Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Wife's identity is Determined by her husband

One evening in August, in our yard in Margariti, I sat with a group of people at the table under the mulberry tree like I had done many times before.  Our neighbor, Chavana, was sitting next to me -- as she had done many times before.  I got up to go in the house and I said, "Good night, Chavana."

"Maria," her son said. "Her name is Maria."

"Oh." I had no idea. I thought her name was Chavana.  I'd never heard her called anything else.

It's a custom left over from the old days. When a girl was married and shipped off to the husband's village, as was customary, the people in that new village would call her by her husband's name with a suffix to show who she belonged to. So the wife of Cochos is Coch-ina, the wife of Miti is Mit-ina, the wife of Chavos is Chav-ana.  Some of the older men probably refer to me as Nikina (The wife of Nikos).

The picture below shows an ordinary gathering in my in-law's kitchen.  I can name every person in the picture. Starting from the woman standing at the right: Vaso, her mother Chevi sitting in front of her, Arsenis, Aunt Evangelini, Miti, Tomas, Uncle Thanasi, and Mitina.  Yes, that's right, in the 30 years I've known Mitina, I've never heard her called anything else. She's Miti's wife.

My mother-in-law, Pareskevi, Chevi for short, (the last woman on the right, sitting) was always addressed with her real name and not the suffix-ed husband name because she had the unusual, but very fortunate, circumstance of remaining in her own village all of her life. Consequently, the villagers know her and didn't have to refer to her husband in assigning her an identity. 

Today's Greek women probably feel that they're more modern and have greater rights than their mothers and grandmothers, and they're right.  But I would challenge them to learn more about their legal status within the family.

I just found out that if anything happens to my husband, the Greek law says that I would get 1/3 of the house we built together in Greece because my 2 children would be entitled to an equal portion, as my status within the family is like that of a child. On the other hand, if I die, my husband gets full possession of everything.  


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