Tag Archives: genetics

Roses are red, violets are blue, your family is crazy and so are you!

Like my rhyme? I thought it was clever. This past weekend was the beloved and ever-popular Lebanese Food Festival, hosted by the beloved and and beautiful families of St. Anthony’s Maronite Catholic Church in Richmond’s West End. It is a fun-filled weekend of eating, dancing, laughing, enjoying at least one thunderstorm, eating, and if you’re a parishioner, it includes chopping chicken, parsley, garlic, and other very ethnic and strong-smelling ingredients for the “white people” to consume. All proceeds benefit the church and a foundation which supports and cares for orphans in Lebanon. It is a noble cause, and a fab time.

Anywhoooos. This weekend had me thinking about My Big Fat Greek Wedding and how everyone thinks that movie is a joke. However, I’m here to convince you that the movie is completely fact-based and a truthful conveyance of practices, and is actually based on every and any ethnic family in the whole world. Let’s discuss.  [PS can we please check out the cast list of this movie? It is like an alliance of Greek and Italian mob members!]

1) Eat something! This is a classic line from MBFGW, said multiple times and in multiple contexts, but the most notable of these is when Toula tells her mother she’s in love with Ian: “But Ma, I love him!” To which her mother logically replies, “Oh Toula! Eat something!” And walks away. Eating is a common concept which heals all evils across many ethnicities. Anyone who has any kind of strong heritage will tell you it’s not a Greek thing, it’s a Polish thing! Or it’s an Ethiopian thing! Or even it’s an American thing! But I still maintain that no one does eating like the Mediterranean cultures (I am loyal to my main heritage, the Italians, and honestly think we are the best eaters but Lebanon and Greece come in close second). So while at the Lebanese Food Festival, I probably encountered some form of this “eat something!” mantra at least 4 times per each hour I was there. The most memorable, other than the times in which I was commanded to eat more, happened when I was sitting at a picnic table with another family. 3 elementary aged girls, their mother or aunt, and a grandfather. Not even sure it was their grandfather but in this place, it doesn’t matter. Every grandfather is a grandfather to every child. So he’s standing there, the girls are giggling and talking with each other and the mother, and on the table is a plate of un-eaten cheese pies. No one is paying these cheese pies any attention and suddenly Jiddoo (Arabic for “grandfather”) points to the pies and demands that the girls eat them: “Who’s are these? Eat them!” Which he then repeats in Arabic, lest anyone not understand his demand to consume. He subsequently walks away shaking his head. The little girls eye the pies on the plate and each take one and start nibbling with looks of boredom on their faces. It’s normal, the demand to eat, and with such good food, who wants to say no!?

2) Marriage and babies. Toula says in the beginning of the movie, “There are three things that every Greek woman must do in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone.” At St. A’s, there is no “Lebanese School” and they don’t necessarily come right out and teach lessons like “If Nick has one goat, and Maria has nine, how soon will they marry?” But God help you if you are single! Singleness is almost a disease, and if you are single for too long, there’s something wrong with you, but it’s ok because Lawwwwd do they have a match for you! And you will make beautiful children, so why not! Yenta is a Jewish name, but an easily translatable occupation. Right? Of course right! In my family, Yenta’s name is Momma Sassy and all of Twin’s aunts.

