La Dolce Divas
MONTVILLE, NEW JERSEY
“LA DOLCE DIVAS”
The Conforti sisters are first generation Italian Americans. Mom and Dad came over on the boat when they were teenagers. Grandma “Dina” didn’t speak English when she moved to America and she began working at sixteen years old. She met her husband on a walk home through the streets of New Jersey. They fell in love and built a life together. For a traditional immigrant family, mom and dad had serious and often strict rules of what it meant to be a family. No sleep overs. No friends outside the sisters. No bike riding farther than the driveway. The sister didn’t know how not to be close.
However, this insular way of childrearing made the girl’s strong, loud, over-the-top and incredible women who don’t conform to outside norms. They’re proud Italians who speak their mind regardless of the consequences. There are no boundaries. Nothing is off limits. Cristina, Felicia and Angela (as well as mom and dad) all live within a five-minute drive of one another. It’s a constant musical chairs of who’s at who’s house, who’s babysitting whose children and who is hosting Sunday dinner. They talk about sex, children, husbands…about anything and everything.
The sisters even went to college together and lived at home while they attended school. It wasn’t until they met and married their husbands did they move out of their childhood home. One could argue that the sisters barely left the nest as they and all live in homes extremely close to where they were raised. Known over the years as the Conforti sisters they are recognized wherever they go, and they are often asked where one sister is, if the other sister isn’t around. The gals all live extremely close and enmeshed lives, except for one.
Stefania is the “black sheep” and the epicenter of many of the big family’s arguments. Stefania met Ryan, her husband, while she was engaged to someone else and broke her ex-fiancées heart. Stefania and Ryan have two children together, Matteo (4) and Jack (20 months). Ryan is in the Air Force and as a result, their family has made several moves crisscrossing the United States. They are currently living in Alaska but will be moving to Oklahoma within the next several months. Stefania is thrilled that she is going to be closer to her family so she can visit more often.
Stefania was never exactly like her other sisters. Although she’s close with them, she never has felt compelled to be exactly like them. She never saw eye to eye with her mother and resented the extremely strict way in which she was raised. Therefore, it’s no surprise that she is the one who left. She loves seeing the world, meeting new people and experiencing new things. In her opinion, there’s so much more to the world than what Montville, New Jersey has to offer.
Cristina is the matriarch of the family. She and her husband, Michael, have three children: Michael Jr. (12), Alessandra (9) and Gabriel (4). Their house is the hub for the sisters and the extended family. Cristina and Michael have been together since they met in 8th grade! They say their teenage romance was akin to Romeo and Juliet because of Cristina’s strict parents. They weren’t allowed to date and had to sneak around in order to see each other. Their love prevailed and they’ve been together for over 25 years!
Growing up Cristina was expected to take care of her sisters and help her parents around the house. Like Cinderella, Cristina was essentially cleaning the entire house and cooking dinner nightly for a family of six by the time she was thirteen years old. Her mother thought she was teaching her how to be a good homemaker, but Michael feels as though Cristina was taken advantage of by her parents. It’s no wonder that Cristina behaves as a second mother to her sisters, often giving them life advice whether it’s solicited or not. Angela has always been like a daughter to Cristina and Michael and it’s been a somewhat functional way of living. However, Cristina and Michael constantly project their thoughts, feelings, opinions, standard onto Angela in everything, especially when it comes to career and dating. Michael would love to move away from Montville but Cristina can’t bear to be away from her sisters.
Felicia is married to Mickey. The two have two children together, Cameron (4) and Mason (2). They are expecting their third baby in June 2019. The family is over the moon at the thought of another baby. Felicia won’t admit it, but she is in over her head with two kids, so having a third child she will absolutely need the help of her sisters. Felicia will have three children under that age of five and Mickey is spread thin with working during the day and coaching sports at night. After an exhausting day of taking care of the kids, Felicia will be watching the clock more than ever and counting the minutes until Mickey gets home to once her newest bambino arrives.
Angela is 31 years old and happily living in her childhood bedroom in her parents’ house. Angela is a late bloomer in more ways than one. Not only is she still living in her childhood bedroom, she has never had a, “real job” and she’s been a perpetual student. Angela holds a college degree in Microbiology and is in pursuit of getting her dental hygienist license. Also, Angela lost her virginity at 27! To put this in perspective, her sisters were married with children by her age. The pressure is on and the clock is ticking.
Despite her book smarts, Angela is terrible at picking “good quality men” in her life, according to her sisters. Angela caught feelings for Christopher, a man who works at a local pizzeria and they have been dating for three months. Dating someone at 31 years old while living at home with strict, “traditional” parents is tough territory to navigate. Angela can’t have Christopher in her bedroom, so she patiently waits for the one night a week she can spend alone with him at his house. Angela has always been attached to her family. Angela loves Christopher and says she can see a future with him.
Their mother, Dina, had always put baby Angela on a pedestal when she was young and tried to send her away to boarding school. After months of crying from being away from her family, Dina let Angela leave the boarding school and return home. She couldn’t stand being away from her sisters. This experience was traumatic to Angela and she has some anxious feelings around her attachment to her family. Angela struggles with losing Cristina’s undivided attention. Growing up, Angela relied completely on Cristina for everything. Cristina has three kids and a husband who need her attention and it gives Angela anxiety that her sister isn’t as readily available to her.
These Italian women are from a different time and culture. They were pushed and pressed together so-close growing up that they are now inextricably enmeshed in one another’s lives. They fall asleep to each other’s voice on the phone on a nightly basis. They spend the night at one another’s homes. They tend each other’s children as if they are their own. They give sometimes harsh advice about one another’s personal lives. They will fight to the death for their sisters and that isn’t an understatement. It’s sisters first, then family and then everyone else.