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P A G E 2 0

3/29/12 2:01 PM Page 28 P A G E 2 0 L' Ita lo -Ame ri

L' Ita lo -Ame ri ca no

T H U R S D A Y , M A R C H 2 9 , 2 0 1 2

lo -Ame ri ca no T H U R S D A Y , M A

Ye s a n d N o : t h e p i l l a r s o f c o m m u n i c a t i o n . H o w w e h a v e i m m o b i l i z e d I t a l y w i t h o u t u s i n g t h e m

m o b i l i z e d I t a l y w i

BY MANUEL DE TEFFÉ CONT RIBUT OR

Italians don’t use them, but theyarethefirstdrivingforceof an economy, the foundation of everydecision,thelaunchpadof all movements, have devastating

dominoeffectsandinfluencethe life of millions of human beings ab urbe condita. And above all arecompletelyfree.Iamtalking about the words YES and NO:

the pillars of communication of all time. Of every single time, sincethebeginningoftime. But, for Italians, they are both anundecipherableballandchain. Becauseweonlypronouncethem when we have cowardly exam- ined, until the end, what is the best thing to do, when destiny, which got miffed , puts us upside down and shakes us vio- lentlytoforceustoreact;things

startfallingdownfromourpock-

etsoneaftertheotheruntilwhen alividYESand NOinvoluntary also tumble, and then we start moving again beginning a new navigation. Because the truth is that YES and NO give their best on the spur-of-the-moment. The last minute YES and NO always serve you a sort of punishment

and don’t enjoy the benefits of the spring chicken YES and No

inwhichdwellssomethingglori-

ous. I got to know them in New York , 11 year ago. Inspired by New York lifestyle, I used to organize a dinner at the rate of one every two weeks. Those were the first invitations I sent throughe-mailandtheanswersI used to get were only two: YES

andNO,tertiumnondatur.70%

wereYES.BacktoRome,Ikept

the tradition alive, but slowly I realized that the answers to my invitations were hovering over swampy universes. The clear

YESandNowerethe30%ofthe

answers,whilethe70%werelike

aflabbyMaradonawhopretend-

ed to dribble in an alley. Those

who try to organize something likeaneventoranafterdinnerin Romeknowitwell,untilthelast minute you don’t know exactly whomtocounton.

madealistthatIwroteduringa snowy winter evening in Germany. Here is my personal HITPARADE,thetitleis:

“ANATOMY OF AN ANSWER” A semi-serious ranking of the

most frequent Italian answers to aninvitation.

1. HO UN MEZZO IMPEG-

NO (I have half a commitment)

It is an untranslatable concept and is in great shape on top of thelist.Thereisnotraceofitin any civilization. It is two hairy white ears, pinkish in the inner part, coming out of a top hat. You think it is a rabbit, but the truth is that they are only two ears without a body. It is a top

hatwithouthopes.Theheadquar-

tersof “halfcommitments”isin Rome as well as its cemetery. Theyhavehalftombstones,have

had half funerals and can come back to life with half a whistle and then they rejoin in diabolic embraces giving birth to other

halfcommitments.Ahalfacom-

mitment is the tasteless announcement of a failure in progress.Whoeverhasgiventhis answerandarrives,hasn’treally left behind his half a commit- ment announced because when

he answered he referred exactly toyourparty.

2. Farò il possible (I’lldomy

bya“Dai”(C’mon).“Dai,provo a fare un salto.” But who pro- nounces “Dai” statistically doesn’tarrive.Ireallylikethose who“trytodropby“verymuch becauseIhaveveryoftentriedto do the same and thus I under- standthem.Whotriestodropby usually succeeds, and those who

don’t succeed are not to blame. “Dai”(C’mon) we have all tried it.

Thepersonwho“givesitall”and

isabletoarriveisunmistakable:

he is the Harry who shows that smile moderately complacent frombehindthebalconywindow andhintsaninvisibletoastwhen you finally make eye contact with him. Did you see? I made it.Prosit.

8. SÌ

They arrive in the 55% of cases.

ing because it very rarely hap-

pens,norgetsanhonorablemen-

tionbecauseitcausesme acer- tain anxiety: THE SILENCE. These are those who don’t answer.Calledonce,twice,three times, don’t give any answer.

