Girls of Milan are largely good people. They dress appropriately for the occasion, and they know all the right places to hang out, with the right people, and they know the difference between a good job, and a job for losers. They kinda know who they are, and are there to make it. They know full well, for example, that working in fashion in Milan has its cool side. Getting into the most amazing parties, (very) small discounts on clothing, free booze, and you can basically be a bitch 24/7, for no particular reason.
Design is ok too, but the line gets thinner, and it’s twice as painful to go far. The rest is either too boring, too hard, or just uncool. Girls of Milan are almost clueless as to what’s going on around them. To be honest, they don’t really care that much. Plus, no one will ever question who they really are if they keep looking busy. Why ‘react’ when they can simply ‘act as’? They are only interested in art if it comes with a nice flute of champagne, or if it’s avant-garde stuff, like the new Lady Gaga video, or if their parents have stopped paying the food bill… Less pain, same gain…
It’s often the case that this lack of awareness and curiosity is mostly through choice. Let’s say you choose not to play it safe, and invested more time and effort into getting on, would this make much of a difference to the average Milan intern in finding a well-paid job? Maybe someday, but no expectations please, it’s not elegant! Let’s also say that you’re kind of a genius, and would die for the cause, and you are fully aware that your ideas deserve to be rewarded somehow, with more than just a ‘thank you’. Would this change the situation? Not really.
So here comes the point where, against all odds, the brave girl of Milan just gets sick of it all, shows a middle finger, as if she wasnâ€™t born with enough, and starts doing her own thing, whatever sheâ€™s passionate about (the crazy webzine, the underground fashion brand, the cutting edge club night, to name a few) no matter what. High risks, priceless rewards!
And thatâ€™s exactly what S did. Sheâ€™s one of a kind the girl of Milan who wears Sonia Rykiel coats with a boyfriend shirt, stockings and flat Dr Martens without looking stupid, who goes to squat parties, punk gigs and art exhibitions because she simply likes to see (not just watch) new stuff. She loves photography, and therefore quit the expensive school of photography,
applied for a full time job as an editor in an independent magazine, and co-founded one of the coolest and most polished photography blogs ever, called ‘IthoughtIWasAlone’ (rather meaningful, isn’t it?). You’re likely to find her and her odd crew of writers, artists and skaters on Thursdays downstairs at La Sacrestia dancing, from Wu-tang Clan to the Ramones. Then there’s another smart S in town: she was so sick and tired of the mainstream music she was compelled to listen to at club nights that she just quit her fashion editor job (pointless, she says, to go by a book that’s not even yours), and became DJ Dumb-Blonde. If you find yourself at a club night in Milan, not able to figure out how the heaviest bass lines you’ve ever heard are played by a lousy t-shirt, denim shorts and Balenciaga-heeled blonde lady, you’re definitely at one of her DJ sets.
P is a fashion designer. She studied in London, Shanghai, and wherever she felt she could get inspiration from. If she had to choose between a sun and sea weekend on the coast or going to Antwerp to see a Margiela exhibition, she would undoubtedly choose the Flemish thing. After utterly disappointing experiences working for big fashion brands, she decided to buy a sewing machine and started creating her techno-chic monstergowns in her own dining room. That’s how she gave birth to Domestic Couture. Go and spot her ‘antisocial’ massive round bags and scary neoprene hoodies at the craziest gay clubs in Milan (like Glitter or Plastic) or at some hardcore metal gig! As for those who don’t make it in Milan, at the risk of getting their (middle) fingers burnt, they just say goodbye and suddenly become girls of Paris, girls of London and girls of New York… Paolo Zagoreo
I get off the number 14 and take the lane by the FNAC. My heels are nailing in the tarmac like pins in the heat. Every step leaves me nearly immobile, in this semiempty city, closed for the holiday. For the occasion, I have worn the highest heels I possess, even if he’s going to want me to get them off. The meeting is at HOTEL DEI CAVALIER. It will take me ten minutes to get there, whilst the heated air of Milan is brushing through my naked thighs. I’m not wearing anything underneath because that’s the way he likes it. It’s one of his desires, easy enough to satisfy. This city is a minefield for the ruffles of skirts: you must be careful of the steam vents from the metro. They blow sinful hot air from below, and I don’t want just anybody to see. Only him, and him alone. I am walking, my perversion hidden by a dark thin mini-dress. Only a watchful eye can spot that there isn’t any trace of panties underneath. Walking... my inner thighs are brushing against one another. My shamefulness, as it used to be called by Grandmothers, has never been more pronounced.
