When I first started dating Macho Man (MM), he was baffled by my Italian pride. He grew up Hispanic in Texas and claimed that where he lived, “white” people didn’t differentiate between ethnicities. White was white. I thought he was lying until I spent our first Texan Christmas together with his family and their next door neighbors. My introduction to his neighbors went something like this:
Neighbor to his wife (in major Texas drawl): Hey look Sally! MM’s girlfriend is eye-tal-yin!
Wife: Wow, I don’t think we’ve ever met a real eye-tal-yin before! Wait, Rebecca-Lyn’s aunt’s neighbor might be eye-tal-yin…but not like “her parents are from It-ly eye-tal-yin” eye-tal-yin. [Then turning to me] So, you’re like a real eye-tal-yin then, right?
Both stared at me like I was some kind of exotic specimen. I wondered if it was because they considered me a foreigner or just because I am the lightest Italian you’ve ever seen.
So in honor of this fond memory, I’ve compiled a list to help people determine if they indeed would be considered “Italian-American”. My sister thinks this list may be more relevant to first generation Italian-Americans like ourselves, but I think most Italian-American’s will find something on here to which they can relate.
You might be an Italian-American if…
1. One of your favorite Christmas songs is “Dominick the Donkey”.
2. Christmas isn’t complete without Panettone.
3. Every major holiday dinner includes a lasagna, except for Christmas Eve, which is meat-free and must contain seven types of fishes.
4. Your father usually carried a large wad of cash in his pocket and peeled off bills when you needed spending money.
5. For years you thought, “Onistiga” was an Italian expression until you realized people in your family were saying, “Honest to God”.
6. When other kids were eating PB&J, you were eating sandwiches that included prosciutto, salami, capicola, and provolone cheese.
7. You thought “sandwich” was pronounced, “sang-wich”.
8. You say, “Close the light”, instead of “turn off the light” and “Open the light,” instead of, “Turn on the light.”
9. You’ve got at least one relative named Maria, Tony, Dino, Sal, and Frank and the newest generation includes an Isabella, Sophia, or Ava.
10. The women in the family “jar” their own tomatoes every year.
11. On Easter you got a giant chocolate egg wrapped in foil that included a prize inside of it.
12. At least one family member owns or has owned a restaurant, construction, or sanitation business.
13. You know what a “grinder” is.
14. You’ve played Scopa and bocce ball.
15. You’ve gotten chased around the house with a belt and/or wooden spoon when you did something bad.
16. You’ve had a house shoe thrown at you when your parents couldn’t reach you with said belt or spoon.
17. There was at least one elderly widow who wore black after her husband died…for decades afterward.
18. You started drinking some form of fermented grape during holiday dinners from the time you were eight.
19. Your dad (or some other male in the family) made his own wine.
20. You parents drank espresso before it was cool and called the stuff they sell at Dunkin’ Donuts, “American coffee”.
21. You’ve had at least one family member that has raised livestock in their backyard- in the suburbs.
22. Someone in your family tree came over from the Motherland on a boat, and you’ve heard the story relayed at least a dozen times.
23. Your mom has tried to force feed all your friends when they come over for dinner and if they refused 3rds and 4ths, she became convinced that they didn’t like her cooking.
24. You’ve danced the Tarantella and done the “Chicken Dance” at family weddings.
25. You know what a bomboniere is…and there are likely several in your mother’s china cabinet still tied with their original bag of Jordan almonds.
26. Every bedroom in the house had a crucifix or statue of the Virgin Mary and Rosary beads hanging from the bedpost.
27. Your parents and/or grandparents had fig trees or grapevines growing in their backyard.
28. Your parents had a reproduction of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” and a portrait of the Pope hanging on their wall.
29. You use so many hand gestures while speaking that you get an aerobic workout.
30. Even if you can’t speak Italian, you know all the swear words and corresponding hand gestures.
31. You know what paisano means.
32. You’ve watched “The Godfather” too many times to count.
33. There is at least one family member that you suspect may be in the Mob.
34. You will use threats of the Mob against people who piss you off but then get angry when non-Italians refer to Italian-American stereotypes.
35. Your mother would think it’s a schifozz’ if you bought pre-made pasta sauce.
36. Even when you moved out, your mother brought you bags of groceries and offered to do your laundry.
37. You didn’t move out until you got married, and if you did, you moved back home to save up money to buy a house.
38. You think Frank Sinatra is king.
39. Your parents’ house has statues of lions in the front, columns, or both.
40. Your holiday cookies looked like this:
41.You think everyone wants to be Italian (and you’re right).
Feel free to add your own in the comments section!
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