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Tuesday, December 27, 2005 

Mama's Boys

Stuart Smalley from SNL:

Back in the day, when I was single and an active player in the dating game, there was always one kind of guy I would never date. In fact, this was the kind of guy 99.9% of single women would never date. Who was he?

The guy who lived at home with his mama.

Even an unemployed, high-school dropout who lived in a rooming house and rode the bus to nightclubs had a better chance at securing a date than the Mama's Boy would. If a man who was over the age of 25 and still lived with his parents, you basically assumed he was socially retarded or a serial murderer (or both) and therefore, had to be avoided like the Plague. It didn't matter if he was good-looking, drove a nice car, had a good job and had the best manners...if he lived with his parents, he was dating poison.

The rationale amongst us single girls was that living with your parents made you dependent, lazy and weak. The last thing you need in a potential boyfriend was someone who needed to ask his Mom if he could stay out past midnight or clear it with his Dad so he could bring a girl home. You just couldn't help but get a visual image of either:

*Owen in Throw Momma From the Train
*Norman from Psycho
*Stuart Smalley from his Saturday Night Live skit

In Greece, however, it's quite the norm if a man as old as 30 still lives with his parents. He's not even ashamed to admit it. Single Greek women don't seem the least bit bothered by his living arrangements. Most Greek men have never lived on their own until the day they get married. They've never even paid a phone/electricity/water bill on their own let alone know where to pay them.

In their defence, the cost of living is quite high in cities like Athens and Thessaloniki where it's not uncommon for a rented studio apartment and related expenses to absorb an entire paycheque. But surely, couldn't they find a roommate to share the costs like many single men have done in order to have some semblance of independence?

There are 30 year-olds and even 40 year-olds who don't even have one bill in their name in order to get a membership card in our stores. They're all in their parents' names. In fact, if they have overdue movies, their mothers will come into pay for them pleading with me for lenience because their 35 year-old "Giannaki" (Little John) didn't have the time to come in himself. Have they no shame whatsoever?

Just because mothers cook, clean and wash their clothes for them is not reason enough to forsake their personal independence and opt for the laziness that parental roommates afford them.

Many of them will cite the comfort and high cost of living as reasons they aren't motivated to live independently. But for me, there comes a time when those reasons become nothing more than convenient excuses.

In Greece, I don't think kids are ever really separated from mother's...oh nevermind. My 30-year-old husband is still mama's boy, and while he did learn to do things on his own in the two months he lived in Athens before I arrived, his mother does his ironing now that we are here in Thessaloniki.

Yet, in his family the mama's boy thing doesn't come across quite as annoying as it might in other families. My brother-in-law (the second oldest) used to complain about being under the "family umbrella" but I think it is kinda nice.

In America though, like you said, it usually means bad things.

I've heard that the worst enemy of the Greek man is his mother. As long as the money is around, sons won't have to worry. But, imagine a society where everyone has to produce and that could cause a problem.

By the way, I'm just jealous because I would have loved to just hang out at home and have my mom do all my laundry etc. My Mom booted me out unceremoniously at 18 to fend for myself. (well, not that harsh)

SEAWITCH, Did you see my comment on your archives about your 10 May 05 comment. What do you say about that request of mine?

Mel...maybe I'm weird but I don't think I could live with my parents for so long no matter HOW much work they did for me. My brother-in-law was 31 before he moved out of his mother's house where his mother cooked, cleaned, ironed his clothes and paid the bills. Now, he's married and like many greek men, he has a wife who cooks, cleans, and irons his clothes. (His Mother in Law splits the housework with her daughter even though she has her own house...another unheard of thing in Canada...a grown woman whose mother comes over to cook and clean her house?) The only thing that's changed for him is that he knows where OTE is now. LOL

Scruff...when I graduated from high school, living at home was a privilege not a right. My father said that if I started working, I must pay rent and share the bills for living at home. If I went to university, my living expenses would be spared. He didn't kick me out but he didn't make it easy for me to laze about for another 10 years either. And my mother ironing and cleaning for me??? hahahaha I was 19 the last time I phoned my mother from uni to ask her to iron a blouse for me so I could go to a party later on and my father heard her ask "which blouse?" and he yanked the phone from my mother and said "your mother is not your personal servant. Iron your own clothes." and he hung up on me. LOL

I responded to your request on the May 10 post Scruff (it took me awhile to match the post to the comment) and I said by all means re-publish my blog...any of them for that matter...as long as you credit MOI with writing them and provide a link back to mine. :-)

Hmmm... This is a side of Greek reality few North Americans (excluding Mexicans) would really understand. For good reason, too, when you come from a system that assumes automatic separation between parents and children begin right after high school. I was (adversely) surprised to discover that all four of my first American landlord's children (the youngest 19 at the time) were located hundreds or thousands of miles away from the parental home...

