No seriously? Where do I start? I read Melissa Gorga’s book Love Italian Style: The Secrets of My Hot and Happy Marriage knowing that it would be badly written, filled with misguided advice and crammed with enough 1950s gender theory to spontaneously generate copies of the Feminine Mystique. But the book was so much worse than I had ever anticipated. Nothing could have prepared me for it and nothing will erase the agony of realizing that there are women out there who actually think like this. Good thing I read the book so that you don’t have to.
First off, let me introduce our authoress. A lot of people, myself included, aren’t familiar with her and who could really blame them? Melissa Gorga is one of the featured characters on the Bravo TV show The Real Housewives of New Jersey. She has been married to her husband, Joe Gorga, for 9 years, and they have three children. She also has a “singing career“. I put the term “singing career” in quotes because she can’t sing and a second grader with a rhyming dictionary can write better lyrics than she can.
Anyway, this is Melissa’s first book and hopefully her last. It saddens me to think that she had a ghost writer for this tripe. It doesn’t look like a professional inscribed a single word. It’s written in a conversational style, but the type of conversation where the person is rambling on about how they get pedicures and a part of your brain starts saying, “what is going on? Why am I here? Why am I listening to this? Is this my life now?” But enough talk, let’s get into the book.
The book is divided into four parts and starts out with a brief introduction. The thesis of the entire book is “What I want women to know is that by embracing some of the old-fashioned values of putting your man on a pedestal, you will actually be the one standing higher up — because you’ll end up getting more of what you want.” Yes, you will, if you want to live your life at the beck and call of a husband who demands sex and constant attention. But more on that later.
Melissa, who claims that she is a combination of modernity and old-school Italian values, goes on to layout the four cornerstones of her marriage. The first one is respect. In order to describe how it works in her marriage, she provides the following list:
What Joe needs to feel respected by me
1. To be greeted at the door with a hug, kiss, and a smile.
2. A home-cooked dinner in a well-kept house with fresh and clean kids.
3. Sex three to five times a week.
Uh huh. The definition of the word “respect“, in this context, is admiration for someone or something. Sex is not a way to show someone that you hold them in deep regard. Sex is not something that you should feel obligated to do or just go along with because you know your partner will be upset if you refuse. Sex should only happen when both partners are willing and interested. There’s no respect in a marriage where a wife has to perform her “wifely duties” three to five times a week regardless of whether she wants to or not.
Also, the entire idea that you can be old-fashioned and modern at the same time is a contradiction in terms. The reason why old-fashioned stuff went the way of the dinosaurs was because it didn’t work. Gender roles are too confining for dynamic, realized human beings to live in. That’s why things had to change. You can’t combine the old-school and the new-school because they are not compatible.
Moving on, here’s what Melissa needs from her husband in order to feel respected:
What I need to feel respected by Joe
1. He tells me where he is, what he’s doing and with whom.
2. Kind words.
3. Sexy looks.
Maybe I’m just lazy but Melissa’s list seems to have a lot more involved in it than Joe’s. All Joe needs to do is tell her where he’s going, say she looks sexy, and waggle his eyebrows a bit and BAM! Melissa feels all respected. On the other hand, Melissa has to greet him at the door (with a martini, a newspaper and his slippers?), after cleaning the house, cooking his food, taking care of his children, and then has to have sex with him. How is it that his list can be accomplished in a matter of seconds and hers takes a lifetime?
The next important ingredient in her marriage is loyalty. She writes that,
He’ll [Joe’ll] march into battle and slay my enemies. I can call him anytime of day or night. He’ll drop whatever he’s doing, get on his white horse (or a black Range Rover), and race flat-out to my side. No questions, no hesitation. He can’t wait to do it!
While it’s nice that Melissa has someone she can rely on, this goes a little bit further than is really needed. He will slay her enemies? He’ll get onto his white horse? Life isn’t a bodice ripper romance novel. She’s not a damsel is distress that needs a prince to ride in and save her. She’s a grown woman living in the real world. But then again, she’s a Real Housewife of New Jersey, so even her real is fake.
The next point is honest. Oh yes, honesty. Melissa inscribes the following;
Honesty can be flattering or instructive. It can also be brutal. When a man asks his wife to dress better or lose a few pounds, it can seem rude. I don’t take comments like that as insults. Honesty is always a compliment. When Joe speaks his truth, he’s giving me credit that I’m secure enough in myself to take constructive criticism. When Joe says he doesn’t like my outfit, I know it’s just because he loves seeing me in his favorite red shirt. If you respond to honest with anger and defensiveness, your man will shut down. He might stop saying things — but believe me, he’s sure thinking them.
Honesty certainly is important in a relationship, but expecting someone to alter themselves because you don’t like it, is not the way a healthy relationship functions. Also, your partner is not your coach. They shouldn’t be giving you all of this “constructive criticism”. It’s just more of the dominate male exercising control over the female and molding her into what he wants her to be, not accepting her for who she is. Not to mention that this honesty and criticism is not reciprocal. Not once does Melissa mention asking Joe to change himself or do something differently for her. Let alone something that he doesn’t want to do. She is the subordinate in the relationship, so she makes all of the changes.
The final cornerstone of Melissa and Joe’s marriage is passion. Melissa warns us gravely “You shouldn’t marry if you aren’t sexually attracted to your husband.” I wonder where she got her degree in marriage counseling from because she is a goddamn genius! How has any marriage survived before this book was published? Seriously.
One thing Melissa likes to talk about in the book is sex and she will. Until your eyes bleed. She states, “Sex is the glue of marriage. It fills in the little cracks to hold you together. Otherwise, those tiny cracks can turn into huge splits.” She also mentions how Joe calls sex “getting the poison out”. Apparently he has told her that blue balls is likely to kill him and she has to perform her wifely duties to keep him healthy. But more on that later.
The introduction wraps up with this little gem, “Readers might be shocked to learn that I do ninety percent of the housekeeping. I greet Joe at the door with a kiss, and make a hot dinner for him nearly every night.” I’m not really that shocked. Melissa has already stated that she has to keep the house clean and cook dinner for her husband in order for him to feel that she respects him. Why would he help with any of the housework, otherwise known as women’s work?
If you think the introduction was painful, just wait. There are four parts to this book and I’m going to go through all of them in detail. Melissa can argue that she was taken out of context and that quotes pulled from her writing were not that objectionable when read with the entire book, but the book is far worse than the quotes from Jezebel. And I’m going to show you just how bad it gets.
To read all review entries of Love Italian Style, click here. Blogs are in reverse chronological order.