Paradise is not always bliss
By Christine Moukazis
This past summer I went to vacation in Samos, a Greek island that is home to my family and also the birthplace of Pythagoras, the philosopher and mathematician whose theorem was burned into all of our brains in high school.
In addition to Pythagoras, when you think of Greece, you think of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, all forward-thinkers. However, it seems as if all progressive thinking died when these great scholars did.
During my stay in Samos, I witnessed a Greek mentality that is as ancient as the country’s ruins: women are subordinate to men and their only purpose is to get married and breed children, who, presumably, will be named “Nick,” “John,” or ”George.”
I was even subjected to this way of thinking. My father would say to my family, “Chris will nev- er get married. She doesn’t even cook or clean.” I would like to think that I have other qualities that a man would find desirable, like my charming wit or indifference to the toilet seat being left up or down.
Although he doubted my skills as a housewife, he still tried to arrange a courtship between a wealthy boy and myself. “He’ll take care of you,” he’d say, as if I was this delicate thing that needed to be taken care of.
My entire trip I avoided walking around tables. I had seen an episode of Full House that showed, in Greek culture, if you circle a table with a man you are then his wife. I am not ready for ceremonious jaunts around the table just yet!
When I would watch my little cousin Stella doing her homework, I would think to myself, “What for? Those literary and math skills will only be applied to reading cookbooks and measuring ingredients.”
Admittedly, that statement sounds grim and extremely sexist, but it ‘s true. In the village of Marathokampos, where I stayed, women’s jobs are limited to that of kitchen work. I don’t know if it is because of the scowls on their face, as a result of a life unfulfilled, or just overexposure to the sun, but these women look so old and worse for wear.
As if that doesn’t sound sad enough, almost every woman is dressed head-to-toe in black. In Greece, when you see a woman wearing all black attire that signifies that the woman is in mourning. This period of mourning can last up to several years. This tradition does not apply to men. Every day when a woman dresses herself she is reminded of a past tragedy.
Is a woman to remain stagnant in a constant state of mourning, while men are allowed to move forward? If that is not a metaphor wrapped in an allegory, then I don’t know what is!
As Americans, we often romanticize what Greece is like. Brochures will tell you it is this blissful paradise. The first time I had visited the country, I had said to myself, “Who could ever be sad in a place surrounded by such beauty?” But then I started to think of what brings me bliss.
Truth be told, it is my freedom as an American woman that brings me happiness. I used to think I wanted to permanently live in Greece, but now I just think what would my life be like there? Would I have aspired to be a journalist or just somebody’s wife?