It's difficult to explain the "mama's boy" syndrome here in Greece, but let's say that family dynamics in the eastern Med are quite different from those of the Anglo-Saxon world. The family in Greece continues to be the hub of a support system without which most Greeks would sink in the chaos that surrounds them. I have personally not benefited from the system -- help always came from friends, not relatives -- but I have friends in their 40s and even 50s, professionals with good jobs and oustanding reputations, who are inseparably connected to family and the social links emerging from that relationship.

But, you know, blood never really thins, truly. I have met Grk American families whose children (3rd generation) remain quite close breaking the surrounding American (anglo) norm. I always went back to some of the heads of these families for advice and help -- and I always got what I knew was coming as part of the "Greek package." I was once given a blank cehck to fill in so that I could meet school expenses for THE YEAR! This was an interest-free loan with an open date of repayment. Where else could I have found such support?

I think obviously you don't understand because it now appears clear to me that Canadians are unable to love their children and have no family values. This is probably why the murder rate is so high.

I suppose you guys don't understand either how shocking it is when we hear about British (replace with any other cold uncaring nationality) parents actually charge their kids rent. This is shocking not just for us Med types but for Asians too, they put value on their families too and I think it's terrible if you make your kids a source of income.

I think the examples you use (of little Jonny) are a little extreme. Most people I know are living with parents whilest getting enough money together to be financially independant. It's certainly better than the Canadian 'we'll kick you out and see if you sink or swim' idea.

It is a strong family tradition that keeps the family bonds ever stronger. It is facile folly to take the standards prevailing in other countries as a point of reference of what ought to be or not to be.Using data from countries where tradition,history,customs are being eroded is an indication only as a point of detail. Family bonds in most countries are breaking down and fast ,like a bus careening bus off a cliff. It is most heartening to see the strong traditions of greek family life survive the swirling whirlpool of social instability.
I take the case of Angelos, real name, real acquaintance, and unlikely to be concerned about his life style, living in the States. Angelo's was very attached to his parents,or maybe his parents were attached to him, he was an only son.
By a quirck of fate he inherited the responsibility of caring for his mother at an early age. They lived together, however this arrangement did not prevent Angelos from becoming a success in the activities he engaged in. He might have been spurned by the local lassies, who might have thought of him a "Mamies boy".
In his late fifties misfortune struck Angelos, who had remained unmarried all this time. His mother went down with Alzheimers. Most of his friends and business consorts advised him to install his ailing mother in a home, otherwise dire consequences would follow, he'll skirt with madness and become dysfunctional, his business affairs and career would be dealt with failure etc, etc.
Angelos paid deaf attention to all this entreaties, he kept her mother in the home ,gave up his position and job, and "nursed' her for 8 long years in a 24x7 lifestyle , that might well be described as that of a recluse. When asked where he lived, he would jokingly respond, cell 5 ,Alcatraz prison.
The end as it always does, came not unexpectedely.
Angelos ,in his sixties,instead of ending up in a looney bin as per earlier prognosis, bounced back , somehow he went to his old job with another firm. He took a three week vacation to Greece, something which he had not done in ten years. In three weeks he apparently was lassoed by a greek woman, who did not mind his "mommy boy status".
The last I heard from Angelos is that he is engaged to a Patras woman, mother of three children, and 13 years his junior and planning to move to the fatherland.
If this is an example of a mamys boys, we need to hear more of them, which I am sure there are thousands of like experiences .
Good family traditions are bound to breed good "old fashioned" offsprings who can take their ancestral mores and transfered them to the next generation, rather than produce progeny who go along with the flow and become a victim of societal illusions.
The problem arises if the so called mamie's boys become a burden on their parents threshold. In that case it is an open and shut example of parasitism. Again the fault lies entirely in the parental domain for having failed to teach, disciplined, or breed the children accordingly.

Oh gosh, this is such a big subject and so many things come in to play. I think we’ll see so many changes in the Greek way of life as it becomes increasingly westernised, via the EU, and I’m certainly not going to claim ‘West is Best’. I really quite like the Greek way of life (frustrating as it can be, at times, when you’re used to a different way of doing things).

Wow Ken, that was a real neat story with a happy ending. A true gentleman who took care of his Mother.

