Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A cynic's plea

“Does thinking the phrase ‘the God squad’ make me a bad person?” she said.
“Yes,” he replied, looking her squarely in the eye.
She shrugged her shoulders and thought if she was doomed anyway, she might as well go for a pound as for a penny...

Sometimes I wonder if my inner cynic makes me a bad person. It certainly lands me hot water time and time again in the game of family politics, and my native sarcasm just makes things worse.

Like 95% of the population of Greece, the family I married into is Orthodox Christian. I’m not.

I try to respect other peoples’ beliefs. Trouble is that it doesn’t always work the other way around. Though I’m prepared to make concessions, getting married and baptising our son in an Orthodox Church, I won’t fake personal piety and start genuflecting all over the place for anyone. And unfortunately, when cornered, I either state my case – loudly – or I get sarcy.

Even after two decades, my sweet but relentless mother-in-law has still not quite given up on me. She always reminds me of every important religious occasion - it seems like every other day is a ‘megali yiorti’ (a major festival). And when I got a new car to replace my faithful Fiat that went up in flames (that's another story), she wanted to bring in a priest to bless it!

To keep things sweet-smelling in my new ride, my Other Half installed an air freshener that resembled a ‘komboloi’ (worry beads). It was all a little too reminiscent of a Greek taxi cab for my taste, so I foolishly said – in front of his mother – that all we needed to complete the car’s Hellenic identity was its very own dashboard icon.

Sadly, the irony was lost on my mother-in-law who enthusiastically leapt on my suggestion – debating with herself which saint was the best one to protect my wheels, which monastery to go to buy it and where best to mount it so the doleful eyes on my 'protector' could follow me at every turn - while my Beloved sat there making “Serves you right” faces at me behind her back.

Another time I nearly gave her a heart attack while having a moan about a particularly pious neighbour who seems to consider me an aberration for not having converted to the One True Faith, but who I feel fails to show much compassion in her daily life.

“She gives me such looks, just because I’m a Pagan,” I ranted, meaning of course that I’m not Orthodox Christian.

You should have seen ma-in-law's face! Shock and horror was etched into every line, and her normally healthy glow paled to ashen white.

“You’re a Pagan?” she asked, in a tremulous voice.

Oh, when will I learn? Irony, sarcasm, dry humour, call it what you will – it’s lost on most Greeks, at least those of a certain age.

On the other hand, maybe I should consider slaughtering a rooster and dancing around the garden naked come the next full moon?

Now here comes the plea - remember, a cynic is nothing more than a disappointed idealist. Inside every one of us is a wide-eyed optimist dying to wake up to a kinder, brighter, fairer world. A world where diversity is embraced, everybody gets along - and sarcasm is valued, not misunderstood (we only start getting snide when we realise we have woken up to reality, honest).

So, be kind to the cynics in your life. We’re a lot more sensitive than we look!

1 comment:

  1. I linked over from a New Humanist article. I feel for you. My Mom and my wife's parents are very religous. Thanksfully, my wife has a brain. And I know that I disappoint my mother in my non-belief but I think I make up for it in everything else I do. And Iam sure that you do, too. Good luck!