Youmeetthembychanceinthe street and ask them if they have

everreceivedtheinvitation.They nod with a smile and talk about something else while you get goosebumps. In Italy when you make an invitation it is as if you were making life difficult to others who,engagedindoingtheirbest without promising you anything, willtrytodropbytrying“toset

themselvesfree”andthat,how-

ever, willletyouknowifYesor

No,becauseeveniftheyarereal-

ly messed up or if they have a halfacommitmentthey’llgiveit

all.

ThuswheninRomeIdecideto

organizeapartyandinvitesome-

one, I always imagine a clumsy

versionofHoudiniinastraitjack-

et, wrapped with chains and lockedinasealedtrunkunderthe sea. The man I see only has the comfort of a single trinket: an iphone always turned on that he browseswiththetipofhisnose.

Nowandthen,hegetsanSMS withaninvitationtoadinner.In that moment, without a specific

expression on his face, the man beginstoagitatelikeamadman.

Myquestionis:“willhegiveit all?”. The conclusion is that in Italy to send invitations is like sendingmorsecodesignalsinthe fog:onlyafewoneswillbeable tointerpretthem.AMICIMIEI. ForthenewyearIwanttowish you many YES and many NO. There is something glorious in a springchickenYESorNO,they are statuary, for better and for worse. Don’t be scared, if well employedandfasttheycaneven restart an economy, any econo- my. They can move MARI

e (MONTI).

an economy, any econo- my. They can move MARI e (MONTI). 5. Cerco di liberarmi (
an economy, any econo- my. They can move MARI e (MONTI). 5. Cerco di liberarmi (

5. Cerco di liberarmi ( Lit.

tr.:I’lltrytosetmyselffree–It means I’ll try to get rid of my

Itgivesyouanimmediategrati-

ficationwithaharshaftertaste.It is a fax that you get from

Alcatraz.Apromisewhichcaus-

es anxiety. They arrive only in 20% of cases bringing along friendsalmostalwaysunwanted.

6. Ti faccio sapere (I’llletyou

know) This is difficult to com- mentbecausethiskindofanswer deflatesmelikeapartybaloon.

7. Ce la metterò tutta (I‘ll

giveitall)Itisanactionanswer. You keep on thinking of these people from the invitation until the day of the party. With your thought you involuntarily follow their heroic feats to reach you. TheyarrivefromtheThameson

which they have been speeding with their motorboat for weeks

dodging the Maria Grazia Cucinotta’s machine-gunning.

9. NO

Theycanindeednotcome.

10.Sonoincasinatissimo(Iam

reallymessedup).

More than an answer, it is a meditation on his state. It is the “half a commitment” which throws the mask away and engages in some self-examina- tion. It is dangerous to try to understand why they are “really

messed up”, just accept it and that’sit. Honorablemention Et voilà. The ranking ends up

here, but there is an honorable mention which doesn’t go to an answer,buttoacounter-question par excellence: “Chi viene?”

(Whocomes?)Thesearethepeo-

ple who are always testing the waters and if they could, they

would send someone in recon- naissance even at their wedding reception, maybe their own wives,toknowwhoisthere.

best) The “half a commitment” and

the “I’ll do my best” are the cat

andthefoxoftheItaliancommu- commitment)

nication. They wander at night like fake businessmen and deceive pinocchios. They inter- cept them and they make them wander forever showing them a

door that is perpetually slightly open,soslightlyopen“chen’te apre”(thatdoes’topenup).

3. Non ti prometto nulla (I

won’t promise anything) You can often find it together with “Provoafareunsalto”(I’lltryto drop by), but not necessarily,

they can also live parallel lives. “Non ti prometto nulla” reaches its peak during the month of August, where sometimes it can

evenunderminethe“halfacom-

mitment”.

4. Provo a fare un salto (I’ll

Overtheyears,Ibegantoreal- trytodropby)Itinstillsaffection

becauseitevokesaclumsyhope.

Insomeoccasionsitispreceded

izethatsomeanswerscameback more than others, until when I

Andfinally,itisn’tintherank- M a n u e l d e T e f f é . D i r e c t o r / W r i t e r

more than others, until when I Andfinally,itisn’tintherank- M a n u e l d e T
more than others, until when I Andfinally,itisn’tintherank- M a n u e l d e T