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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

Part 7: Dinner dance

By MICHAEL VALPY
Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2003

Part 2

A survey by the Globe and Mail and the Centre for Research and Information on Canada shows women in their 20s to be most acutely aware of, and most strongly opposed to, racism and discrimination. They are the strongest advocates of government programs to care for children and the elderly, for social housing and for state intervention to ameliorate income disparity.

They are the daughters of feminism, even if their mothers didn't call themselves feminists. They assume they will not face disadvantage because of their gender, either in the workplace or in a relationship. And if they do, they won't put up with it.

They also reveal themselves in the CRIC-Globe poll to be the most highly stressed group in Canadian society. They may be shaping the adult world they are entering, which carries its own tensions, but they're also women on the threshold of both their careers and of raising families of their own.
As the meal begins, the young women talk about what it's like to be them. They talk about how they were raised, about their relationships with the men in their lives, about their work, their society, about how they will become mothers and what it is like to belong to two cultures — southern European and Canadian.

With them at the table are parents: Nicoletta, 51, and Franco, 58, are Giulia's mother and father, and Franco's widowed brother Mike, 60, is Maria's father. And there are young men: Giulia's brothers Carmine, 29, who went into business with his father rather than remain in university, and Sergio, 28, a medical student with a master's degree in science; and Maria's brother Giuseppe, 27, an environmental consultant with a master's degree in environmental studies, as well as Maria's fiancÚ, Angelo Tsebelis, 28, a child of Greek immigrants who has a master's degree in business administration and co-owns a restaurant with his brother.

The dynamics of the conversation are fascinating. This is a family skilled at debate. Gibes slice through the air with affectionate but surgical deftness. Points are made with economical precision.

The topic may be the young women but the young men have the most to say. They sometimes answer questions put to their sisters. They, unlike their sisters, sometimes make such comments as: "I can speak for the family in saying . . ." Under these male pronouncements, the women slide sharp, pointed comments of their own. "It is cultural," Giuseppe says, laughing. Maybe. There's a lot about it that's universally male.

Maria, crisply assertive but soft-spoken, raises her voice only once — to argue with her father over the tradition that children, male and female, live at home until they marry.

"You were independent enough to leave a country," she tells Mike, "and come to a completely new one, and get a job on your own, with hardly anything, and we're not allowed to live in an apartment by ourselves."

"Twenty-eight," she mutters with heavy irony, "is not old enough to make your own decisions."

Every one of them, it turns out, still lives at home — except Carmine and Trish, who left when they got married last year. Giulia says softly that she doesn't intend to wait that long. "I have a completely different opinion than everybody else."

"I can't hear you, Giulia," her father Franco says lovingly, having heard very well what she said.

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