Scoliosis and terrible eyesight were two of the more benign, nerdy ailments that plagued me in high school. Next would be irritable bowel syndrome, which took longer to diagnose as my guts seemed to be perpetually bent into an angry, torturous fist.
Just as I was circling in on the notion that my bowel issues were related to gluten and lactose, I started dating a young woman named Brittany. And Brittany, bless her, was Italian.
If you don't already know, cheese and gluten are their own food groups in Italian culture -- and one's ability to overeat is nothing short of an achievement.
I liked Brittany. So I decided to ignore my gut. Love was supposed to hurt, right? I decided early on to withhold the fact that their homemade pasta recipe handed down from Marco Polo would wreak havoc in my bodily systems.
You show love for Italians by eating everything they put in front of you
Brittany’s dad opened the front door the first time I went over to her family's house for dinner. “Brittany!” he shouted upstairs, neck veins bulging. “Your friend!” He invited me inside, turned, and walked away while saying something about a soccer match on TV. I stood in the front hallway alone for a minute, then decided to follow the smell of home cooking to the kitchen. Brittany's mother was in there preparing for the feast: pasta and cheeses piled high, smelling delicious, and giving me instant anxiety over what was about to happen to my insides.