Not everyone would have the courage to do that.

But yes, I agree that the Parasitic Mama's boy is the problem, not the selfless Angelo type which you spoke about.

But, we all know many Greek men who live with their Mamas. We just might NOT know what type they are.

In my case, my parents pushing me out of the nest so to speak has kept me pro-active in making my own way in life.

Finally, my Greek mother in law is like a short order cook who will prepare meals, coffee etc at any time of the day or night for me should I desire it. Do I abuse that? I try not to. But, sometimes I get the impression that if I don't let her do these things for me, she feels let down. She also does ironing should I need it.

So, I appease her and in the process lead a very spoiled and pampered life in Greece at the hands of my wife, wife's sisters, and my wife's Mother.

I'm just as guilty as the Greek men and Ken's story made me come clean.

Where are all my American values. I've turned into a Greek.

P.S. Thanks Seawitch I will definitely credit your blog for any post of yours I assimilate.

Well, there is no way in Hades I could have lived with my parents past the age of 18. I had to once, briefly, after my roommate had an unfortunate accident and I couldn't afford to stay in my apartment, but I found my way out again as quickly as I possibly could.

However, if my mother was more like my mother-in-law, I don't think I would have minded living at home.

And here I am, my mother-in-law does our ironing, she brings her housekeeper over to clean our apartment (as they are doing right this very moment), so I am definitely riding the Greek family gravy train. =p

I suppose I should chime in here on the side of the "Mama's boys" since I am one and proudly wear that badge of honor, though not in the strictest of sense per the example given in the post. My parents viewed the Anglo child rearing that Scruffy, Ted, Ellas, and Ken state, namely out at 18 to either sink or swim, as extremely harsh. Greeks, like other ethnicities that I have come to know quite well such as Chinese, South Asians, Arabs, and Jews will do anything for their children and that is what keeps family ties so strong in these groups. Strong family ties is what keeps societal ties strong and civil as well. Ken is correct in his assertion that we are seeing a decay in the west and one reason for this is the breakdown of the family as well as family bonds. One of the things I dislike about the US mentality towards the family is that it not only is acceptable but essentially promoted to have the offspring scattered across the country. Extended family members in Canada, specifically Toronto, do not experience this. Nearly all cousins remain in the city of their birth. This is good and bad, however good in the most part because it reaffirms and solidifies family unity.

I and a few other friends are the only ones who came back to our place of upbringing after our educations were complete. I felt it was extremely important to have my children raised in an environment that included grandparents and cousins instead of being isolated in Bumfuck, Iowa making gobs of money with nowhere to spend it and for what? Destroying my kids in the process? Anyway, I'm digressing here. The bottom line is that family is extremely important and men who are tied to their families are FAMILY MEN. That should be looked upon as a positive in this damned sick society we live in instead of a pathology.

SeaWitch, you must have some hidden death wish when you blog about Oxi Day and now Greek mothers! LOL Here's a thought SeaWitch, a suggestion for your next post should be women who are threatened by men who have strong ties to their mothers and families, then bitch when they pick an "independent bad boy" for a spouse and he ends up deserting her and her kids. Eh? ;) Only partially joking.

Hi everyone and thanks for commenting. I knew I was opening a can of worms when I hit the "submit" button on my post but I couldn't help myself.

Ted, Ellas, Ethno...Depending on your family for support and love is quite different from sharing the same address with them for over 30 years. Just because you move away from them does not automatically mean that you're not 'close' to them. I still think the greatest men I ever met in my lifetime, are my father and grandfather. I haven't lived at my parents' home for almost 20 years now but that does not mean that I don't appreciate them or want them in my life. I know that no matter what happens, they will always be there for me. Just as they always have been for the past 39 years. I just don't need to have them sleeping in the next bedroom to assure me that I'm loved and supported. If it weren't for that support, I wouldn't be living in Greece married to a wonderful Greek man right now.

Ellas...Canadians aren't "kicked out" of their homes once they turn 18. No Canadian I know was. My parents stopped treating me like a child and expected me to assume more responsibilities the older I became. It did not hurt me to learn how to be self-sufficient and independent. Sure it was hard at times, but I always knew that if I screwed up in life, (which I have done) they would never turn their backs on me. My parents never viewed me or my sisters as a 'source of income' if we shared our part of the household expenses. I love my father dearly and for you to assume that he is a cold, heartless man just because he expected me to pay my own credit cards and long distance phone bills, you are very mistaken.(As for the "Giannaki" example...I wish it were an extreme case. But ask K if you think I'm exaggerating. It drives us both off the deep end to see senior citizens paying their kids overdue movie charges.)

