How To Say No

From & originally published on my brand new column Going Dutch

There is one thing that girls don’t remember often enough, and that is: you can say no. Seriously though; you can say no to pretty much everything you damn want. And I am not talking about saying “No, I am not going to wear this wool sweater even if it’s 10 degrees outside because it’s nearly June and I don’t care anymore”. I am talking about the awkward ones: when someone asks you out, asks you if he/she can buy you a drink, or simply touches your butt in the middle of a crowded club with no regrets. In that moment of confusion, slight fear and possibly disgust for someone who has the nerve to touch your butt in a crowd over 20, you might need to know how to say no. To a date, to a butt grab, to a drink you did not ask for.

The Awkward No’s

Film-like scenario: you are sitting at a bar, your friend just left you alone for five minutes to go to the toilet and you are pretending to check Instagram. A guy interrupts your feed-scrolling to offer you a drink the flirty way. You already have a drink and do not want to lead him on; also, there was this giveaway on Asos’ Instagram profile that you were checking out at that very moment. What do you do?

Bitches Be Like “Why Don’t You Like Me?”

It happens: you like someone, and this someone is taken, or she/he doesn’t like you back. I have a hard time imagining myself pestering someone who made quite obvious he doesn’t reciprocate my feelings by asking over and over: “But why? Why don’t you want to go out with me? Why not?”. Nevertheless, there are some champions out there who believe that asking about the reasons non-stop might get them a chance. Guess what? It doesn’t.

You Don’t Need To ‘Have A Boyfriend’

This one drives me crazy. How many times have  you managed to sneak out of an unwanted courtship using the famous and often untrue ‘I have a boyfriend’ card? Sure, it’s an easy way out, but it’s also an unnecessary one. The annoying admirer should let it be not because you are another man’s territory, but because you are your own. I know it’s hard after all these years pretending to have a boyfriend in prison on the phone (don’t lie), but if the real answer is “Because I don’t like you”, go on and say it.

A Butt Grab Is Not A Handshake

Or a boob grab, or any grab really. Needless to say, the only way to have a real conversation is to be on the same level. If some stranger tries to caress your behind unannounced, he/she is probably not much of a charmer. I don’t say punch him/her in the stomach, even if it works, and I got proof. But I am pretty sure the law of retaliation allows you to squeeze him/her nipple.


What is — really — a powerful girl?

Today the news concerning Sophia Amoruso stepping down as Nasty Gal CEO hit every Google user on the hunt for the last sales deals on Nasty Gal. Writing about the breaking news, it got me thinking. Leaving the position in more expert hands, the ultimate #GIRLBOSS decided to step aside rather than down in order to, reportedly, give the company the chance to grow, to become more mature with the aid of a professional.

Amoruso founded Nasty Gal in 2006, selling vintage clothes from her bedroom through the mighty hands of eBay; today, it’s one booming fashion retailer with clients in sixty countries. She wrote a book about it, #GIRLBOSS, which has quickly become the handy bible of every emancipated young woman.

Many look up to Sophia Amoruso; I do too. She built an empire out of nothing and she is 30 years old. And it happens often to see girls slightly older than us who made it so far in such a short time; it happens often to read about the next 27-year-old woman entrepreneur while wearing our teddy bear pajamas and drinking some old instant coffee (coffee machines are expensive) and suddenly not feeling that much in the #IWokeUpLikeThis mood anymore.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 4.18.26 PM

I am no feminist when it comes to extremism — I think equality should be obvious and wish for the day when someone who is successful and a woman won’t be congratulated more for the latter. But we all know the world of today still struggles to give women its 100%. It is clear how this situation caused the rise of female role models — women who made it, who created what some believed women couldn’t.
These models are both inspiring and pressuring, and this is why sometimes I find myself getting drunk on dumb TV shows not to think of how I am 24 and yet still not bossing someone around from some managerial position.