Example: While at the festival I was, as usual, hanging out with/clinging to Twin and Mimi (Mimi is Twin’s actual sister and my non-sister, since I clearly am an only child by birth, but blessed with these ladies as my pseudo sisters. Love you girls) as we eat, walk around, watch the dancing, listen to the ethnic music, and carry massive bowls of parsley to and from the food booth. At any given moment, if there was an aunt around (similar concept to the grandfathers: she doesn’t have to be your aunt, but you still call her “Aunt” and she knows you like she is your aunt), she would grill one or all three of us about our love lives. “Twin! Are you seeing anyone? Have you met Anthony?” “Mimi! I know you’re dating that boy, but how serious is it? I have a friend who has a nephew who is perfect for you! Oh you’re related to him, that’s right…” “Miss Sassy! Haven’t seen you in forever, how’s your boyfriend!? Oh! You don’t have a boyfriend! Well…” *devious scheming look that only moms and aunts have* “Come with me, you need to meet Anthony!” Oy. A few things of note here: remember how everyone is named “Nick” in MBFGW? Everyone here is named Anthony. Also, everyone in the church is related. And if you’re not related, you marry into that family which makes you related. Which means that, luckily for Twin and Mimi, they are not available to most the young men in the church as there is some kind of familial tie which binds them and prevents another tie from being tied. I, on the other hand, being an adopted Daughter of Lebanon and not an actual blood relative, am available to pretty much every un-married young (or old) man in the entire congregation. I keep a low profile so as not to be noticed or set up. It rarely works, but I like to pick my own, thanks.

3) 40 first cousins. As I mentioned above, practically everyone at this church is related. There are something like 5 or 6 main families, and they are the oldest Lebanese families in the area and have been attending St. A’s forever since whichever Jiddoo immigrated from Lebanon. Every or most families make trips to Lebanon to visit family, and thoughts of shipping daughters back to the motherland to find a husband is not a joke. The families set up sons and daughters to marry each other and the family cedar tree grows. Twin and Mimi have something like 4 times the amount of first cousins I have, and the circle of 2nd cousins grows exponentially and in general is too difficult to keep track of. And if you find a “white person” to marry, they better integrate themselves into the culture because otherwise awkwardness ensues. Picture Rodney and Harriet Miller drunk from ouzo and saying no-thank-you to “Greek meat, very good!”

4) Family be all up in your business, 24/7. Lots of times this is not an ethnic thing. If you have a big family or even a small family, if you’re close, they likely know too much about you for your comfort. But again, it seems the Mediterranean cultures do this best. They are always together all the time, eating all the time, gossiping, and sharing in each other’s joys, sorrows, accomplishments, and failures, whether they like it or not. Sort of ties into point #2 about marriage and setting up every available daughter with every available son. Toula explains to Ian the complexities and annoyances of her family by saying, “…Everybody is in each other’s lives and business, all the time! Like, you never just have a minute alone! Just to think! ‘Cause we’re always together, just eating, eating, eating!” And this is so true, but it is also true that while at times we all sometimes just want to be away from all the ethnicity and maybe have a small family with 2 first cousins instead of 27, deep down you know you’d never trade them in. At the end, Toula admits she would never do such a thing: “My family is big and loud but they’re my family. We fight and we laugh and yes, we roast lamb on a spit in the front yard. And where ever I go, what ever I do they will always be there.” I have never seen any lamb roasting on a spit in anyone’s front yard, and at the festival I’m fairly sure they marinate the meat in something delicious and roast it in an oven instead of on a spit, but the rest of the line is accurate. All aunts are freaking crazy. If their kids are too young to date, they will live vicariously through whichever niece or nephew is closest and attempt to set them up with any decent looking halfway respectable boy or gal they know. And you can’t hate, because you will do the same when you’re an aunt with 3 kids in 10 to 20 years (we don’t want to rush these things – 30 is not an expiration date ladies).

Love your family. They are crazy in the head sometimes most all the time, but you are not alone. Every other person on the planet has some kind of crazy relative or family situation. And you are just as crazy as they are and don’t realize it. So don’t be a hypocrite. Plus, sometimes those aunts know some really cute boys, so maybe you should keep an open mind…

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Karaoke, Family, and Meat Loaf…the singer.

Intrigued by the title? Thought so. Want the story on how my quiet and charming parents decided to throw raging parties every night of the Thanksgiving holiday? I know you do.

