A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Good news! Or, well, it’s definitely not bad news. I suppose you could approach it from a neutral position.

Anyway, I have started taking Italian classes once a week, downtown. This is positive for a number of reasons:

1. I have always wanted to speak Italian beyond “prosciutto,” “pizza,” and “parmigiano-reggiano” (which is the most fun to say). Also important: Chianti, Montepulciano, Pinot Grigio. Now I will be able to request these items and discuss them in complete sentences.

2. I like to be busy, and since I have no children or any immediate plans to acquire some, now feels like a good time to burn my candle at both ends in the name of “why not?”

3. This is a much easier, far less expensive alternative to scratching that “sigh, wouldn’t it be fun to go back to school?” itch that so many people in their late twenties seem to get.

4. The classroom is conveniently located in the midst of about 300 Italian wine bars and restaurants. And how can you spend two hours learning about definite articles and conjugations without capping the night off with a few glasses of rosato?

5. Now I get to answer my cell phone with, “Pronto!” (Get ready, friends and family).

I’m really very excited about this development. Sure, maybe it’s not the most practical language to learn, and maybe it makes no particular sense for my life, but it’s so much fun to take notes from a blackboard again! I have homework! In a workbook! And from handouts! (I told you, I’m a huge and unapologetic nerd). I get to say things like “io sono Nina” (I am Nina) and “io ho l’orologio” (I have the wristwatch)! After so many years of work work which follows me home so many nights and which will never actually lessen or be truly finished in any way, there’s something that feels so fun and satisfying about learning a subject from the very beginning and having to fill in blanks on a worksheet. It feels so straightforward. It takes me back to a time when life was simpler and when you finished your assigned exercises, you could close a book, get in your pajamas and watch an episode of “Clarissa Explains It All” before going to bed with nothing more weighing on your mind than whether your mom would give you tuuuuna salaaaaad again for lunch tomorrow. You’ll have to have a frank discussion with her about that.

Also, my teacher appears to be the prototype for a new Italian Sascha Baron Cohen character. Unfortunately, while I succeeded in grasping the conjugation of the Italian for “to be,” I failed to remember his name.

Everything about this bodes well.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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