Growing Up Without Hugs, Kisses & I Love You's---Then Marrying Into An Italian Family; What A Cultural Shock!!!

Mar 20, 2000

I grew up in a family that not only did not show each other physical affection, but we did not hear how much we were loved verbally either. I do not remember ever seeing my mother and father hug and kiss each other. Likewise, I never saw them argue. I do not remember getting hugs and kisses or even any stern kind of discipline. What was normal for us was to show each other we cared by giving material things. "I love you," was not said, it came in the form of a present, special meal, or an outing.

When I left home to go away to college, my mom's best friend "made" her give me a hug goodbye. I clearly remember that very awkward situation---it made a big impact on me. My mother really did not know how to give me a hug and I was embarrassed to get one. It was very unnatural for me to hug, show affection, express my feelings, let others know I even had feelings, and even more uncomfortable to accept expressions of love from others.

I could write a "love you," on a card to my family, but there was no way I could ever get those words out in person or on the phone--those words and those feelings were stuck somewhere down in my throat, held down by a "fear" of revealing a part of myself in an "abnormal fashion."

This "feeling repression" was not mine alone---even today, having to talk about any kind of emotional or personal issue with my family brings forth tears in myself, my mom and my sister. Generally, we get "control of ourselves" rather quickly and stuff the feelings that are trying to get out. My brother stuffs them before they even get started.

I met my husband almost eight years ago, fate throwing us together. We became good friends through some equally tough emotional times before that friendship grew into a mutual love and respect.

I was not prepared in the least for the, shall we say, over-abundant show of emotion and affection his family openly displayed. I had never before been confronted with scores of people, young and old alike, who would hug and kiss you coming and going, who could yell and wave their arms all around, their feelings and emotions running raw and rampant, then sit down and tell you how much you were loved. This was indeed not "normal."

I would sit quiet, petrified of moving and "getting in the way," of all that emotion, love, and humour flying around the room. But the scene was the same at his mother's, his friend's, his Aunt's & Uncle's, the diner, the street, the store, where-ever. I was initiated into the life-style of a huge Italian family in the Bronx.

Oh, man, what an initiation into real life did I get!!! And you know what?! I enjoy all that love and life so openly given and taken and shared. I enjoy hearing all the banter and map-cap goings on. I enjoy all the people, all the family, to hug and kiss and feel loved by. And I can give some of what I receive back---I still have a ways to go, but can hug and kiss with the best of them!!

Our two children only know open affection. They like going to visit all their cousins, Aunts, Uncles, their Bronx Grandma. They like to get their hugs and kisses and sit on laps and get snuggled and smushed and squashed, get tickled and chased and hear how much they are loved. They are able to express their love (or dislike of something) as a part of their daily lives. They see their mother and father constantly touching, hugging, dancing, and even disagreeing. This is what life is to them. They accept all friends as new family and get to enjoy all the wonderful feelings that such a big and diverse family can provide.

They will not know the fear of letting others see you for yourself. They will not know what it is to grow up and then go off to college or get married without ever hearing their parents tell them how much they are loved, or how special they are. They will find comfort in being hugged. They will get to experience, model, and try out a lifestyle that permits expressing love, anger, joy, fear, frustration, hope, sadness, surprise, delight, and the so many emotions we go through, with support and understanding.

They will grow up feeling that living life expressing themself and really feeling emotions is as natural as breathing. They will know deep inside of them how loved they are. What more could you want for your child?

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