Why you should care
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
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.