumbscrews. He finally admits that he has staged his disappearance and his memory disorder.

Best Italian tradition

The man stands simply in the best Italian tradition of the commedia dell’arte! Just like Dario Fo, the famous playwright. He can compete with Berlusconi! But why all that comedy? Was he bored in Lajatico? Was he arguing about the fence with Andrea Bocelli?

No, the reason is that he no longer kept up with his mother-in-law. He felt himself collapsed under the pressure of the mother-in-law. She was always there, and always knew it better.

If you have to believe the jokes, mothers-in-law are a burden all over the world, but Italian mothers-in-law are even worse. It is primarily a struggle between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. The direct object: the son and husband. The classic double role of the Italian man, who without much backbone chooses no party, and therefore actually chooses his mother.

The poor mother-in-law image is of all times. Juvenal, the famous poet at the time of the Roman empire, aptly wrote though somewhat on the raw side: “Let go of all hope of peace while your mother-in-law is alive”. A modern version says: “Suocera cieca, nuora fortunata”, which I freely translate as “mother-in-law blind, daughter-in-law devined”.

Compared with her colleagues from other countries, the Italian mother-in-law does everything to not give up the relationship with her child. She has the iron belief that no one but she knows better what her offspring needs. Recently I saw a bottle at a liquor store in Vipiteno. The bottle of liqueur had a black label and a skull on it. Name of this liqueur with an alcohol percentage of 70? Latte di Suocera, mother-in-law’s milk. It appears to have been produced since 1895 in a village near Vicenza. The liqueur is used to prepare flambé cocktails. It may be clear: the mother-in-law has a inflammatory character.

Three-course meals

Even the Supreme Court of Italy hold no brief for the role of mother-in-law. This court ultimately decides on mostly important matters such as mafia, corruption and Berlusconi, and sometimes also on the mother-in-law. For example, in 2011 the court ruled that the marriage partner leaving the marital home is not liable for the divorce if he or she acts in despair about the presence of an intrusive mother-in-law.

In Italy, the judge can place the blame for divorce on one of the partners. This can have financial consequences. If a wife cheats on the husband, for example, and he can prove that the unfaithfulness is the cause of the divorce, the judge can exempt the husband from paying maintenance. The Supreme Court also ruled (in 2012) that if you are in a crisis as a couple and live together with one of the mothers-in-law, it is legitimate to send her away. A family lawyer recently told me that 40 percent of divorces are caused by the mother-in-law’s intrusiveness.

I don’t know the problem. I’m not an Italian man, that helps. But I mainly have an atypical mother-in-law. Although she lives in the apartment complex next to ours, she is very reserved. On the other hand, she is always on call to watch out for the kid, adjust clothes and prepare three-course meals.

I can heartily recommend her to the “showman” from Lajatico.

Showman from Lajatico
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