Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012.10.14 Sprezzatura!

Picked up a new word. I love new words. And this one has glamor. Sprezzatura!

Doesn’t it sound like champagne popped open and poured? (No, not French. Sprezz... is Italian.)

It refers to feminine wiles, charm spiced with light flirtation, on the surface “all gossamer insouciance, spontaneity—an iron hand in a velvet and deftly stroking glove,” according to a July 30, 2012 piece in the British newspaper, The Guardian, in which  author Hannah Betts makes the case that feminism and flirtation are not necessarily unlikely bedfellows.

A certain amount of sex appeal, studied carelessness, can enhance and advance political and economic negotiations in the halls of government and business.  Betts uses Elizabeth I and Madeleine Albright as examples of how the “rules” of courtship, kept in balance with clear-headedness, can create a language of female authority in a patriarchal system where niceness is weakness.   Elizabeth the Virgin Queen could, for example, be paid court to as everybody’s mistress as well as everybody’s revered monarch.  That’s an art, not witchcraft.

I confess to some expertise in sprezzatura. I learned it from my mother who I thought was a shameless and embarrassing flirt, but then I went and copied her. Sprezzatura craftily employed made me feel powerful, and frankly, alive and attractive. 

It wasn’t very smart to experiment like this as an emotionally needful married woman in the context of the patriarchal Episcopal church with male clergy as my “prey.” I just wanted to be one of them.  My strategy was insane. Still, it felt inevitable. When awakening and radical liberation, from within and without, invites, you leap with little pause—and clean up later.

How do men assert this charm, or do they I wondered?  I see it in various charm-laden ways, none of them boastful — eyes, talk and tilt of head.  Sprezzatura in men reveals innocence, and in women it reveals power.

When our youngest son John was two he and his sweet cousin bit off at mid-stem all the just blossomed tulips that Dad had meticulously planted, a rare domestic endeavor. But Dad, enraged at the damage stood above tiny John breathing fire. John, outfitted by Mom in a double diaper, looked up, tilted his head, and smiled brightly, saying “I love my daddy.”  A lot of salvation both ways happened in that deft sweet stroke.

Sprezzatura isn’t gender-bound, but is a way to steady relationships. Straightforward and clear is best most all the time for both genders. Charm, however, assists, like a good field hockey wing. With it one can be both wily and innocent, a strategy Jesus advocated, for disciples out to transform.

“Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question.”  Camus wrote.

I’m sure the God of scriptures did a bit of charming for the sake of moving the vision forward. Think Moses who needed heavy courting.