Thinking about Sophia Amoruso, however, I thought: why would someone reach the top and then step aside? Why would someone with such an empowering story make something seemingly so power-lacking.
And then I realized something obvious: as the motto goes, it is not the destination, it’s the journey that counts. It is not the profession, the position, nor the bank account which makes a girl powerful, but the work to get to it, to any job or dream, the determination, the break of the mental habits of this androcentric world.

I don’t know if this is what she ever meant, but I looked around and I saw friends, colleagues, family, and among them I saw a lot of power girls , empowered young women. I am literally surrounded by women with a voice, women looking for their way into the world, doing it with such passion that it makes the ground tremble. There are 25-year-old doctors, successful neograduates, game-changing social helpers, almost-architects with a flawless hand, gallerists, girls who made their way into the corporate world with fierceness, brilliant future lawyers. There is a mother who struggled to instill her own fire into her daughters, there are women who travel the world with no fear in their suitcase, girls who change job after job in their battle for the right one. There are women who get shit done until the early morning for little credit, and women who  are power girls just with the happiness with which they face whatever comes.

Mothers, sisters, friends, girls like every other who decided, silently and relentlessly, to take said androcentric world by the balls (pun intended) and turn it over. Maybe not to be on top of it, sometimes, but sure enough to be on top of their very own version of it. I see fathers, friends, boyfriends who believe in the same world and push for their daughters, friends and girlfriends to be whatever they want to be.

For every new, brilliant female entrepreneur there are thousands of hard-working girls. For every famous role model, each one of us has their very own. Look around for them, talk to them; but, most importantly, look in the mirror.


Being a traveler is quite lonely – until it isn’t

When I was seventeen and angry, all I wanted for Christmas was to get the hell out of my house. I was clearly affected by the teenage angst we all have been through, consequently with no good reason other than being a teenager. However, I had a point. Not more than seven years later I can wholeheartedly thank that itch under the soles of my feet which pushed me to leave and abandon everything: my family, my best friends, a beautiful city on the brink of the Italian sea; all just to pursue my desire of trying out daily life some place else.

Every comeback is a chance to hear a certain kind of questions. Do you miss Italian food? What do you eat, just random German crap? Stereotypes aside, some share a quite different point of view. “How could you leave?”, they ask, with shiny eyes reflecting both timid courage and pity. “I could never live away from the sea”.

The point is not the sea, even if it’s quite hard to live without it when you were born five minutes away from it and your first binge drinking episodes happened sharing pizza and beer on the beach in Spring. Normally, those people who don’t leave are either very happy with what they have or too afraid to lose what they gained in 20 years – because, you know, new friendships and habits are a bitch. And they are right – when I was twenty one and took my first flight to Finland where I would have spent my exchange semester, I turned to my parents and cried bitter tears because somewhere in my belly I knew that was just going to be the first time of many, and the last time I would have called my natal city my only home. I knew that itch was about to be satisfied and that I wouldn’t have stopped there. Let me tell you, it’s quite a sad feeling.

After an exchange semester in the cold North (by the way: they had sea, but it was frozen), I moved on to Switzerland, then to Germany, then to Vienna, Austria, where I am typing this now. It’s not much, and I am not that far away from that 21-year-old carrying her broken suitcase through tons of melted snow in a Finnish courtyard (thank you, Ryanair). Up to now, I have studied, I have worked; it has been awesome and boring, and it has been full of new tight friendships and quite lonely. At the same time, I couldn’t be more different from that 21-year-old with the broken suitcase. Here is what I learnt from it.

I am not as much of a backpacker as I am curious about the feeling of walking on a foreign street on a cold morning knowing that you live there. I am fascinated by foreign routines and languages; however, once I absorbed everything I need, I get bored and I start googling new places with new routines to explore. Also, being a person with this itch does feel quite lonely. The most precious friends left behind in your natal city can never be replaced, but your friendships net and your ability in communication will be infinitely enriched. You will learn about that awkward moment when you realize you are stuck at a party where you don’t know anyone, as well as how warm it feels inside your belly while drinking coffee on a deserted Sunday with someone, having the sudden certainty that you just made a new friend for life. You will learn how to deal with the first lonely weekends in a new city, and appreciate your binge series watching wearing your pajamas, because being alone is not so bad. It will be weird to realize satisfaction is not gonna happen, that that urge under your skin is there to stay.

