National Commentary

Johnny’s World: Привет: Part 3

weir-mugThis entry picks up right where “Привет: Part 2” left off last week. To read “Привет: Part 1,” click here. To read “Привет: Part 2,” click here. In the last two parts, I have taken you through the process of becoming part of my married family and now, in the non-final finale, I bring you to the day when I met my grandmother-in-law, the brass knuckles of my married-into clan, Baba Lyuba.

Driving from our home in northern New Jersey to Boston with my husband and favorite Voronov cousin Jackie, we went over everything I needed to remember to make a good first impression.

Only speak Russian. Dress in white, the color of purity and virginity. Speak only when spoken to. Understand that this may not go well.

As soon as I walked into the foyer, I got an outstretched hand and a “nice to meet you.” For an hour or so we sat, ate bagels with kielbasa, and gossiped about everything from cousins to weight to family trees and a possible family brunch the next morning. I couldn’t get a read on this woman, never offering a smile, and I was giving major obedient Russian-boy respect.

I left the house to go meet assorted cousins and new babies, and I got a text from Jackie that read, “She says you’re a nice boy.” Winning!

One thing I’ve come to know about women is that it’s quite rare and uncharacteristic for them to say something from the heart directly to the face. It’s much easier for it to come out in a “Whisper Down the Lane” manner. That way, nobody gets hurt. Of course I am sexually typecasting, but I know a lot of women who have a conversation with me, only to text me 20minutes later with what they actually meant, or I’ll hear it from their best friend when I see her a week later. It seems that it is still deemed a bit unladylike to discuss certain things such as love, opinions, and fondness with a real human head and brain staring back at you.

With that said, I was proud that I was deemed a “nice boy” and that the brunch we planned the next morning would actually become a reality. Baba Lyuba said she was interested in cooking for all her grandbabies, and it would make her beyond proud to have everyone in her apartment at the same time eating her cuisine.

Little did I know that the whole brunch would have been cancelled, or at least held in secret, if I didn’t gain approval. Cut to only a couple hours later, dinner time, and I was literally being clapped on the back and congratulated by the family for successfully infiltrating Baba’s psyche and for assuring that everyone would be fed the next morning with all the trimmings of a Russian table.

The idea of pleasing this woman was beyond daunting, but I wanted nothing less than her approval. This stranger who I’d known only minutes, had the same power over me as the most important people in my life. While her approval wasn’t a life necessity, it was something I desperately wanted and somehow received.

This is the matriarch of a family, from a different time, who against all odds survived Stalin, the Holocaust, the Soviet Union’s discrimination and hatred, a Jewish amnesty, a trek to America, and life as an immigrant only to have to face me, this gay kid dressed in white, having an “unnatural” love with an heir to the Voronov name and she was dignified and lukewarm in the best of ways. Through saying very little, she said it all: You are welcome, just don’t F it up.

Time will tell how involved I am in the family dynamic, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be not only a part of it, but a respected and valued part of it. Life is about living the best you can and making it special for the ones around you. Through marriage I was able to give up my phobias about social situations and not hiding behind my front when I’m with people who matter. I am equal parts Weir and Voronov now, and proudly so. Moral of the story: All old dogs can learn new tricks.

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