ROME, Italy—I was tired. I was hungry. After a grueling, six hour, midnight train from Venice to Rome and nearly eight miles of walking from one tourist attraction to the next, my six other companions and I, on a weekend trip from our study abroad program, were ready for a glass of wine and a full night of rest by 8 PM.
However, over the past few weeks in Italy, I have developed a new sense of guilt that is foreign; it does not arise from offending or insulting others, but rather, from disadvantaging myself. Since I have not had the opportunity to travel abroad often, I am in constant fear that I am not making the most of this opportunity and feel I should jump at any chance to meet new people or explore foreign lands.
Therefore, despite my sheer exhaustion and natural homebody demeanor, I brought myself to join the other girls who were headed to meet up with some fellow Harvard students at a nearby campo, an Italian square, advertised as lively and appealing to people our age.
We never actually made it there—on our way, the loud sound of American music drew us into a local pub filled with college-aged students eating, drinking, and being merry. Nobody was really dancing; with the lights on and people standing at tables, it did not seem like the most fitting setting for that.
That is, until I noticed a circle of drunken, carefree, high-spirited men and women with dance moves similar to what you might bring out at The Owl on a Friday night. Only one difference: they were old enough to be our parents.
These people were oblivious to the mocking, gawking, and judging people surrounding them. I was in awe with about a hundred questions running through my mind. How old were they? Were their children here? Was the balding man spotted grinding on three different women married? After ten minutes of silently judging and staring, my friends and I could conjure up only one answer to our curiosity: join them.
They opened up their circle warmly and before we knew it, we were pulling out our best moves to Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” with highly intoxicated people that could have passed for our parents (my bucket list is looking good). It was refreshing to meet people who were comfortable enough with themselves to enjoy themselves in a setting in which they did not quite fit in with appearance, age, and behavior.
Although I have been taught to never ask a woman her age, I was clearly not the only one willing to break social norms, so I went right ahead.
In response to my question, I learned that all of the women were in their late thirties or early forties and obviously about twice the age of every other person in the pub (including the bartenders). That did not shake them; they knew they had every right to be there and were just enjoying life after long hours at work.
Quickly, others joined in on the dancing and after a long night, my friends and I were ready to head back to the hotel. Our new, middle-aged friends, however, were probably the first ones there and the last ones to leave.
After meeting them, I felt inspired to go with the flow, always be up for an adventure, and loosen up on my homebody ways. Before leaving, I complimented one of the ladies I had met, saying that I hope to be as much fun as she when I reach the age of forty. Laughing, she grabbed my hand and with a strong Italian accent, stated, “Oh, darling, it’s easy. Just do as the Romans do.”
Lillian V. Albright ‘18, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Eliot House.