How Was Your Day … Fallen Aristocratic Lady?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Silvia Marchetti
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Rosa Maria Scrugli
Vibo Valentia, Italy
Bourgeois, as usual. Boring and tiring. Each morning when I wake up to go to work I can’t help cursing my own fate. I still can’t believe it: How did I get to this point? My family dates back to the 13th-century French Angevin kings’ invasion of Sicily but has devoured its entire fortune. I was left with nothing as heredity, just a pair of wooden chairs. The only sign of nobility is the blue blood running in my veins.
Not much, eh? And my aristocratic title? A piece of paper. When I turned 24, my earl dad looked me straight in the eye and told me I had to find a job. I am the first of my lineage to work for a living, and it’s not even great work. I occasionally teach Italian at a local high school. Salary? Not even $1,000 per month.
But what I can’t stand is what I do each day and what my mother, let alone my grandmother or great-grandmother, would have never lowered down to: household chores. Cleaning the house, buying groceries, getting the washing machine going, cooking twice a day, ironing — oh, I hate that! Paying bills and running a household is just not part of my DNA.
I don’t value money because my family has always had it.
This is all stuff family servants would have done in the past. I settled for a commoner husband. I mean, what kind of nobleman would have married a loser countess without a dowry? My husband is a nice guy who has a good job that allows us to go on holidays. Only, I’d like more. Each time I feel stressed and sad — and that’s pretty often — I drain my credit card without even thinking about it. Just for the heck of spending. It’s my noble tic: I don’t value money because my family has always had it, but at the same time I can’t come to terms with the reality that I’m a broke aristocratic lady.
True, money doesn’t make happiness, but it helps. My great-aunt used to say, “It’s better to carry woes in a carriage than by foot.” And she couldn’t be more right. Last year my husband and I traveled across Calabria, the tip of Italy, the land of my ancestors. I was shocked when we passed in front of my old family palace, set in a lush green estate and once surrounded by vineyards. It was sold, and now it’s a bank. As a kid I used to spend summers there, eating freshly cooked ricotta cheese, running in the woods. I was served like a princess. I remember my grandmother’s austere and superb attitude when local peasants brought her eggs and cheese. She never lifted a finger to do anything.
I dream that I am her. That I could laze around all day long, sit back for an evening drink, have maids do all the work. Especially after dinner: I hate to clean up the dirty table while my husband runs to the TV to watch the football match. In winter evenings, when I return home from work, it would be great if I could just call home and tell my maids to light the fire, prepare this and that for dinner.
That’s my rub. I mull over what could have been of my life if my descendants hadn’t wasted everything: lands, apartments, estates, castles. At times, I feel as if this life does not belong to me, as if I have been cast out of my legitimate time and place. If only I had lived in the 1700s, I would have moved from summer to winter residences, married a duke. Dressed in elegant brocades and pearls. Never worried about middle-class petty matters.
- Silvia Marchetti, OZY Author Contact Silvia Marchetti