It’s strange – strange to sit on the metro with my knees tight; strange to feel the seat against my naked skin; strange to think that if I bend a little further, or carelessly cross my legs, anybody could see. Instead I am brushing my hand against my skirt to avoid any creasing. In the reflection of a shop window, I check my hemline to make sure it’s right. I’m keeping composed, with my knees tight so that no one can see. I preserve my naked sex, like a modest virgin, to offer it at my arrival.
The heat is rising from the tarmac. I wonder whose temperature is going to be hotter, mine or his. As a consequence of the hot air my lips are tightening, as I am starting to taste the pleasure that I will be feeling in a short while. Each metre closer, anticipation is making me wet. The facade of the hotel is facing a square with lots of similar openings. I don’t know which one is his window. Maybe he’s watching me as I cross the street. I wonder how many people behind those walls are doing what we are about to do. I head for the main entrance door. This is the hardest part. As usual, he couldn’t explain to me where the lifts are located. He always gets there at night, and he prefers to take the stairs because he suffers from claustrophobia. I let a tram pass before me and then I cross. I’m walking by the windows of the hotel, trying to work out how I am going to get upstairs.
That’s the trick. If you stop to wonder where you’re going they’ll think you’re not staying there, and if you enquire at reception they ask for ID. Then they want to register you to the room and call if you are there for more than ten minutes, so you can pay extra for your presence. And we are definitely going to be more than ten minutes. I don’t want to risk being charged extra for the room, even if he can afford it. I prefer to be discreet. I don’t want to leave a trace of me.
Being with him requires having lots of time. He is the perfect incarnation of the stereotypical southern man – he stays on top, and never tires. He doesn’t lick. He commands. He fucks you standing from behind. He does it hard and he doesn’t stop till I’ve cum. And he looks at me right in the eyes as it happens, because he wants to see me. In front of the revolving door there is a guy in the hotel uniform. If I spy much longer I am going to get caught. I’m just gonna go for it. I am passing a blade of crisp air, cooled by the conditioning system at the entrance. I am holding my breath, whilst marching straight ahead down a kind of corridor. I am holding my mobile as I walk and checking the message for the 100th time that he sent, ‘Room 683, if they stop you, get the room called’. I have counted four people behind reception. I am going straight ahead until they can’t see me anymore.
Then I stop. I focus on the lift buttons. The only option is to go up. I take a second to understand. I am standing in front of the elevator. Nobody has noticed me or asked where I am going. Excellent. I press the button. After a second the doors are opening before me and I get in. 6th floor. Room 683. He is waiting there. My heels are digging in the dark carpet that seems to cover everything. I venture out into a labyrinth of corridors. I pass the room cleaner and imagine she is going to collect our sweaty sheets. 674, 675, 676... Behind the doors I capture fragments of life. TV. Talking from people who don’t know that he and I are here. 680... 682... 683. I can see the ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door. It’s only there for others, not for me. I am the only woman expected here, at least this morning. I am the only person authorized to enter into his life at the moment.
We are here, separated only by the door. Maybe he has heard my footsteps. Maybe he is hiding like an animal, waiting to pounce on his pray. Or maybe heâ€™s trying to keep himself occupied by looking at his phone.
I’m knocking. He doesn’t ask anything. To be sure, he always checks through the door spy hole. He opens the door before him, hiding behind it. Ritualistically I walk in, and I wait for the door to lock behind me before I turn to face him with a smile. He always wears jeans and a faded t-shirt, as if he doesn’t care. And he’s right. The beauty is when he’s naked. He walks around barefoot. He hugs me, and his erection betrays his obvious pleasure. I bury my face in his coarse beard, while his hands are running from my back to my bum cheeks, shortening my skirt as he pulls it up. We breathe close to one another. When he feels my naked buttocks, he fills his palms with them, and says, ‘good girl’. Right. No panties, as promised.
