I’m sure we’ve all heard of the saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” For me, even at 9 years old, it was relevant. I quickly adjusted to school and my mother and I started to get comfortable, fast. It also helped that the apartment we were put up in was already furnished.
I had seen my fair share of the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the many Piazza’s of Rome. They say if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain and make a wish, it’ll come true. But I’ve also heard that if you throw a coin, it means that you’ll come back to Rome again in your lifetime. I would make a wish, and just like any other 9 year old it would be to become a famous pop star, like Hilary Duff, circa 2003. A major #TBT, I know. I still haven’t been back, even though I plan on going soon. I’m also not a pop star and really can’t sing in-tune to be honest, so we’ll see how it goes.
I became really insecure living in Italy. Everyone was beautiful. Even at a young age, I felt so out of place. It’s like kids didn’t really go through puberty there. And everyone knew how to dress! I was a tomboy and since the day I was born, my parents always dressed me in whatever was comfortable and affordable. Sometimes my dad would buy boy outfits, just because he didn’t know how to scope out the girl section at any store…it changed as I got older, thank God.
My plan on the first day of school to fit in worked well. I also found myself picking up soccer and playing everyday with the guys on the field. I remember living in Italy when they won the world cup. The celebration that unfolded on the streets was something I will never forget. I ended up joining the girls team at my school. I also joined choir, in hopes that my professional singing career would kick off, of course. Choir was the most memorable of my extra curricular activities. Surprisingly, I had a really good soprano and alto voice at the time, which the director loved. We would go on many field trips all over Italy and perform at schools, cathedrals, and events.
Back to being insecure, I wanted to start fitting in more and dressing properly. On a teacher’s salary, my mother couldn’t really afford to get me a whole new wardrobe, but Rome was surprisingly cheap, if you knew where to look. As I mentioned before, women in Italy, are beautiful. Their fashion taste is like no other. It was in Italy, where my love for fashion grew. I was always impressed by how women could wear stiletto heels and walk the cobble-stone streets like pros.
There was a store called Brandy, where literally all the girls at my school shopped. It also meant there would be days when some of them would wear the same outfits as each other. It became a struggle for me to go shopping there because it was a tad expensive and my mother and I didn’t have a car, plus she was always busy grading papers etc. One of my good childhood friends ended taking me there with her mom. We had to take two trams and walk quite a bit. I already knew what to expect when I got there, because the girls at my school had been modeling the clothing without trying. I ended up getting only four items that day, but it was an improvement. And I wore those items a lot. However, looking back at the pictures, it’s safe to say: “what was I thinking?”.
Little did I know, Brandy would become a huge brand (today) and have a lot of stores in the US. Their style has improved immensely.
I can’t believe I saved and pasted their business card.
These were popular stickers that were free at Brandy. Girls would place them all over their notebooks once upon a time.
The Dentist: This was a visit I always dreaded, but I knew If I didn’t go puberty would kick me in the ass. In Santa Fe, I was due to have a major jaw surgery for an unbelievable overbite that I had growing up. But going to the dentist in Italy was a completely different story. My dentist was near the Vatican. I would walk past the Vatican columns and down the main road, window shopping all the outfits I’d hope to afford someday. Coincidently, my dentists’ daughter also went to my school. Luckily, the dentist came up with a plan to bypass the surgery and instead get a lot of metal, mixed with rubber bands in my mouth, kicking off Phase 1 of puberty. She was a really good doctor and ended up becoming friends with my mom. She genuinely cared about me and even gave us rides to school sometimes. I have her to thank for my “Colgate Smile,” as people say.
This is the definition of puberty. I can’t even BEGIN to explain the headband.
Anyway, I eventually began to settle into a small clique and found my way with a few girls in my grade. There was Carrie (some names mentioned have been changed slightly for privacy reasons) who was born and raised in Italy. I became really close with her. Hannah from Egypt, Melissa from Germany, Jessi from Korea, and Ivy from Canada. The four of us were unstoppable and inseparable! We invented this game called “Ms. Hundabadi” which we would play almost everyday at recess. I have no idea who came up with the name, but whoever was assigned as Ms. Hundabadi would be “the teacher” and we’d basically follow and do whatever she said. For fourth graders, we came up with some pretty ridiculous stuff.
Then I developed my first crush on this kid named David. My hormones went insane. I would be so jealous of any girl who came within a foot of him. He was nice though and I think he knew I had a crush on him because I would only pass him the ball when I would play soccer. I really don’t want to confess more of what I have written about him in my diary because I will die of embarrassment. The crush lasted about two weeks, luckily for him.
Lastly, I made friends with this kid from Ethiopia whose dad owned an airline or something. We would hang out everyday after school and wait for our parents to get off work. My mom worked until five so I’d have to wait for her even though I got out of school at three, and his parents would always have to pick him up late. We’d help finish each other’s homework and later roam around the school, pretending to be secret C.I.A agents on a mission…