Love matters

Falling in love is an international trade. It happens everywhere. We all crave falling in love, one way or another. How we handle it, though, does bring cultural handicaps in the picture.

Greeks fall madly in love. And I don’t mean candlelit dinners and romantic outings at the movies. I mean drama, tears, shouting, blood and sweating of all sorts. And then things get ugly. Yeah, things do get ugly everywhere, I know, just not quite this way. Tasos Livaditis said ‘If we are not dying for one another then we are dead already.’

Marlon Brando in ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ raped the poor meddling sister and got rid of her. Yep, that’s American drama all right. The Greek Marlon Brando would have killed her in the heat of passion, then would have repented his crime, made a suicide attempt only to end up in jail while his wife would be getting the necessary consolation from his handsome younger brother or charming father.  And just in case the Greek audience would find that boring, the writer would throw in a haunting family secret involving a parent’s secret love child who unwittingly falls in love with his half-sister.

I am not saying dating is all that bad in Greece. Except that I don’t seem to witness any dating going on around here. Is it just my wanton friends or is everyone just going straight to business? Coffee, is of course still number 1 when it comes to going out with someone, but things seem to escalate with the speed of light from then on. Sometimes even the proverbial coffee doesn’t come into play.

Of course Hollywood does project an image of abundant easy love, but still, everyday life in the East coast implies that people do actually go on dates before taking it all to the next level and becoming lovers. The dinner and a movie ritual is alive and well as far as I know, ‘Sex and the City’ airing or not.

I am not saying Greeks are more promiscuous that North Americans. Yet any sort of courtship that involves controlling the expression of passion ranks pretty low in their esteem. It is not a surprise that one will bump into couples kissing and fondling each other everywhere in Athens. And I am talking serious displays of affection in very, very public places. Metro, trains, parks, street corners or the middle of the street will do too, thank you very much red light. People pass those love birds by and nobody bats an eyelash. It’s natural, the old man in the straw hat will say, people fall in love. And then I remember kissing my boyfriend once, outside the Barnes and Nobles in Georgetown and getting three dirty looks in a row from annoyed book buyers exiting the store. And it wasn’t even a true french kiss! Imagine that.

Not quite sure where I stand on the matter. I would have liked to have been more old-fashioned back when I was dating. Would have been nice to have prolonged the soapy, romantic, getting-to-know each other period, wouldn’t it? Civilized, proper, plus it would have heightened, no, crescento-ed the anticipation, right? Couldn’t do it. Nope. Leaned towards the Greek side, I guess. The waiting was  just excruciating. As Anatole France would say ‘I always preferred the craze of passion rather than the wisdom of indifference’. Us Greeks often do just that.


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  • Loukas Filippou

    Very good article Anna…