It will be heartbreaking to realize you have basically eradicated yourself, and that that home feeling is nowhere to be found. It will be great to come back home on holidays and embrace your family and friends as tight as possible, being updated on the local gossip and eating something that doesn’t come from the freezer. As it will be refreshing to visit all the people you connected with through your wanderings – they will be there waiting for you, with more gossip and a glass of wine and a good chat about the times when you both shared a coffee on a deserted Sunday.

It will be obvious when you will wake up in the morning and realize you have to get going. On the hunt for a new possible home, a new adventure on a cold morning in a new routine, thinking “I live here”.

It will, it is awesome, and it is lonely, and it is happy and it is sad. Traveling is beautiful, and part of its beauty lays in the fact that, as my mother puts it, you are constantly doing violence to yourself just to reemerge again in a new kind of happiness. Leaving behind everything you have in order to satisfy your itch is unnatural, but some feelings cannot be tamed that easily. You might be leaving a happy, wonderful place you can call home – but how many homes lay ahead, and how many challenges to find your true self. On the streets on a cold morning, sipping a coffee with someone newly important, or going back to your childhood corners just for a while – anything can be home, and anything can be scary. It’s your, our choice.




Parties where you don’t know anyone are terrifying

There are times in which we all want to be that guy who mingles as if it was the easiest thing in the world, that guy who can make friends in the blink of an eye. Sometimes we hate him as well – how the hell on Earth does he make friends so easily? What’s his secret?

This kind of guy is easy to find, because he is everywhere – on the street, at university, in your favorite bar – but mostly, he is in the most terrifying place of all – at a party. What I am talking about is that kind of party where you are going on a Friday night because you’ve been randomly invited, but in which you don’t really know anyone. If you are lucky, your best friend will be your ally in this dramatic war against social awkwardness; if you are among the unlucky ones, you will find yourself alone against 40 people who are as ready to party hard as you are to drown your sorrows into a gin&tonic.

The most natural reaction from the outside would be one simple question: why the hell are you going to the party? Well, the explanation is just as simple. When you are new in town or you simply want to make a couple of new friends, the best way to do so is to show everyone how cool you are showing up at someone’s party and having a great time. However, the first fifteen to one hundred and sixty sober minutes can be pretty tough for the socially awkward.

Some call it social anxiety, some just blame it on natural awkwardness, but the truth is that one quick Google search shows the real nature of the thing.


Nowadays, social pressure is a very tough thing to go trough. Between the over-mentioned Facebook and its shiny photos of friends having so much crazy fun, social media in general where everything is overshared and overappreciated (and overrated as well) and so on and so forth, living situations that need to be documented to be valuable is no easy task. No wonder sometimes we would prefer to be tapestry rather than actual flesh and bones.

Sometimes I imagine it is all a lie – that actually everybody hates parties and they are just going because others do. This other Google search might show you what I mean:

partiesHowever, parties do are fun. They are fun when you are socially involved, tipsy and you are dancing to the notes of a song that you swore you were never going to dance to ever again. The harsh truth is: to get at this point you have to walk on fire with bare feet, that trail of pain that is meeting new people at a party where everyone already has friends and you don’t. The blissful party fun mood is at stake – you have to proove yourself wrong, that you are not all glances at the floor and standing in the corner.

Sometimes I see it all as a great knight adventure, even if I am a girl (and girl knights are the coolest). It is probably not so politically correct to say. Maybe I should be here providing tips on how to look less awkward at the party of your dreams, but I want to be realistic: chug something down and talk to the guy on your left. Get your groove on. Choose flesh and bones over tapestry.


That Catcalling Video Is Not Surprising

One day I was walking down the street in plain daylight when a guy that could have been my dad called me “mandolin ass” while pretending to play an actual mandolin (“plin plin plin”). I was 19 and my face got all red and I ran away trying to cover my new found mandolin with my sweater.

