In Which I Have Never Felt More Anglo-Saxon

Have you ever attended a Greek Orthodox wedding, for a Polish bride and her half Greek, half Italian groom? Nope, nor had I until Saturday.

This was the marriage of the girl who sits near me at work. The one who has been on the milkshake diet for 13 weeks in order to be thin for the wedding. Now, that kind of extreme weight loss – not based on good nutrition and a healthy amount of exercise but rather on starving oneself – has always seemed to me to be the very definition of insanity.

In this particular case, which I was able to witness from close quarters every day, I soon began to notice that, while the fat was certainly reducing, there were other, less attractive concommitant effects: her hair became lank, her skin broke out and her nails were increasingly thin and brittle, and covered in those little white marks that are indicative of vitamin deficiency.

I tried to encourage her to stop the milkshakes and eat a healthy balanced diet at least for a couple of weeks before the wedding, to improve her hair, skin and nails. But she didn’t seem to mind about them, which I simply couldn’t understand – wouldn’t she want to look her best for the Big Day?

Of course she did, but I had failed to appreciate one of the greatest differences between her cultural background and my own: namely that she was expecting to have her hair dressed with about 2 cans of hairspray, and to have her features caked in full makeup and to have entirely false nails attached. So, as long as she was skinny the rest of it didn’t matter to her because it wouldn’t be visible.

Most of the rest of the female guests looked the same way except, instead of a beautiful white gown, they were all in very, very short and very, very low cut dresses, covered in sequins and bling as though they were on the way to a nightclub. Which again seemed strange to me – weren’t they all good Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox girls? Why were they dressed like Kings Cross hookers? What on earth did their parents think?

Anyway, I have never felt more Anglo-Saxon in my life. Even in India and Africa I have felt more kinship with people than I did on Saturday. I can’t even begin to imagine what they made of me and my boss, in our [I like to think] elegant knee-length dresses and pearls, minimal makeup and un-laquered hair.

Now that I’ve been a bitch, let me also say that it was a beautiful ceremony – one could easily imagine the same rituals and words having been performed pretty much identically for over a thousand years – and the reception was lovely, Aggie has spent months organising it all and she’s done a wonderful job. Dancing to Zorba the Greek with a room full of actual Greeks, Italians and Poles was fun, too.

However, there is almost invariably a drunk Irishman at a wedding. And he always finds me and always makes a nuisance of himself. Its like a Cosmic Law. Saturday night’s example kept pestering me with questions about exactly how tall I was and whether I was Russian, of all things. *rolls eyes*




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14 Responses to In Which I Have Never Felt More Anglo-Saxon

  1. modestypress says:

    It should be obvious, but just in case…don’t marry a drunk Irishman.

    I have no advice about what to do if you meet a sober one.

  2. The whole wedding thing mystifies me. As do make up, hair lacquer, bling, and milk shake diets. I’m glad that the ceremony was beautiful.

    As soon as you said the guy kept asking you if you were Russian I flashed on the scene in “Turning Point” where the young ballerina goes off to a bar and gets totally plastered while pretending she is Russian. You could have assumed a fake accent and pretended inability to understand the drunk. . .

    • Norwichrocks says:

      The wedding thing has always seemed rather pointless to me, too – but then, I don’t come from an enormous extended family for whom church and family are the two pillars of their existence. If I did, I expect I’d feel differently.

      But no, the hair and make up thing – I can’t imagine ever thinking that was worthwhile. Quite apart from anything else, what happens when eventually the man has to see you as you really are?!

      • The danger is he may not recognize you!

      • Norwichrocks says:

        Yes, exactly! She even said a few days before the wedding when she was leaving early for a make up rehearsal that she wanted her fiancé not to recognize her as she walked down the aisle toward him.

      • She didn’t want him to recognize her? I have always thought that romance is loving someone for who they are, exactly and specifically.

      • doctordi says:

        I changed my mind about never getting married, and I’ll always be glad, because it did and does make a difference to our relationship in pretty wonderful and unexpected ways. But ours was a modest and very laid-back affair, and there are some weddings that just blow my mind.

  3. OmbudsBen says:

    This was very, very funny. I’ve worked with a number of Italian- and Greek-Americans, so I’ve been the vanilla guy, too. You’re spot on with the women’s dress.

    One of the best experiences, actually, was the birthday of an African-American friend, where we were a couple of the few white people there. We sat down at a peripheral table, and our friends were having none of it. Although they were at the center table, they sent friends of theirs over to sit with us, introduced us to people and made sure we were incorporated into the event. It was fun!

    • Norwichrocks says:

      Yes, I’ve experienced similar warmth and friendliness at the wedding of a West African friend of mine, and at the two Indian weddings I’ve been privileged to attend. But these guests were perhaps so keen to catch up with family from the other side of the world that they didn’t have any spare attention for the frumpy Anglo-Saxons.

  4. azahar says:

    Glad you had a good time in spite of looking down your nose at everyone…

  5. This sounds like my idea of Hell.

  6. Wow, that is a lot of culture mixing. The dancing bit sounds fun. Too many cosmetics and sequins and fussy weddings intimidate me, though your description of that particular wedding leaves me tempted to insist on an elopement should the question come up.

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