Have you ever wondered who decided on the life you have taken? Growing up as a Greek American girl, the answer is not that easy. Of course there is you–the woman who wants to start a career–to be a practicing physician, a chemical engineering calibrating minute solutions of acids in petri dish, a forensic psychologist or a country-skipping international correspondent, a Greek captain sailing through the South Seas, or even a stock broker, or an installation artist. And then there is “the voice”–that voice of culture that usually takes on the shrill voice of your mother that voice when she called you to come to the kitchen or get home before your curfew, that voice deep within your subconscious that nags you , “Pote tha pandrefteis mori? Pote tha kaneis paidia?” A woman without a man, who is not married or at least in a committed relationship is not really successful.
That voice that I kept hearing deep within the caverns of my conscience nearly destroyed my life and definitely obliterated my youth. You see, you can’t ever be happy. Greek women are usually very strong, independently-opinionated, and innately confident. They were born to be somebodies; however, that bugle call of culture sometimes undermines their living to their highest, most liberated potential. They compromise living “an actualized self” as the psychologists say. Why? Because whether you choose a successful career or not, you are stuck feeling inadequate. And even if you do choose a career, it probably won’t be the one you are meant to pursue because so many smart, independent, educated Greek women shortchange themselves and limit their potential because they are following some deeply imbedded script of how a Greek girl should be and what a respectable Greek American woman should do. Most of the time that script involves that she be married, have a few kids and be in the kitchen making koulourakia. But is this who we are as modern American women? Is this archetype compatible with the opportunity for professional and psychological fulfillment we can achieve in the greater arena?
In my case, sadly, it is not. I feel so stifled and constricted in this Greek matriarchal role, even though at the same time I realize it is extremely important. While I know many women have to deal with the family vs. professional and personal fulfillment issue, but for Greek-American women the choice is made tougher because of the strong pull of culture on our heart strings. Because family is so enmeshed with cultural identity maybe the thought that if we are not true to our biological calling we will also be unfaithful to our culture does a hidden whammy on us? Perhaps we pick conventional roles because those roles we assume to be part of our cultural identity and to deny them would mean rejecting our culture, which is anathema to any immigrant group threatened to be consumed by a larger cultural hegemony? How have other Greek-American women accomplished this task? Is it possible to stay faithful to the Greek side of you, raise a proud Greek family with an Eleni, a Yiannaki, and half a Marko, while at the same time pursuing your professional and personal goals? And can you do this without losing your sanity or getting zapped of all your physical and emotional strength? I would really like to know. Join the forum to discuss.