My 16th birthday was right around the corner and my parents had already told me what my glamorous surprise would be. We would be going to an Italian restaurant downtown to celebrate the fact that I was one year closer to having to understand taxes and overpaying for health insurance. Hooray! One week away from the big 1-6, my parents came into my room with frowns and their heads hanging low. “We couldn’t get reservations to the restaurant. I know you are disappointed so we got you the next best thing.” I expected them to say they got reservations to Olive Garden or Chick-Fil-A but instead, my dad pulled a pair of tickets from his pocket. From Atlanta to Venice.
It was late at night so it took me a little while to register exactly where Venice was. There was a Venice in Illinois, Florida, New York and Italy. I hoped for the best and assumed it was Italy. That’s kind of how my parents work. They’ll tell you that they can’t afford to buy you a Rolex or Lamborghini for your birthday, so they just decided to book a one week trip to Italy. But I’m not complaining.
The first thing I did when they told me was scream so loud that the neighbors came over to make sure everything was OK. The second thing I did was look down at my thighs. I was not impressed. I love the fact that we are completely content with our appearance until foreign countries are involved. Then we decide to lose half of our body weight. I also did my fair share of research on Italy to make sure I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. And by that I mean I googled pictures of Italian men and shoes. Of course I had to brag about my trip to my friends. So after telling my grandparents, the mailman, Mrs. Jones across the street with the 6 cats, and Jules Verne, everyone I knew was informed about the trip.
That weekend, I was at T.J. Maxx looking for a stand-out suitcase when I managed to dig out an antique cheetah print suitcase with an Italian café printed on the front. It was love at first sight. It was a carry on wooden box with no pockets and one of the locks was broken. So after I realized that there was hardly any room inside the bag and it couldn’t even close all the way, I bought it with no regrets. Since it was broken my dad talked it down from $50 to $34.99 (best shopping buddy ever). Then my mom and I went shopping for new clothes. I have no idea why girls have to buy new clothes before leaving on vacation. Nobody in Italy has seen my old clothes, but for some reason, I still need new clothes. My mom has been persuading my dad for the past few years that if she doesn’t buy new clothes here, then she’s going to have to buy more clothes on vacation, making it twice as expensive. Since my mom and I are about the same size, every time we buy new clothes, we tell each other it’s an investment because it’s for the two of us. I love my dad for pretending like he agrees with all of this.
I’ve realized that for woman to go on vacation is always twice as expensive as it is for men. We have to get a manicure/pedicure, our eyebrows need to be waxed and our hair needs to be dyed. I’m not going to question why we do it because you don’t mess with tradition. I guess older woman do it because going on vacation is a good excuse to use when their husbands ask why they spent $200 at the hair salon (you don’t actually think that my hair is this color naturally, do you?). But for people my age (late teens, early twenties), you have to do it because you just might get blessed by the gods and meet someone attractive who speaks with an accent (or just someone who speaks with an accent is fine, I’m not that picky).
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I bought an English to Italian translator book (you remember books don’t you?) and learned some important words: buon giorno (good morning), pizza ai funghi (pizza with mushrooms), saldi (sale) and pasta (do I really have to translate this word for you?). So after learning all the words that I would need to survive in Italy, I was pumped up for my trip, for which I died my hair red and bought 3 pairs of shorts, 4 tops, 2 pairs of heels and a black dress. Now I was ready! I strutted through customs like it was a runway show with my broken antique bag wobbling and stumbling behind me like a drunken man (I still didn’t regret buying it but could feel that I would soon). After our flight was delayed two hours and our plane was changed, the pessimist inside of me (or how I like to call it well-informed realist) started shining through. And that’s when my dad pulled out the business class tickets.
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