Italian Guilt is the Best Kind

When I was younger, I used to whine and complain about my daily or weekly guilt trips, coming from my mom, one of my grandmas, or even from the clergy. As an Italian Catholic child at a Catholic school, we were sent on plenty of guilt trips. We were guilted for too-short skirts, gossiping during class, disrespecting our elders, not finishing our lunches, and, worst of all, offending Jesus. As I got older, I swore to myself that I’d never use guilt trips to get my way with my friends, my children, or (especially) my husband.

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For the most part, I’ve kept that promise. I am straightforward with my husband, I don’t have any children to guilt, and I am never passive aggressive with my friends. But that doesn’t mean guilt trips aren’t still a part of my day-to-day life. The funny thing is, I’m the one who is guilting myself. I know, for someone who just spent two paragraphs whining about guilt trips, it doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, despite the childhood trauma these guilt trips caused, with thoughts of not making it into heaven, getting coal in my stocking, or just disappointing my parents, their memories are completely overshadowed by the way guilt has transformed me as an adult. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I don’t have anything to feel guilty for, but it’s my good-old-fashioned Italian Guilt that makes me edit my work one more time, wait far too long to hold the door for the person behind me, or bite my tongue when I know that what I want to say is better left unsaid.

I’m sure any Italian reading this is probably thinking, “Is she crazy? I’d do anything for my mom to stop guilting me into Sunday dinners or taking out the trash.” Well, sorry I’m not sorry. I hope your mom or your grandma’s voice rings in your head every time the trash is overflowing or the dishes need washing. I hope you hear their voices when you hand in a sloppy assignment to your boss or you pass up the opportunity to give someone a hand.

As a matter of fact, I’m hearing their voices right now. “What are you talking about? I don’t guilt you!” “Stop exaggerating—we’re not that bad!” And my response will be, “Yes, you did, yes, you are, and I’ll forever thank you for it.”

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