Have you ever dated someone whose family wouldn’t give you the seal of approval? Whose parents had a checklist of qualifications that put you on the “Do Not Date” list from jump street?
I had a boyfriend in high school and college whose Greeky-Greek parents had a set of expectations for their two oldest sons.
First on their list was that any young woman who dates one of their golden boys must be Greek.
It was non-negotiable.
That ruled me out. A person can’t change her cultural heritage. I have a Swedish-American father and a Bohemian-American mother. No amount of Ouzo or Spanakopita could render me otherwise.
It wasn’t that Boyfriend’s Parents weren’t nice to me. They were fine. I was even invited to travel to their family’s hometown one weekend for a cousin’s wedding. Cousin, by the way, was marrying a nice WASPy man, but that was their cousin’s mother’s business, and I was told from Day One that Boyfriends’ Parents didn’t want a WASP marrying into their inner circle.
Boyfriend’s Parents wanted a nice Greek girl to take his hand and name in the whole happily ever af–oh, never mind.
The weekend of the cousin’s wedding, I stayed in the same hotel room as Boyfriend’s mother. Now there was a woman with a storied past.
Back in the day, Boyfriend’s Mother left behind the man she loved in Greece and came sight-unseen to the United States for her arranged marriage to Boyfriend’s Father. She cried on her wedding night, but soldiered on and built her life here–raising four children. (I was told that she really dreamed of going back to the motherland for good someday. Even if only in death.) And so she had this thing where she would sigh heavily all the time.
By Sunday night, I began to sigh as well.
I wasn’t Greek. And I could never be Greek. I was wasting everybody’s time. Including my own. Sigh.
But I kept seeing him. Even though the family always spoke Greek around me and made me feel like an outsider–or worse, like they were picking me apart.
In the meantime, Boyfriend always had a nice car to drive us out on dates. He always had money to take me out. He always had a nice suit for school dances. It was all perfectly adequate.
Adequate because whenever his father got the chance to tell me this thing I had with his son wasn’t going to last, he did.
“You’re not Greek,” he would pronounce with a flourish of his hand, as if speaking to his serf. A lowly she-worm in Scandinavian Lutheran’s clothing.
So it came as no surprise to me or anyone else that on holidays and special occasions, a pair of Greek sisters were always on the family’s guest list.
They had a Greeky-Greek mama themselves, and were just the right age to someday marry Boyfriend and Boyfriend’s Brother.
Boyfriend’s Brother’s Girlfriend and I called these two girls, “The Bun Sisters” because they wore their long black hair up on top of their heads in severe topknots, just like their gray-haired mama did. In fact, looking at the mama was like seeing into these two sisters’ futures. (Mama’s given name was Satyrion, which we learned was Greek for HAIRY ONE.)
Akantha (meaning THORN), the older of the two sisters, was demure in all her ways except for in the way she clucked after her younger sister, Damarius (meaning HEIFER). They also dressed like throwbacks to the fifties in longer, full-skirted dresses with wholesome accessories and little makeup.
Meanwhile, Boyfriend’s Brother’s Girlfriend and I looked (and acted) like the chicks straight off of “That Seventies Show.”
So whenever Girlfriend and I watched the two sisters interact with Boyfriends’ parents, it was rather like watching Cinderella’s two step-sisters trying to ingratiate themselves with the royal family when a mysterious glass slipper was on the line.
But as an extra precaution–and just in case the Bun Sisters didn’t work out, Boyfriend’s Father sent Boyfriend and Boyfriend’s Brother to Greece every summer to look for nice Greek girls to marry.
And that was when this chick’s eye began to wander…
Later, Boyfriend’s father thanked me for helping his two sons get through college. Really, all I did was give them feedback on the papers they had to write, but hell, I’ll take a thank you wherever I can get it.
As for his princely sons, Boyfriend and Boyfriend’s Brother did not marry the Bun Sisters.
And I didn’t marry Boyfriend either.
Boyfriend married a nice lady who isn’t Greek, but has converted to his church and can pass for Greek herself with her sultry Mediterranean beauty. I am happy for them both and wish them nothing but To aeròstromno mu ìne gemàto hèlia–no wait a minute, that means ‘My hovercraft is full of eels’… I mean, Stin iyá sas! (CHEERS & GOOD HEALTH TO YOU AND YOURS).
Interestingly, my sister and I have remained very close friends with Boyfriend’s two cousins. Over the years, Cousins’ Parents became our honorary aunt and uncle, and our families do socialize together. Apparently, they have no problem with our non-Greek blood or the fact that I still don’t care for most Greek food.
You know what? Life’s a funny, funny thing.
Remember, Aν η γιαγιά μου είχε αρχίδια, θα τη φώναζα παππού which literally translates to:
“If my grandmother had balls, I would call her my grandfather.”
Thanks for reading and hang true to you–
Susan J. Anderson, Foxy Writer Chick