This year we decided to venture to the exotic Outer Banks of North Caroline with some of my parents closest friends who also have family out of the area.  By Wednesday evening, there was Miss Sassy, a toddler, 6 couples (friends of my parents who are mostly “empty nesters” like my parents except sike I still live at home…womp), and one karaoke machine.  The karaoke machine’s mention will make sense soon. So that night, we had a delicious Italian feast prepared by Momma and Poppa, more bottles of wine than should ordinarily be necessary, and yummy desserts. I suppose I should mention that most everyone (except the toddler) had been drinking since probably noon, so by the time dinner and dessert was finished, that karaoke machine was looking like everyone’s ticket to the big stage.  So someone breaks out the mics and gives it a test run.  I can safely attest that the thing works. Very well.  Poppa Pants volunteers to go first, takes the mic and lets loose on Garth Brooks and all his friends in low places.  Let me tell you, and I say this in the most affectionate way possible since I love Poppa Pants dearly, man canNOT sing.  But he loves singing Jim Croce, Jimmy Buffett, and most of all Meat Loaf (yes, truth).  And he dominates that mic like it’s his new job and he is paid well for it.  But again, we’d all been drinking since noon so he’s always a crowd favorite. Momma Sassy also took her turn up on the stage that is our big living room (complete with balloon patterned couches and seashells on every shelf), and turned herself into Patsy Cline, The Judds, and Bette Midler – and she did it well.  Some wondered aloud why she wasn’t a professional or famous! Meanwhile I sit in the back of the room wondering when the torture would cease.

What happened to my dad, the man who hates boys, loves rules, hummed quietly in church, and never used swear words in front of his precious little princess? (That’s me, in case you were confused) What happened to my quiet Sicilian mother, who drank a glass of wine with dinner, loves order, and sang Disney tunes?  As I sat in the back, watching the hilarity as everyone but me (and the toddler – bedtime for little ones comes before 2am unfortunately) shakes their tushes, and belts out Cher and “I will survive!”, I realized something.  These are real people.  I am but a spectator on my parents life.  Think about when you were little and your parents are SO MEAN and they NEVER let you do ANYTHING and it’s just AWFUL!  Now I think, if we weren’t such brats to our parents, I believe we’d have discovered this “coolness” -if you will – a lot sooner! It’s not that I went away and suddenly they’re having parties and raging all night with friends and wine.  It was there all the time, I just needed to grow up and see it.  How lucky I am to have such fun parents, who manage to be my friends but still forcefully discretely cram down my throat slip in some parenting every 5 seconds every now and then.  So as I sat, enjoying my dear tone-deaf father’s rendition of Paradise by the Dashboard Light (longest song in the history of the world PS), I smiled.  Because even though Meat Loaf is a much better singer (albeit scary and weird), Poppa Pants was enjoying himself and it warmed my heart to see him squinch up his face and close his eyes and really get into it. So now I won’t hide my face in embarrassment and miss having fun with them while they’re young and able.  You never know how much time you have folks!  And while you will probably never catch me singing solos in front of my parents friends (or anyone for that matter – I require lots of booze,  ridiculous anomalies of confidence, or bribery), I will refuse to run and hide from the outrageous antics which occur more and more frequently, pretending I don’t know them.  I will take a million videos and pictures to use as blackmail later so their future grandchildren can see what fun fools they are.  I will laugh until I cry when Poppa Pants loses his voice belting out Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.  I will hold Momma Sassy’s third glass of scotch while she hams it up for anyone who’s watching, and shows that she has missed her calling as another Patsy Cline.  And I will continue to drink bourbon slushies (delish) quietly and remember that one day, I will do the same to my kids.  Proudly.

Kids: don’t let your parents scare you away with embarrassing antics, and don’t forget that your parents are allowed to let their sass out, too.  Parents: we love you and enjoy watching you get funky, but we will continue laugh at you and shake our heads.  Just remember it’s all out of love.

Are you judging me? That’s hot.

Happy Friday, fabulous friends and family! I love alliteration.

