…Which is not even an Italian word, but a Spanish one.
(Thanks, boss. And I’d like to also give a grateful shout out to Federico, the religious brother from Mexico who sat beside me for the 4 days I attended language school, and who was, apparently, speaking in Spanish 95% of our conversations. Which explains why a lot of my efforts to communicate with the locals have been met with blank stares.)
The phrase, however it is spelled, translates something like ‘to twist the neck,’ and is the apparent source of many a health ailment in Italia. The reasoning goes something like this: if you are out in the wind, exposed and scarf-less (or simply underdressed), the force and chill of it may twist your neck, rendering you permanently damaged. Therefore, each and every Italian bambino and bambina we see is wrapped in at least a fur-hooded parka and a scarf, twisted ostentatiously round the outside of the jacket, in order not to arouse the suspicions (of the authorities? Fellow parents?) that you’re not doing your due diligence toward your child’s health.
As a transplant from the land of random snow, wind, sunshine, and 40 degree temperature swings on a given day, I am not much accustomed to dressing ‘for the weather.’ In our family, we practiced more of a ‘run from the house to the car, from the car to the store’ defense against inclement weather, and if it’s warmer than 58 degrees Fahrenheit … tanning weather!
Here, it is apparently a criminal offense to bring a child out into the world hatless. Double negative points if they don’t even own a scarf, which I would swear is a kind of mom gang flagging symbol meant to portray your competence to other mothers. I mean it’s tied on the outside of their jackets for crying out loud. But that is so typically Roman: flash before function.
At any rate, we’ve gradually come to a grudging belief in/mockery of the torce cuello (or the torchy cola, as our American accents render it), and have adopted it into our lexicon to describe all things weird, amusing, and potentially dangerous about our new, strange homeland.
Example: “Pull his pant leg down, he’ll get a torchy cola on his leg!”
“Shut the window, the torchy colas will get in during the night!”
“Look at that pantsless freshman wearing denim booty shorts over tights – she’s sure to catch a torchy cola on her ass.”
You get the picture.
So, I’m calling it our first step into real cultural integration. And I’m also a bit chagrined to report that yesterday evening, when headed out for a stroll to St. Peter’s square, I bundled Joey into a tshirt, sweater, ski coat and knit cap. And it was 50 degrees.
The cultural pressure is getting to me already! I can feel the penetrating glares of the smoking grandmothers and moms at the park when they behold my two blonde bombshells, bare-headed in the face of dangerous whipping winds and rain.
Colorado, don’t disown me. I’m just trying to fit in.
Head and chest covered: torchy-cola proof
Exposed cranium and neck meat. Basically inviting torchy colas to attack.