The word “mama”, which is a spelling variant of mamma, means mother; however it does not refer to any female figure bearing progeny and capable of cooking but it depicts the strongest ruling matriarch of Italian families. These legendary female creatures with one fist rule the Family, and with capital F-family I mean that kind of extended-intruding family you have seen in The Sopranos, and with the other feeds her sons, grandchildren, family friends’ kids, kids from the neighborhood or anyone else under the age of 16 happens to be in the house.
There are numerous samples of mamas immortalised by media: from the hot-blodded and provocative MILF, a mix between Sophia Loren and “Stacey’s mum” lookalike, the kind of mama that comes with hordes of schoolmates that finds her house the best place ever to study; to the short, old, bitter and superstitious kind of mama, the one that lights a candle for you when she goes to church and thinks that all men are created equals but she always prays that her daughters may not pop out a mixed race kid. Then there is the most stereotypical image of mama: the sweet, blessed, gentle and voluptuous nonna that wears 24/7 sensible thick black oxford and homey aprons which partially pictures my family’s model of mama: my grandmother. She is a robust blonde-and-blue eye lady dressed with expensive clothes always shielded by colourful aprons with pouchy bottomless pocket filled with dirty napkins, not with candies as you might have imagined, as she suffers from chronic cold. She is a mix between the gentle, elegant mama of the American 50’s adverts and the wicked stepmother of Walt Disney that always complains because she never has time for her.
While being a mama is always a choice sometimes being a mother is not an option, well at least until 1920 when the Soviet Union first legalised abortion. A mama knows that she will always be the last step of the family ladder, that she would never cook her favourite dish if someone in the family dislikes it, she knows that she will be the one that has to find compromises in an argument, that most of the time her opinion won’t be even heard and that it does not matter if she hasn’t bought a new coat since 1987 as long as the kids can buy the schoolbag of the latest TV little idol. Being a mama is a choice of social and personal annihilation and as any other choice can be regretted: there will be days in which she will cry on her own while waiting for the laundry to be ready, days in which she wished she did not delete the numbers of her pre-marriagge drug dealers and other in which she will give thank for all of that. Some time ago I was talking with my grandma about tattoos as I am planning to expand my selection of body scarification, and she told me that she wanted to get one as well; when I asked what she replied:
“Thanks to what grandma?”
“Thanks to life for all of this, my darling”
Maybe it only happens after years of self-mama-domestication, or it only occurred in the past when being a mama seemed to be the only acceptable career girls could have taken or maybe is a matter of personality I don’t know, but according to me the happiness of living for someone else and be the guardian of the family traditions is what really distinguish mothers from mamas.