The reason why I got so exceedingly annoyed was because nobody had ever compared my butt to a musical instrument before, but really, even well before turning 19, I knew damn well what is commonly known as catcalling.
Today, and I mean this very day, we all saw the video that Hollaback produced to let the (still unaware part of) world what really does go on on the streets around you when you are a girl and you are walking. At this very moment, the video (10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman) has 8,419,149 views.

The video shows a woman,  Shoshana B. Roberts, walking around NYC and being catcalled (“Hey beautiful!”, “Damn girl!”, “Sexy American Eagle” and so on) for what ends up being an incredible amount of time. Some creep also decided to escort Shoshana for some good 5 minutes in spite of the fact she didn’t reply to any of his avances – weirdo alarm – and many viewers were quick to make their opinion public.

The funny – and with funny I mean not funny at all – part is that this didn’t surprise any woman at all. However, men (and some women) who decided to comment had several and different opinions. Some said the video doesn’t show any kind of harassment, some say that she should have chosen a different outfit, some called her a bitch – nice! -, others distinguished between greetings (“hey beautiful, have a good day) and actual harassment (the creepy escort); other nice people called her a slut, wished she got raped and spit all over feminism.

While nowadays some topics closer to women’s rights are emerging and getting public attention, I am quite positive that this is not a matter of feminism. I am sure many women like this very special kind of compliments, while most are repulsed. I personally find it scary – because you can see, in my opinion, that it is all a matter of control. However, I guess I could understand who doesn’t see “Have a good day” as a threat, even if it includes “beautiful”.

It is a very delicate topic, as always, especially because it seems like whoever wants to say something even remotely feminist happens to receive rape threats, and this is kind of the worst. So I happily suggest to watch this video after the first one, which is kind of the best.




Splitting the check: lack of gallantry or gender equality?

When I was young and didn’t go on dates, I spent the consequently free evenings watching rom-coms and munching on popcorn while my tender brain was stuffed with the typical rom-com bullcrap. For example: if a guy asks you out on a date, it’s all fun and games just until the act of putting food and drinks in your mouths is involved. When it comes to paying for dinner or drinks, every rom-com girl knows that the guy will have to pick up the check. “Don’t worry, my treat” he says, grabbing the wallet in the inner pocket of his jacket. She smiles at him, but her eyes scream “It better be, bro”, because there seems to be no escape from the check-test.

Romantic (and non-) films make this move pretty clear just by not mentioning it at all. The guy automatically has its hand on the wallet anytime the date comes to an end, or whenever he makes his appearance at the bar to articulate the most clichè words in the world: “Let me buy you a drink”. Never someone saying: “Hey, what about I order a drink, you order yours, and we just talk for about twenty minutes?”. According to the movies, this whole charade is nothing but part of the first date examination.

And in real life? In real life, the check-rule seems to be something that every girl reaches the dateable age already knowing. Whether it is dinner, drinks, coffee, or whatever the hell you like to eat or sip during a romantic afternoon, the first couple of encounters are mostly considered a free meal voucher by almost every girl I know. Apparently, the check starts to become splittable when the couple starts to go steady. Not a coincidence, while more of an incredibly quick and mysterious journey from the Hunting status to the Relationship status (organ and church chorus on the latter). As we all know, there is no big need to be charmant once reached the relationship status, and so the check becomes socially-acceptably splittable.

However, in these times of incredibly strong womanhood and self-aware women, always ready to righteously defend our role in society and fight misogynistic jerks such as Robin Thicke and Chris Brown, one question emerges: why do we still give a damn about gallantry?

Deny it all you want, but when someone opens the door for you, it’s nice. When he offers you something just because society says so, it also feels kind of nice. Thank you, society, I am actually enjoying this chocolate-chip ice-cream. And when he won’t pay one of the first dinners or drinks, something stirs inside; and that something is disappointment. I am sure I haven’t been the only one angrily answering “I can buy it myself, you jerk” to some stranger in a bar trying to buy my confidence with drinks, but that’s still another story.

