My niece, a junior at Columbia, is in Italy for the summer, studying language and Italian culture. I have been in regular contact with her by email and Skype. I keep joking that she should find a nice Italian boy, so she can settle down, and we can all come visit her on a regular basis. “Uncle Tom, they don’t exist!” she keeps telling me.
Finally, last night she sent me this (above) 60 Minutes clip from 2001, outlining the role of “Mammoni” (Italian for “mama’s boy”) in Italian culture. She told me it’s the best background for understanding why there are no desirable Italian men and why Italy is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. If there is a growing belief among some in the United States about the “End of Men,” in Italy that trend is even more pronounced, with some very interesting cultural differences.
Italian women have, like their American counterparts, begun to dominate both academic institutions and the workplace. In general, they are not interested in staying home like their mothers. Men, who are used to being pampered, therefore never grow up. The Mammoni—attractive, employed, successful men in the 30s and 40s—don’t get married anymore. They depend on their moms to take care of them because that’s what they’re used to. They only move out once—and if—they get married.
If feminism was an attempt by women to get out of the house and work, some contemporary American men are trying to figure out how to get home to be better husbands and fathers. Italian men, though, appear to be stuck in some time warp where being a mama’s boy is the best response to women’s liberation.
As in all gender commentaries, we need to be careful to sweep everybody into one bucket. But, over the past decade, there have been studies and numerous reports about the reticence of Italian men to leaver their childhood homes. The Italian government has seen a drop in the birth rate as a result and have even begun to pay men a cash incentive to move out and grow up.
Italian government is giving out cash to thousands of Italians to leave the home of the mother’s, so they can start to live on their own. Eight out of ten Italians aged under 30 live at home. Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, the finance minister, made this announcement and said it was vital for these reluctant Italians to move away from home and become more independent.
“Wow,” I told my niece. “Maybe give up on the Italian dudes and look for an American in Italy. He probably has a just as much romance, and while he’s probably confused what the heck it means to be a good guy in 2011 America, he isn’t likely to want to live with his mom for the next couple decades.”