He takes me towards the bed holding me from behind. The TV is showing the morning news. Iâ€™m sitting on his open jeans, on his erection that can wait no longer. By the room door, the laundry trolley is slowing down, then takes off again. Come back in a few hours, madam. By then, the sheets will be wet with months of fierce abstinence. Valentina Maran
I turn around and I see her standing in front of the door. Of all the people walking along the balcony, she was the only one who stopped. ‘Do you live here?’ ‘Yes. You too, right?’ ‘Yes. I’m moving in.’ I have made the change after nine years spent with my husband. But I took the cat with me. Speaking of which, where is the cat? She stays at the door chewing gum. I move some boxes around. She stands there, staring. ‘Inside the car there are a couple of boxes left, then I’m finished.’ ‘Mh-mh.’
I thought she was going to offer to help me, but she just stayed there. I kick a box to move it a bit. I am tired and hot. ‘Have you seen my cat?’ ‘We are not allowed to have them here.’ ‘Really? The landlord didn’t mention it. It looks like the cat’s gone, so it won’t be a problem anymore.’
I fought for that cat. It was the only way to hurt Giorgio. The only way I have, other than the Dolby Surround TV. ‘Are you alone?’ ‘Yes.’ And I hope the questions stop there. She waits at the door, fiddling. She must be around 15.
‘Are you thirsty? Would you like a beer?’ ‘I’m not sure, in Milan they’ve just started a campaign against teenage drinking... Why not?’ It is going to be hard to find a bottle opener. I get a fresh beer from the fridge. I have everything I need, I could make builders envious. No question – when you do a manly job such as moving, you need a man’s drink. It’s good for the mood too. I wander around the room, looking for the bottle opener. ‘Leave it, I will get it.’ She grabs the bottle from the neck, she takes a lighter from her pocket and she opens the bottle with it. ‘Feel free to smoke.’
This is something those who want to feel grownup do. She sips the beer looking around at empty walls and IKEA furniture that luckily I hadn’t had to assemble. ‘It’s nice. It’s coming together.’ ‘Thank you. There’s still so much to do.’ She wanders around from one room to the next. She has a good look without asking permission. My whole life is in these boxes.
‘And what do you do for a living?’ ‘Advertising.’ ‘Like?’ ‘Like… like one of those guys who goes touring in a van.’ ‘The one with the cute guy playing the bass?’ ‘Him.’ ‘Also, the one you can see out there with the car and frogs.’ ‘Mmm.. that’s a good one.’ ‘And I did the one where you had to call the numbers on the floor.’ ‘Oh, really? I called, but you weren’t able to help me kick the habit!’ She takes a pack of cigarettes from her pocket and she shows it me. I never really thought that I could change people with advertising. Maybe just help them think a bit.
The discussion ends there. She is not one of those people who start asking lots of questions, about the famous people you may have met, or what to do when you have an idea for an advertising campaign. We stay quiet for a bit. Then I do something that I have never done before in my entire life. â€˜Listen, why donâ€™t you come around
for dinner one of these days? I don’t know anyone. God… I am an awful cook, but I can manage a Carbonara.’ This is the typical approach of a desperate single woman: invite the first person who walks in, not even considering the fact that this is going to be the person who will be around the most. Why do I feel I will be disappointed if she declines? Why do I need her to say yes? Am I really so lonely? Is the need to have someone around so strong that even a teenager with whom I don’t seem to have much in common with will do? She laughs. ‘Ok, sure! Just get some different beers in, this sucks!’