Ethno...LOL @ my Death Wish. My husband basically said the same thing. I've never been one to shy away from a good debate and I can't get that if I chose to write about flowers now could I? LOL As for the "independent bad boy"...since when did independence equate with being bad? I married an independent man...not a bad boy. Two entirely different kettles of fish there.

Ken...I agree that family traditions and values are eroding. By no means do I advocate that being attached to your family is a negative thing. What I do believe is that spongeing off your family is a negative thing. Leaving home does not mean you have deserted your family. I'm sure Melusina, Scruffy, and Diva have not deserted their families. They have just decided to get a different postal address. I'm thousands of kilometres away from my family but I still need to talk to them, see them and be with them. I just don't need to be glued to them 24-7 like I did when I was 9 years old.

Basically, Mama's Boys aren't men who love their families, support their families and respect them. I agree with all of you when you say that we need more of those types of men.

What we don't need are men who see no problem having their parents pay for their credit cards, phone bills, car payments, gas and having their 70 year old mothers ironing, cooking and making their beds for them while they're out at the coffee shops. This can also be extended to women as well. I know many women who are younger than me and who regularly get their aging mothers to do all their housework even though they've married and moved out.

I disagree with one of the commenters who blames all the West's problems on the fact that grown adult children don't suck a living off their parents.(at least in Canada, USA, Britain...). The problems may involve disintegrating familial values, but a 40 year old still living at home while his mother cooks, cleans and pays his bills? I don't see the correlation.

Oh SeaWitch. You are so right. I adore my family and feel pangs of real pain that they are together and I am thousands of miles away. I do not feel the need to live WITH them but I feel the grief of living apart from them. British families (generally) do not throw their children out but they do expect some separation and some taking of responsibility.

Bad Boys are not part of the picture. Our parents took a lot of trouble to teach us that. And we tried it and we didn't like them much.

I can only talk about what I know, but the Brits are not so hard and cruel. More so, they are realistic and allow their children to be free and to claim their lives as their own?

I'm not the one to question your father's love, Seawitch, still, it's unacceptable for a parent to ask for dough from their children just because they've crossed the threshold of 18 and there are no plans of moving out. If you're 28 and there are still no plans to move out or contribute to the utility bills or do some housework while you get paid, there is clearly a problem there.

Many Greek women are bothered by the living arrangements of Greek men, and many Greek men are ashamed to admit they still live with their parents. This status is condoned in women for being the supposedly weaker sex and stuff, so they get away with it. in addition, many Greek men prefer this living arrangement of a woman.

First of all, I've seen people mention the US a lot in this discussion. I know quite a few US people in their 20s who still live with their parents (not saying as many as in Greece), a common reason being that they are staying in the same city and want to save on rent. As another example, I cannot think of a single person I know from the UK who stays at home past 18.

Keep in mind that these countries are significantly larger, with many cities that have some economic activity where peoples kids may migrate to study and/or work. Greece is a small country with pretty much 2 large urban centres. It's almost guaranteed Athens kids will stay in Athens, and why not stay with parents to save on rent.

Yes, there is a tendency for Greek families to stay close (which is generally good), but most of you are overlooking the reasons I mention above and are often rushing to criticize.

My Greek-American Boyfriend is 44 years old, and still lives at home with his mother, although he trys to pretend he has an apartment, but makes it sound like he would rather come to mine. His 36 year old little brother lives there too. Some times we "swing by his Mom's house" cause we have to get something...He's so full of crap. Of course being a Xena, I've never met her.

If a guy is still living at home with his parents and isn't running the household...ie. paying bills, doing his own laundry, washing dishes, cooking, etc. then he has issues. There are alot of guys and girls that live with their parents but are the ones that take care of everything for their parents. There's nothing wrong with that. I know a Greek guy that is 42, lives on his own but takes his laundry to his mommy to do, goes to his mommy's house for dinner every night, his father drops off "care packages" full of food for his weeks lunches. If that's not bad, he is sooo influenced by his mother, he listens to EVERYTHING she says, including who to date! He was in love with a girl...head over heels for her...and he ruined the relationship right after he introduced her to his mother. The girl was forced to end the relationship because she saw how much of an influence his mother would have on him. There was nothing you could find wrong about this girl but his mother told him (he told the girl) that "she didn't meet her expectations in his choice for a wife". CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT!?!?


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