Family is an ideal. Both in the American and the Greek tradition family is up there, revered, respected, treasured and idealized. Being supportive to family members is a great trait. Being on each others face 24-7 is a Greek trait. It wasn’t accidental that the girl’s parents in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ bought a house for her right next door. Nope. They were just asserting their right to meddle with her life for as long as they all shall live.
The American ideal of being supportive to a family member, at a time of need (emphasis on that one) and just then and no other time whatsoever, usualy involves sending a postcard. The postcard’s presence under the tacky Bermuda magnet is a constant boost to one’s self-confidence, an omnipresent souvenir of love and a sentimental reminder that your sister/ brother/ father/ mother/ uncle/ aunt/ mother-in-law/ step-mother/ friend respect and care about you and their will is to see you happy in your own way of defining happiness, whatever that may be.
Well, that is not the case with Greek families. Nope. Everyone would like to be in control of everybody else’s lives. And I am not talking meddling once in a while. I am talking 24-7 365 days a year. If it was up to a Greek mother to decide what her son would wear to work everyday she seize tha opportunity like no other, even if her son is 57 and married with 3 kids. Mind you, quite a few actually do.
Us Greeks tend to disassociate ourselves with that cold and detached Anglosaxon culture. We throw accusations around, ‘Oh they do not care about their own kids, they throw them out on the streets’ or ‘They don’t care about who lives next door to them’. Yep, they do all that, and so much more, cause they do not consider it good manners to be controlling and they do not appreciate being on either side of the gossip game, some Greeks seem to get so much pleasure out of -or used to get so much pleasure out of. Nope, respects comes first. And respect involves space, time and peace and clarity of mind. I can see my Aunt rolling her eyes and looking away towards the Archipelago as I recite that last sentence to her. It’s all Greek to her now, isn’t it?