`Hey bellissima, where have you been all my life?'

Prepare yourself for those Mediterranean boys by taking some expert advice from Annalisa Barbieri - she's heard every line in the book
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The eight-year-old Mediterranean boy my aunt was looking after had developed a crush on me. After a week of following me round like a puppy dog he asked: "Are you married?" "No," I replied, adding "I'm waiting for you to grow up." At which point he flew across the room away from me, and spat "I never promised you nothing." (I have of course translated this from the original Neapolitan in which it was spoken.)

When I tell you that I was 27 at the time and trying to be sweet you will realise that I am qualified in giving advice on how to resist the charms of Mediterranean boys, however young.

To resist them, you will first have to attract them and the smaller the village you go to on your holiday this year, the more chance you have of this. As a more mature, confident woman, you'll be exactly what the older MB will be looking for if he wants a bit of extra-curricular cha cha cha. Teenage girls won't interest him because they may want marriage and he already has that. But they will interest his younger brother.

Upon arrival at your holiday destination from southern France to Greece, find out immediately when market day is as this is a perfect opportunity to show yourself off. The most important thing to remember, whether or not you finally decide to indulge their charms, is that MBs absolutely thrive on the chase. They adore women (and their mamma especially) so they like to feel they are working for your goddess attentions. Perversely, if you really want to resist these olive-skinned creatures you must surrender to their charms immediately. That is the only way to guarantee they will leave you alone.

But where's the fun in this instant death approach? As I was saying, they love the chase. So ignore them. Completely. For days if you can. In the end they will have found out where you're staying and wait for any sight of you, and offer to run errands on their scooters. (Refuse.) I once did this to spectacular effect when I was 16 (but looked 12 and was hence prime future-wife fodder). After two months I had a chain of 12 boys lined up in the street just for the sheer pleasure of watching me hang out the sheets. Those were the days.

A word about scooters. From birth MBs are trained to ride mopeds very slowly without losing their balance, on whatever side of the road they choose. Other motorists know to be lenient with these young Romeos and often even hoot encouragingly as they see MB circling his prey.

MB has his techniques too, one of which is to suddenly take off, as if he's had enough. As if! He will resurface in a moment with some small pastry from the bakers that he's bought for you. This is a test. Food to MBs is a sensual substance. If you refuse, he will think you are one of those no-fun dieting girls. If you take it he will feel he has made Significant Progress. Ultimately it depends on how yummy the pastry looks, but I found an ideal response was to say I was about to take Holy Communion (before which orthodox Catholics starve themselves for 24 hours), but thank you. Of course I am slightly leading you astray because this will make him crazy for you, which I feel is rather not the point. Despite themselves, MBs cannot resist a good Catholic girl; after all, their mother was almost definitely one.

Ignore any fancy prose about how you are the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, how he dreamed about meeting a girl like you since he was a little boy at his grandmother's knee, how your hair catches the sun and your body makes him go... (at this point he swoons because there are no words). Look bored. They learn this kind of patter in nursery school and (honestly) it's just words to them. Like budgies that have learnt to press a button for food, MBs - and they can scarcely understand why - know that saying these words turn British women to mush. (MW do not fall for such lines.) And they will tell you they are taking English lessons from old 'Beppe up the hill after school/work. Rubbish. They watch MTV which is why some of their fancy talk sounds so much like song lyrics. And you thought he meant it when he said "What can I do to make you love me?"! If you need guidance as to what he's going to say next, check out the Top 40. You can of course reply in kind, but then he will think he's met a soul mate.

Finally, MBs also have this routine, which they think is so unique (bless them) of saying "What tiny hands you have!". At this point they proffer their big, strong hands in the hope that they can press their palm against yours to show you just what they mean. Beware! In certain southern Mediterranean villages, holding a boy's hand is very nearly an act of betrothal. And, once bethrothed to a MB no other MB will ever try to charm you again.

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