ADVANTAGES

The twentieth century, with its less restrictive courtship practices,saw the use of the "fedina" (from the term "fede di matrimonio"for a wedding band). This is a ring similar to a wedding band but thinner,and therefore less costly, that young unmarried lovers exchange to indicatean "engagement." In reality, these are not usually formal engagementsbut just extended romances. The long "engagements" (fidanzamenti)in Sicily today, which, incredibly, often span five or ten years, result from particular customs and circumstances. Nowadays, when non-marital sex is commonplace,it lends more dignity to a couple's relationship (at least in the eyes ofsome traditionalists) to say that they are "engaged," evenif they are not. Particularly in the South of Italy, where unemployment is high,long engagements are defended with the explanation that the man wants tofind a secure job before marrying, but it is clear that many men take advantageof these long-term courtships to avoid matrimonial responsibility. "Nobody buys the cow when they can milk it for free," and a Sicilian woman is understandably disappointed to be abandoned by a man with whom she has been "engaged" for six or seven years. In few other parts of the world (or in other parts of Italy) is this bizarre practice of extremely lengthy courtship so widespread as in Sicily.

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