"Are you Italian?" This said by a mature woman who moved from Rome five years ago. "Your body... you are fit... you look Italian."
This is the second time a Roman has wondered if I were Italian. The first was a bit different though. I had spent 5 months in the sun, ensuring that I had a great tan, before traveling through Europe after college graduation. We stopped in Rome to visit a friend of mine and... some Italian guys thought I was Roman. Weird as they thought my friend was from southern Italy while they pegged my cousin as an American - no hesitation.
This conversation took place last week, yet pops into my head every now and again. What exactly did she mean in saying my body looks Italian? What is an Italian body? Is it the Italian that we think of in New York or on the Sopranos? Or maybe the Italian "mamma" that makes fabulous meals of pasta? Or is it the Sophia Loren type...? Whatever she meant, I am not offended in any sense of the word. Being though Italian works for me... I mean, the women there tend to be fit, fashionable, and well, have a passion for life. Okay, I don't have an amazing sense of fashion, so that can't be it... but I do have a fairly nice body, and I am all about living as passionately as possible (of course, it is probably easier in Italy where you are surrounded by color, great food, fabulous gelato, the sun, the sea, and...well, people are not all dressed in black (or shades there of) and in a rush to get somewhere to do something before they have to hurry to another location to do something else.) I really don't look Italian.
A coworker informed me that I look Australian. I found this quite interesting as I didn't know that Australians had a look... but also because I actually am part Australian. I think he was a bit taken aback... I mean, honestly, did he actually think that I looked Australian? (perhaps it was the picture of me wrestling a croc that gave me away!)
I worked in a summer camp while in college. Talk about meeting people from all over the world; quite an experience. There I looked Native American. Hum... well, I was born in the states and there is a family rumor (unsubstantiated) that I have some Cherokee blood... but well, I am not Native American by official definition.
The guesses that people make are quite interesting. When I lived in Prague, some of my students thought I was Prussian... not to my knowledge. While living in Ireland, people took me for a woman from the Continent.. close but no cigar. While in Russia I tried to convince the kids seeking dollars that I was Czech. I was living in Prague, used my limited Czech, and showed them that I had only Czech currency... they weren't buying it. I don't know that they knew I was American, but they definitely knew I wasn't Czech.
Are there really "looks" or physical attributes that can be associated with a country or a cultural ethnicity? I suppose that we have these ideas as to how a person from this country or this culture looks, but...in the end, it is an thought more than anything that can be tested and proven. I find it fun to see just how much of my genealogy can be seen in my physical appearance. Sometimes the guesses are right...