Greek-American Stories: And, They Lived Scrappily Ever After

March 2, 2019
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

I believe the best way to stay happily married is to be deaf, dumb, and blind whenever the situation calls for it. Valentine’s Day we’ll see boxes of heart shaped chocolates fly off the shelf, flowers being sent or handed over by men eager to please the lady in mind. Actually, he’s hoping she’ll overlook last night’s drinking binge with the guys. I’ll bet the love affair between Caesar and Cleopatra really ended when he realized she couldn’t make a decent pizza.

In my own family, I always thought my papou’s nickname was Mortie. I thought that was my yiayia’s affectionate term for him. But, when I grew older and was savvier with Greek, I learned that the term was anything but affectionate.  ‘Morti’ in Greek means, ’rascal’. Later, my aunt told me why yiayia renamed him. She never forgave him for cozying up to some lash fluttering female in the neighborhood. Gee! Payton Place at yiayia’s.

There are so many cherished traditions when it comes to weddings. One of them is the caterers who greet you at the door of their office and say, “Welcome! Did you have a nice trip here?” What he really is saying, “Did you bring the check book?” Some weddings end up costing the same as a 747, gratuities not included. I feel sorry for the guests who have to dish out a wad of bills as gifts and don’t know if the marriage will last. No refunds, either.

Brides used to dress like Queen Victoria, and were nervous and blushing in demure, lacey, satin, or silk wedding gowns plus veils. Why the veils? It’s not like we don’t know who’s under it. Today, bridal dresses have changed drastically, being strapless, backless and sometimes with a bare midriff and slit up the legs like they’re going down the runway instead of the aisle. Now, looking around we see “the blushing guests!”

When we see a mother who looks genuinely glad her offspring is getting married at last, she’s probably glad to get rid of the “nasty piece of work.” Let her take over his messy habits, incessant guitar playing and ear-splitting music, late hours, and body piercings. You’ll see her approaching the newly wedded wife saying, cheerfully, “Good luck, my dear. He’s really incredible,” when she really means, incorrigible.

At one time we’d invite the future relatives to dinner, sort of check them out, see what kind of business they have, if they mind their own, and go to church. We’d check on their politics or if they know the earth is round. Now, I’d check to see if they’ve ever been arrested, how many times, and for what. And, I’d certainly insist on a prenuptial agreement. I mean, the Waterford crystal I gave as a wedding gift costs a ransom. I wouldn’t want it sold to pay the lawyers.

But, today, marriages in trouble have the option of seeing a marriage counselor. They have a psychology degree and another one in human behavior (as opposed to Cro-Magnon behavior) and they work to see if they can mend the troubled marriage at $175 an hour. I have to tell you, going to a marriage counselor really works, too. When the groom sees the first bill (3 hrs) and he’s got another six sessions to go at $175 a clip, he sweats, does a heap of rethinking, and shortens the visits by agreeing that he’ll reform, he’ll agree to her mother and her three dogs coming to live with them, and boozy, uncle Harry can stay in the basement, and she can quit her job and join Zumba classes. In exchange he’ll give up meeting the boys at O’Halloran’s Pub, and working late at the office. (that’ll allow the platinum-haired, blue eyed secretary to go home earlier, too.)

Yes, the Wedding industry is quite a powerful business, second to Amazon, Trump Tower, and Tiffany’s.  But, if you’ve ever ventured outside of the Eastern Seaboard and attended a wedding, you’d be surprised at how simple and cheaper weddings are. All they do is hire Zeke’s Boys for music, a barn and a good ol’ BBQ stand and drinks that’ll cure what ails you. Everyone has a rollicking hot time and the couple gets to celebrate their 50 years of marriage until one of them passes on. Then, the survivor calls Zeke’s Boys, rents the BBQ stand, and serves the drinks that cured what ailed him during the marriage.








Greek America has benefitted for over a century from the work of the Greek-American ‘Topika Somateia/Regional Societies’ that function as fraternal associations made up of members who originally came from the same village, or island, or region.

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