An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, September 16, 2007

La Bella Figura and my Sons

In Italy, there is an expression "la bella figura", which means "a good image". My Nonna used this expression a lot. It's a saying that not only deals with being well dressed when going out, but also with demeanor and correct behavior. "La bella figura", in a sense, is presenting one's best self to the world.

Taking this expression to a deeper level, it is a basic human truth that, like it or not, our appearance, demeanor, and actions reflect who we are, where we practice our faith, where we go to school, our national origin, and even how we are raised.

Getting my sons to understand this can sometimes be a challenge. One day in Target my two oldest boys got into a shoving match in the check-out lane. I was mortified for two reasons: one, they were fighting and two, they were fighting while wearing their school uniform. Later, when everyone calmed down, we discussed how, when wearing a school uniform, they were more than two brothers scuffling . . . people looked at them and saw their Catholic school, their church, and even their parents.

Now, did they get it? For the most part. I think. Maybe. My Nonna explained it better. But the very next time I took them to Target while they were wearing their school uniform, a woman commented on how well mannered they were and inquired where they went to school.

Hmmm. Maybe the idea of "la bella figura" is catching on after all.


Anonymous said...

Ciao, this is mom. How right you are to remember how important it was for Nonna to "fare la bella figura"!!! She really meant it for everything, from the way she served coffee in her little kitchen, to the elegant way that she carried herself even among people who did not speak her language. Brava Maria to remember "la bella figura".

:o) mg said...

I tried to leave a comment the other day, but my computer decided to hiccup.
I love this post. And you are SO right about them when they are in uniforms. This is precicely the idea behind my volunteering to re-hem skirts last year. I was #1 tired of hearing friends of mine talking about the Jr. High girls as if they were still teens themselves... and #2 worried that people with predjudice against the Church would see these short skirts and immediately think all those "Catholic school girl" jokes were true. I love how simplistic the phrase is... la bella figura. Thanks for this post!

Ua said...

Nonna would also say "figurati" which I guess means "go figure." Funny how you remember the deep life lessons that Nonna taught us, while I remember phrases like, "Ma va farti frigere" (Go freeze yourself!).

...or the time when we were shopping for the daily groceries and she told me I could place the order for the cheese. When I said "un etto di formaggio della Nonna, per piacere" (one ounce of Grandmother Cheese, please) she stood back and laughed along with the grocer. I didn't know that the REAL name for the cheese was "Parmigiano"!

Ah... memories!

Anonymous said...

Ciao Maria, ci sono anch'io!!! Però vorrei poter scrivere in italiano perchè ho poco tempo (pausa caffè durante il lavoro!) e non riuscirei a fare un commento "sensato" in inglese!!
"Fare bella figura" : grazie per avermi ricordato questa frase che la nonna diceva .... Hai proprio ragione, era un modo di dire che la nonna usava quando ci voleva insegnare qualcosa (prima alle figlie e poi alle nipotine!)