When "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" came out, I was determined to hate it. I felt like Nia Vardalos had beat me to the punch in some way and had cornered the market on what it meant to grow up a first-generation Greek-American. I was convinced no one would ever want to hear my perspective because the ultimate depiction was already grossing hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. My dreams were crushed.
My American friends would ask me my opinion of the movie, and I would say something along the lines of, "yeah it's funny and some of it is true, but growing up Greek is a lot more depressing than she makes it seem." That's a weighted answer, to say the least.
I now realize that my thoughts on the film were based purely on my own limiting beliefs and a healthy smattering of self-preservation. (I will get into all of that in future posts, so if you're curious, please subscribe to the blog). In fact, the cursory view we all got into what it can mean to grow up in the United States as the child of a Greek parent was only her perspective. While there are some universal elements, there is still so much that can be learned from hearing each and every person's story.
Here are some things from the movie that I can relate to.
I am one of FOUR first cousins named Diamando, so that Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick and Nicky stuff- that's real.
While my father didn't use Windex as a cure-all for things, he did carry around a stick of After-Bite that he used on us for far more than mosquito itches.
When I tried to become a vegetarian, my family didn't understand what was happening to me. "Ahh, you no eat meat? It's OK, I cook lamb." It may be a funny line from the movie, but it's so close to what happened to me that it's almost uncanny.
Greek people actually do spit on each other to ward off evil. See more below.
You know when she’s walking down the aisle and everyone starts spitting on her? Well if you’re not Greek, that probably made no sense to you and also seemed really gross.
Truthfully, it’s not ever that extreme so don’t be afraid to be around Greek people. We get animated and loud and use our hands a lot, but we won't actively hawk a ball of phlegm onto you.
So where does that all come from and what does it have to do with the “evil eye,” or “mati,” as Greek people refer to it?
I’m sure you’ve seen the eye talisman. You probably know that it is meant to protect you from the evil eye. I wear one around my wrist pretty much non-stop now that I’m so present on social media and I have relied on it many times in the past. I have one hanging in each room of my house and I try to keep a small one in my purse. Maybe a little extreme, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do.
Here’s a little-known fact though. Greek people use the eye for protection not just against evil, but against compliments as well. This may seem crazy or weird. Why would you need to be protected from a compliment?
Ever since ancient history and Greek tragedies like Oedipus, the Greeks have been cautious of hubris (excessive pride). It has led to the downfall of many a great historical and fictional figures so the assumption is that it must be even more dangerous to the common person.
Basically, we believe that you shouldn’t get a big head. Unfortunately, sometimes that ego-causing energy isn’t in your control.
You see a cute baby, you tell the parents that baby is cute. If you’re Greek you also spit at the baby so it doesn’t cry later from the “pain” your compliment brings it.
A bride walks down the aisle? Spit at her or she will suffer from all the people thinking about how gorgeous and happy she looks.
It’s kind of messed up, but it also kind of makes sense. Your body is being forced to recognize the energy around it and you are automatically put into a position where you have to practice humility- even if involuntarily.
I REALLY believe in the power of the eye. And people might think that is super weird. Even I sometimes think that is super weird.
I mean, it is kind of weird to think that I have a headache and am yawning because someone thought nice things (or bad things) about me. But it happens. I swear it does. Sometimes it gets so severe that my eyes will tear up and I will get a stomach ache. Energy is a powerful thing.
I have a series aptly named "Weird Wednesdays," on Instagram where I post something "weird" about myself once a week and explain why this thing is actually a superpower.
WEIRD = SUPERPOWER
It's all about shifting your own perspective and not allowing pre-conceived notions about yourself or outside limitations stop you from feeling just how amazing you actually are.
Here is how my "weird" obsession with the evil eye is actually a superpower.
My belief in this concept makes me really in tune with the energy around me. If I start to get a headache, I wonder why. That natural wonder reveals things to me that might otherwise have stayed hidden. It allows me the opportunity to go within and see what's going on.
This time for reflection also reveals to me how powerful I am. I'm not talking psychic powerful, although I do carry I little bit of that Greek magic within me. What I mean is that I have the power to look at things differently and make them work for me. A headache might debilitate someone else, but I choose to look at it as a learning opportunity.
Don't get me wrong- I still suffer through it sometimes and no amount of orange oil or Aleve will make it better. In fact, I usually have to wait for a kind, older Greek woman to say a secret prayer and drop some oil into a glass of water until the curse is lifted from me. Now that's weird. But also... a superpower.