‘Do you have any condoms, by any chance?’ The question was unexpected. I am not sure how we went from pink nail polish and Raf’s songs to this. No, it was quite a jump. ‘Well... no.’ ‘It’s just... my boyfriend is arriving tomorrow... ’ ‘Well, why don’t you send him to a chemist to buy them?’ ‘I just wanted to surprise him... You know... not the usual kissing stuff... ’ I am not sure what to do, start with the patronising lesson about sex, that it should only happen if
you love someone, only if you want it, and if it’s the right time... But who am I to teach this girl? Me, I can’t even smoke? ‘When did you fuck the first time?’ She uses this language, it doesn’t suit her. I drink my Moretti. ‘Do you mean when I lost my virginity or when I made love for the first time?’ She shrugs her shoulders. There is no difference. That makes me laugh. ‘So?’ She laughs as well. I shake my head. ‘The first time was not so memorable. And to be honest, not even the second time. I think the best came only after. With time. Learning. It was...awkward. We didn’t know what we would feel. How it should be... great expectations.’ ‘And?’ I shrug my shoulders.
‘I don’t want to spoil the surprise.’ ‘Does it really hurt? I mean... ’ ‘It depends on him.’ ‘I mean...well, he is OK. He is approximately... let’s say, like this.’ She points to half of the bottle. Well, not bad at all! ‘I mean, it depends on him. On how good he is in bed... ’ She drinks her beer. Then she starts licking the top of the bottle, mimicking oral sex. ‘Mmh, Luca, babe... oh, yes!’ ‘Silly!’ I throw the ice-cream paper at her. She moves away and laughs.
‘Next you will be asking me to leave you the keys to the apartment so you can bring him here.’ ‘Well, actually... ’ ‘That’s all I need! Alcohol, sex... you are dangerous, I tell you!’ She will. Maybe not now, although she is definitely going too fast. I know what being an adolescent and not knowing where to go means. You end up doing it in a car park, with the police arriving, flashing their lights to chase you away. Or you do it at parties, on a Saturday night, in your friend’s bedroom, while the others knock on the door laughing. If you have a place, it helps you grow up quicker. It helps you understand what you want. I decide I will give her time. If she deserves it, I will give her a set of keys. On the condition that she doesn’t trash the place. ‘OK, I would like to stay longer, but I have my ritual call with my love!’ She drinks the last sip. She is healthier
than me. She jumps around towards the entrance. ‘Anyway, if I get pregnant it’s your fault! I warn you! If I end up with a baby I will give it to you!’ She leaves, with a bitter smile on her face. Only a couple of days ago, such an offer would have saved my marriage. Valentina Maran
art director & typeface
cover, 10, 14, 18, 30, 65, 122, 126, 130, 132, 34, 136, 138, 140, 142, 144
56, 79, 98, 120, 121
21, 24, 52, 58, 63, 66, 72, 82, 84, 93, 95, 108, 110, 116, 128
34, 40, 44, 46, 54, 86, 90, 102, 118, 124
alberto maccari 49, 70, back cover
elena giordano 4, 51, 60, 64, 74, 76, 91
olimpia soheve 23, 36, 50, 69, 106
Valentina Maran is a writer who lives and works in Milan. Her book ‘L’uomo che mi lava’ (‘The man who washes me’) was published in Italy in 2006 by Piemme, then translated and distributed in Germany, Spain and Mexico. She has also produced work for the collections ‘Ragazze che dovresti conoscere – the sex anthology’ (‘Girls you should know – the sex anthology’) published by Einaudi, ‘Dizionario affettivo della lingua italiana’ (‘Emotional dictonary of the Italian Language’) published by Fandango, ‘Atti Impuri’ (‘Impure Acts’) published by NoReplay. Valentina is also the editor for Italian Elle’s online sex blog and she produces her own at http://uomochemilava.blogspot.com/. Paolo Zagoreo is a writer and stylist for Flair magazine and is based in Milan.
thanks to: andrea pescarolo, stephanie parker, valeria clementi, ursula faulkner, debora pace, valentina di pinto, gabriele inzaghi, claudio cipriani, angelina canale, elisa sozzi, le18.it, cristine du puy, face to face, bianca popp, ariberto anastasi, christine fortune, anna paola strona, fulvio nepi, ibiz, ivan fassio, marie biondini, indigoft.it, sabrina sala, simpleag.it, riccardo catagnano, tiziana dimolfetta, vincenzo dottorini, luca ghilino, primordial pain tattoos studio, chiara stefani, ania kletkiewicz, rebecca iacomino, vanessa sacristan, roberta belloni, isabella musacchia, gina ridenti, marta toth.