My wife and I used to go to a Greek restaurant that we loved. The place had good food, a decent crowd and a vibrant atmosphere. There was a feeling at that place that you have finally arrived at your destination. The lights are bright, the host and hostess are all smiles, people chat away and the food is plenty. The walls were decorated with Greek style fake balconies and shutters, the ceiling painted blue and the TVs streamed breathtaking bird eye views of the Greek islands. There was a feeling of certain unity at that place, family like feeling. There’s no need to go back to the blizzard or 100 degree heat. Basically, you’re home. Except you don’t speak Greek.
Well, we didn’t (speak Greek) but from the many signs I could tell that some families were in fact privy to the wisdoms of the ancient language. Large families, with kids, grandmothers, neighbors, all talking at the same time and gesturing … and constantly on the move, as if they absolutely had to move, now that they were forced into their seats. The food was a common Greek fair like lentil soup, souvlaki, gyros, lamb chops, spanakopita. The couple – host and hostess – immigrated from Greece years ago, settled down in the Midwestern suburb, opened this restaurant and were doing well to the extent that the place had once won some kind of local dining award. They were swift too, making round eyes, roaring with laughter, constantly chatting with guests while miraculously balancing with trays of food between the tables.
The core entertainment was basic – two very Greek looking fellas, one short and round, with a very kind, moustached, plump face, the kind of guy that when you meet his gaze, you just can’t help but smile back; and the tall, thin, sort of ill-looking fella, glasses, not very friendly, at least initially. The moustache guy played a keyboard and a drum machine to help him with the Greek beat. The thin guy played a guitar that resembled a ukulele. The odd couple were most likely family friends, or relatives, of the owners, the kind of folks that live in the community for decades and everybody knos who they are. So this odd couple rocked the place with all kinds of tunes from the old country, and the moustached guy even chimed in with a very pleasant falsetto, thus creating a musical concoction that was noninvasive and ever present at the same time.
But the true highlight of the entertainment pack, the reason people paid top dollar for their gyros and souvlakis, was a belly dancer named Anastasia, also Greek looking beauty with a sole purpose of demonstrating her squiggling middle section to the rhythms of the odd couple. She only performed at prime time on Fridays and Saturdays and attracted a bit of a crowd, although it could be that people would go out at that time anyway, with or without Anastasia’s majestic naval on display. We always managed to get a table though and since we mostly went out on Fridays, we saw her perform a few times.
Now, I don’t know much about belly dancing but I do know that it originated in the Mediterranean or Middle East and since Greece is right around the corner from both of those, it’s natural to expect that the Greeks would adopt such a lovely tradition as their own. Unlike the Eastern neighbors though, whose belly dancers would likely envelop their gorgeous faces with a traditional veil, right below the eyes, Anastasia didn’t feel the need to hide her strong features and pearly teeth, and added a good deal of warmth by sending her inviting smiles all over the place, while of course performing the squiggly dance. She also wore finger cymbals, called zills, that she clasped rhythmically with every move and beat, only to add to the rhythm of the moustached guy’s drum machine.
To top it off, she wore a rather open dress that revealed her cleavage. She had no intentions of hiding her forms, that was no mistake, as she wanted this to be part of the overall experience. The whole thing was far from vulgar though – just the right amount of openness and intrigue.
As I said before, we had seen her in action a few times and I took notice of Anastasia’s openly provocative forms and her dance. My wife also enjoyed watching her artistic movements but was probably far more indifferent to her cleavage than me. After a few times, many unique aspects of Anastasia’s presence and behavior faded away and we started accepting her as something that’s always there… like tzatziki on my gyro.
So back to family gatherings. One regular Friday, the place was especially packed. All kinds of people, mostly large families, with all generations present at the table …. Kind of fun to watch and observe. One table, closest to us, was in fact a combination of a few tables, to accommodate a huge (perhaps Greek?) family. Two teenage boys, I’d say 13-15 years old, sat in the front closest to where the odd couple was warming up and Anastasia was expected to appear. They sat with their backs to the stage during the meal but as soon as the Moustache started off, they turned around and, facing the musicians, continued looking down at what appeared to be some kind of device. I couldn’t tell for sure but it could be a portable video game or smartphone. In any case, they both were completely immersed in whatever it was they were doing – game, Facebook or some other kind of chat or virtual social interaction. Very soon, Anastasia stepped out from the shadows and onto the stage, glamorous, glittery, very hot. She looked fantastic, even for a seasoned belly dance connoisseur like myself, and I noticed that she took extra care in preparing for the show – make-up, dress, her whole demeanor. So the music kicked off and she started dancing, clasping, swirling, with the ever increasing graciousness, to the upbeat rhythm which itself seemed to accelerate, lifting everyone’s spirits higher and higher. I found myself forgetting about my lamb shank and started tapping my foot under the table, admiring Anastasia’s curvy forms and graceful dance. The whole room seemed to go along with that liveliness, people chatter growing more excited, eyes brighter and more smiles than you’d ever see. And amidst all this excitement, liveliness, love of life, music and dance, amidst this sexy celebration of life and sacred female, I glanced at the two teenage boys in the front row and almost choked on my lamb shank. Despite all this excitement and emotional overload in the room, those two poor schmucks kept on tapping or clicking on their devices, oblivious to the world around them, still immersed in their second life.
I think Anastasia knew all along that something was off there. I mean, after all, she gathered crowds of hungry eyes weekend after weekend, with men consuming her bodacious forms and women so envious of them. She – the culmination of a long working week, the centerfold of this establishment’s entertainment, the main act – couldn’t possibly understand how these two adolescents could miss her gorgeous presence.
After a short break, she came back, looking even hotter and sexier than in the first act. She added some make-up, her cheeks were blooming (perhaps she had a shot of ouzo backstage for an extra drive), skirt shorter and cleavage noticeably lower. I’m looking and thinking, oh my dear god, she’s an absolute Greek goddess. So the music kicked off, and the duo played as if that was their last concert ever. And she started swirling, and cymballing, and bending, and almost moaning with every move. It was one step away from an erotica film. The patrons visibly quieted down sensing something different this time. Anastasia went offense. In a gracious dance, she approached the youngsters, cheeks flaring, her mouth half opened and almost uttering “Hey, look at me, I’m yours”. And guess what? Those teenagers just kept on tapping on their devices like none of that was happening around them. What has this world come to?
There are valuable lessons to learn here. Perhaps the society these days puts an enormous pressure on young individuals to adhere to new social norms. Their parents lived in a different world, perhaps growing up in the 1980s or in Greece which was in any case more open to sexuality. These two boys are told these days that even looking suggestively at a girl could get them landed in the principals office or worse, like getting their parents sued
It is also possible that those two particular youngsters were gay but that’s highly unlikely. Even gay people admire female beauty and fine dance.
And then there is the most plausible explanation of all. Those boys were absolutely in love with their smartphones, Facebook chat rooms, Twinter feeds or whatever else digital they preferred to Anastasia. To the point that it replaced real world for them. My wife joked that day, “Those two are probably texting each other, check out the boobs on that one lol”. And that, my friends, is just plain sad.