Anywho, today I saw something funny on the way to work.  I wanted plenty of time to get to work so I could be early for the Stat GAAP class I took this morning (What? I will perhaps cover this in a later post).  Ok so I’m in the car, vroom-vrooming and la-di-daing my way east on 64 (as stated previously, it’s like the karaoke half-hour for me), and I’m passing car after car, doing some good people watching while obviously keeping my eyes on the road at all times.  Suddenly out of nowhere there comes this red civic…the kind that came out in 1992 that run for 200,000,000 miles before you have to trade it in. As I’m coming up on this here quality vehicle, I notice a very large playboy bunny sticker on the rear passenger-side window.  And not just any size sticker, it’s like a person-size rendering of the bunny’s head, complete with bowtie.  It is HUGE.  I mean this thing took up the entire side window.  Then I notice…there’s one on BOTH sides of the car. Both. Sides.  Is this really necessary?  Ok so my judgementalism kicks in (you know you are straight up hatin on every person you pass on the highway every day), and I immediately think Kendra from that show about Hugh’s sexy young “girlfriends” (if it was a dude it would have been the silhouette of the naked chic…seen those? Real classy). Ok well this…”lady” was not even from the same planet as Kendra. [Major judgement time:] This lady is possibly the biggest woman I’ve ever seen.  In my life, even.  I mean HUGE.  And it wasn’t like oh well if she lost some weight in her face she’d be pretty.  I’m sorry, no. So I’m sort of like staring in shock (she’s 2 lanes away), and then she looked over at me! Dear Jesus deliver me from this section of highway to another section.  She has clearly just caught me in prime judgemental mode.  The look on her face was just deadly and had she not been exiting onto 295 at that moment, it would have been battle of the tiny vehicles.  I have 172 brand new turbo-charged horses on my side though (sexy), pretty sure I would have won.  Regardless, I got caught and learned something about myself: I have no control over my judgmental face. What does that mean, Miss Sassy? Well…

Apparently I can go from a smiling, pleasant face, to a grimace or scowl that portrays my judgmental thoughts.  Those of you that know me well know to which expressions I refer. But don’t worry, you have one too! If you enjoy people-watching, you know you have a judgmental face, or JF.  As I was discussing with my dear loving Twin last night, you could be in mid-convo with someone, happen to witness something trife behind said someone, and BAM. Your attention is diverted and your face morphs. You may say, “No Miss Sassy, I’m good at holding back and not letting my thoughts show on my face!”  All I have to say is: No you are not.  Sorry bout it. We all do it!  The funniest part from my convo with Twin was that in her group of friends when one of them gets the JF, the others call that girl out by calling her by her mother’s name.  Because especially for the ladies, where do you learn your JF from? Your mother!  No matter what you say, that’s where it comes from.  She’s been doing it your whole life! And it’s impossible that you haven’t witnessed at least 234,658 instances of it.  And mothers: you should not take offense to this!  We secretly aspire to be like you, and no matter what we say or how hard we try not to be, I think it’s genetic and really can’t be stopped.  My judgement face is just like Momma Sassy’s.  Twin’s is just like her Momma’s.  So on and so forth.  Dudes: you judge too, but you’re a different animal and I don’t want to get into it.  But you judge, rest assured.

Anywho, my thoughts on judging are this: while it is not classy or sassy to be outwardly judgmental or rude to people, it is sassy to NOT be hypocrite! You know you do it, so own it! And friends, let’s call each other out on this! It always gets a good laugh.  Plus, it’s like mean girls.  I was majorly judging the..um..large chick with the bunnies (God forbid she even…yucky thoughts, I won’t go there), but let’s be honest people! She was judging me too! I drive a funky looking tiny car, with racing stripes, my hair is huge and frizzy (specially today, thanks awesome Richmond weather), and I was singing to myself out loud, kind of intensely.  In the end, it’s almost flattering to be judged.  It means you noticed enough of something or someone to form an opinion.  And it’s sassy to be noticed…even for really large women.

…This is how I sleep at night.  Now, go forth this weekend and get yo sass on!