It's all Greek to me
I can’t say that I missed Brooklyn too much while I was away. Born and bred in the borough (though I still argue it’s a country on its own), I’ve taken on a few perspectives that few can overcome (loyalty over everything, only God can judge me, etcetera etcetera ha-ha). While in Greece for the last two weeks, though, I found myself transformed in a way that was unexpected and new. I loved it. The sunny days and beautiful beaches helped too of course.
In Greece, I found that people were so much more vulnerable with each other in a way that I had never witnessed, much less ever experienced. They told each other how they felt and not just when they were angered by something—instances I’ve experienced one too many times growing up in my borough.
I saw friendships that consisted of both genders in truly equal and real ways. I was even able to participate in one. Knowing the backstory behind some, it was amazing that everyone still got along so well. I hadn’t noticed it before but it was awe-inspiring seeing so many groups of friends consist of both sexes. It meant, to me, that the ideas of sex and sexuality were dependent on regional focus and not so much inherent impenetrable laws of society worldwide. It meant to me that the arguments I’d been having my whole life about whether men and women could be friends were already answered elsewhere. It was pretty cool.
I came to notice interactions were also staunchly different. In public, men would come up to me and hold awesome conversation and walk away afterward. Women would too. The people seemed to embody a desire to learn about each other without it needing to lead to a sexual or eternal space. You became best friends with people for a moment. Then they were gone forever. It was a bit bittersweet for me, as I found myself wanting to continue interacting just a bit longer—to exchange contacts and become new friends. But I was forced to realize there was no need to hold on to these moments forever.
Money was also seldom of issue. Whoever had their money out first paid for whatever was being purchased. Circumstances that admittedly began to make me feel uncomfortable. After a few nights out I began to employ different strategies to make sure I paid for something. Coming from a society where even family splits the bill down to the cent, it was awkward for me to sit idly while someone else paid for what I enjoyed.
At the beach I saw women who were “out of shape” in bikinis. No t-shirts to cover their “imperfections” but simply tans that decorated their skin. I saw men in speedos and children completely naked or with only their bottoms covered. Again I discovered the oversexualization of the body only permeated certain societies, but not all globally. Children were children. Adults were adults.
I was lucky enough to have a Greek native host me in the country. While in her presence, her mother cooked me approximately 462 meals (no, really), her aunt invited me into her home to have dinner, her cousins invited me over for coffee and took me on walks of piers, her father called in favors for me when I expressed interest in getting a tattoo and to top it all off they thought nothing of it. To treat a stranger so generously was what I was told was “Greek hospitality”.
I was overwhelmed. My gratitude was curious as to how to find the proper way to thank all those who had been so good to me. What was normative for them was a luxury for me—I was humbled by these characteristics. For their kindness, their authenticity and their love I was taken aback.
My experience in Greece was more than existential moments of clarity. Greece’s landscape is indescribably gorgeous. I saw suns set over mountains and dipped my feet in transparent seas. Instead of going to the movies or having brunch, I sat on boardwalks splashing my feet in the river at midnight and I partied outside until the sun rose. Their food was also an experience. I ate meals that had me responding with very interesting and questionable sounds of pleasure. My experience in Greece created varied perspectives for me. It made me realize the different ways in which to enjoy life and I’m so very thankful for it.
It showed me the extraordinary generosity that humans can embody and the profoundly beautiful ways they can interact.
I was in another world while in Greece-one I hope to experience again very soon. Next stop: Colombia!
Ruth Jean-Marie is a graduate of New York University where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Affairs. Dedicating her life to the alleviation of misery around the world, her greatest goal is to become a superhero. Her interests include fashion, equality for women and Black people--that real equality, not the surface level stuff, traveling around the world and writing. She's excited about life and intends on living it. She also has a mild obsession with shoes, shopping and sharing her opinion. You'll hear all about it. Follow Ruth on Twitter at @lesocialnomad and on Instagram at @lesocialnomad and @toharrietwithlove.