What really is all blurry is the position of the line between sex equality and gender roles, and what we actually want from it. Is accepting gallantry a form of denying our own female independence? Or is it just some die-hard habit from the past, man-centered times?

Where does gender equality go when the check arrives?

Article originally published on Ruevenue magazine.


6 reasons why we need to stop with these damn lists

There is something I do when I am bored and I feel like procrastinating: I open Facebook and scroll down my feed until I am so annoyed with all the selfies that I don’t feel like procrastinating anymore. Sometimes I check out pictures of cats dressed like humans. And that’s ok.

Everybody procrastinates, and I am pretty sure that some scientist somewhere will agree with me on the fact that procrastinating can be a good thing to let our brains cool down or something.
However, that is exactly the point: Facebook, videos of people hurting themselves on skateboards and websites featuring posts about 15 supercute pictures of dogs while they are sleeping & co. are all ways to waste some precious time letting out steam. Who doesn’t enjoy a break watching or reading something incredibly and absolutely pointless? Yeah.

When I first clicked on the linkbaity titles of a few listacles, I must have been very bored. Something like “10 movie facts that will blow your mind” can just be opened when one is so bored that it’s either that or starting to empty the fridge. Then, gradually but steadily, my social media feeds started to fill up with numbers, many numbers. 7 reasons why he’s the one, 5 things just brunettes know, 8 celebrities without make up (that would blow my mind, of course). 10 things you didn’t know about guinea pigs, 25 makeup hacks that every girl should know, the 9 hottest actors of 2014. Facebook, Twitter and many of my freelance gig platforms were suddenly all about lists, lists, lists. Most of all, they were about absolutely pointless lists: the infamous listacles. Listacles themselves cannot be considered real readings – they are nothing more than lists of points about a subject, none of them really interesting.listacles

Catastrophe occurred when all these so-called listacles exited the enclosed area of the procrastinating section and started to inundate magazines and newspapers. Like a wave of bad taste, they took over the safe seashore of information, well-written editorials and culture, and they seem to be there to stay and intoxicate. The fact that respectable newspapers had the balls to publish lists concerning celebrity outfits featuring loads of exclamation marks is scary, but what’s even scarier is how some platforms are making a fortune out of the 5 things you probably didn’t know about Kim Kardashian.

Many writers are pissed – rightfully. While it’s well known how self-centered and half-lobotomized this ultra-technological era is making us, taking the actual reading out of the internet readings seems like a very stupid thing to do. Do we want kids to grow knowing 7 mind-blowing fact about Brad Pitt or can we give it a try with, say, a fairy tale?
Furthermore, I refuse to believe that lists writers actually enjoy what they are doing. I had to write a couple of stupid lists sometimes and I felt like a massive jerk. The point is that linkbaity titles and easily readable lists bring clicks, loads of them, because bored people are more likely to click on something pointless than something interesting. Lists and lists-makers are basically feeding us birdcrap  instead of providing us with healthy brainfood.

However, if you skipped the whole article to get to the list, here are reasons why lists suck:

  • 99% of the times, they are absolutely useless
  • the only reason why they are featured on any website ever is for the clicks. Not for your entertainment, nor for your cultural enrichment. Just for the cash.
  • this website is a linkbait generator.  You write the keywords and he provides you with a title that readers will click. I made a few tries:linkbait

10 reasons lists…Seriously?

  • again, I am pretty sure that any writer in charge of writing one of these lists feels like dying a bit inside
  • any of the facts that promise to be mind-blowing are usually less mind-blowing than the fact you maybe had cereals for breakfast
  • listacles are a particularly low-culture kind of entertainment writing. There is nothing much to be learned, and a meticulous description of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding could actually give you a bigger piece of information

Imagining than one day journalism could be reading listacles on an ipad makes me cringe, but if we don’t stop confusing actual writing with lists writing, this is what is likely to happen.