Once upon a time... Love
In the first half of the 20th century, in Italy, love was something that involved the whole family, and it was quite complicate to manage for couples.
Young women could mainly go out on Sundays only, to go to Mass. Inside the church, adolescent boys looked at their female peers and tried to communicate their love through eye gazing.
The courtship continued outside the church, where boys followed the girls walking back home, pulling the blouse of the girls they loved. If a girl turned around, it meant that she reciprocate his love.
Sometimes boys expressed their love with a song, under the window of their beloved. If she loved him, she lit a candle and placed it on the windowsill.
Love and fondness for a boy were expressed by girls in a very covert way, with lowered eyes, without warmth and sometimes with blushing. Their gestures and thoughts didn't express what they really felt.
Families influenced, and often intervened, in the potential relationship between two young loves. If a family did not like the person showing affection for their daughter, or if a family had some secret grudge against the boy's family, the girl was dissuaded (it was often forbidden) to go on with this boy.
Adolescent were smart, however, and they found ways of seeing one another. At nightfall, for example, when boys were back home from the fields, girls claimed that they needed to go to the toilet, which was located outside the house. Instead, they went to meet their beloved. Or on Sundays, girls who had a married sister leaving somewhere else told their parent that they went to visit her, but they also stopped for a while to meet their boyfriend.
After a time of flirtation, the relationship had to be "formalized": the suitor had to go to talk to the girl's father to declare his intentions. The father told his kids to go to bed, he received the boy and made the necessary 'recommendations'. Such advice included to be honest, work hard, not get drunk, and not engage in sexual relations with the daughter until their wedding night.
After that the engagement was official and the boy was allowed to visit his fiancée on 'even days' (meaning, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), after dinner, but always in the presence of a relative. Nevertheless, guys were smart and found ways to spend time alone for a while with their loves, and as a result it was not unheard of that a girls got pregnant before being married.
In some villages there was a marriage broker: when a boy was interested in a girl, the broker put the two families in touch, so that they could agree on the terms of the engagement and the wedding.
If you are interested in knowing more on the weddings, its preparation, the traditions, sexuality, relation with the family early last century in Northern Italy, stay tuned and follow my blog.
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