What age are you?
A relatively simple question, so one would think. It tends to come at the beginning of small-talk conversations, with people you’re perhaps meeting for the first time. Once you’ve established names and exhausted the ‘where are you from?’ territory, with responses spanning from either, ‘Oh cool (i.e. I have no idea where that is ) or, ‘Oh, I’ve been there!’ (i.e. we have now somehow bonded more), you might ask, ‘So, how old are you?’
It’s at this point in the conversation that Italians enjoy throwing in a curve ball. Maybe they’re testing to see if you’re actually listening, or to see if you have the mental capacity to do mental arithmetic on the spot. Unfortunately, I struggle with the latter.
They come out with responses such as, “Oh, I’m from ’87.” “Really? My cousin is from ’88, but I’m from ’93”. This is all fine and dandy, but IT DOES NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION.
It’s like replying to the question, ‘Are you dairy intolerant?’ with ‘I’ve never been very keen on milk.’
The awkward, let-me-stare-at-you-with-my-mouth-slightly-open-in-confusion-and-try-to-count-discreetly-on-my-fingers then begins, in order to work out what age you actually are. I would not need to do this, Italians, if you simply answered the question. On the other hand, I am hoping my mental maths will come on in leaps and bounds. My primary school maths teacher, Miss Hay, will be proud.
Life lessons learnt: Always reply to ‘Quanti anni hai?’ with ‘Sono di ’90’ (even if it makes no sense).