Everyone has a crazy relative. Sometimes it’s a grandparent, sometimes it’s an uncle, but we all have at least one. If you are someone of a more ethnic background; Philipino, Italian, Dutch or even Newfie, you likely have several. I, being Greek, have more than my fair share of colourful relatives, which is why a series of commercials for Athenos products makes me laugh hysterically. The commercials feature a very traditional Greek grandmother, a Yia Yia, giving her sage, unfiltered opinion on topics ranging from relationships, parenting and fashion. Here is one of my favourites:

My other favourite is “Yia Yia on Fashion”, especially since the Yia Yia in that ad looks a little like mine… And in case you think it’s exaggerated, it’s not. Ask any Greek and they’ll tell you not only is it pretty bang on but that their Yia Yia is even worse!

Yia Yia

I got to experience one of my more extreme relatives, my wild aunt, yesterday. My aunt, who is married to my equally entertaining Spartan uncle, was born in Greece in a very large, very volatile, traditional family. Some call the area she is from the “Sicily of Greece”. She is one of the most modern women I know – at almost 60 she still dresses like a 20-year-old rock star yet manages to pull it off. She is also a study in contradictions; at once sympathetic and dispassionate, sensible and irrational, considerate and insensitive. The best part is she has absolutely no verbal filter, but she usually delivers the zingers with honey on top.

My aunt is an esthetician that runs her business from home and is extremely busy. I had to make an appointment for my facial 2 months in advance! I think she is so busy partly because she’s darn good and partly because people like being lovingly abused.

Here is an example of how she deals with her very loyal clients. Just as we were getting started, she took a phone call from a client. It went essentially like this:

First, we start with the sweet, “Hello my darling, how are you?”
Then comes the businesslike, “Mmm hmm, Mmm hmm. Oh. [Dead silence] I see. [Dead effing silence] This is no good. Tsk. No, you can’t reschedule for next week, you can reschedule for May [it’s March]. Yes, that is my only available appointment.”
Then we end with sweet again: “Ok my love, bye!”

My personal variation of loving abuse went something like this:

  • “OMG darling your T-zone looks like s#!t!”
  • “When your chin is breaking out like that, it’s your skin telling you “Look at me! Clean me!” You no tell your skin “shut up”; you come get facial!”
  • After she finished the extraction portion, she looked at me and said “Hmmm. I’m going to fix your eyebrows, my dear.” Then she ignored my protests about not taking too much off. She was right, however, they look better. There is just less of them…
  • Finally, without even asking or telling me, the upper lip got waxed. Rriiippp! I said, “come on Thea, I usually just bleach it!” The screech that emanated from her was a dramatic, “Eeeeeee! Bleach? No bleach! Wax! You end up with a white moustache when you bleach! Beh.” Again, maybe she was right…

Anyhow, after all this, we ended up fighting over the bill. I handed her the cash; she handed it back. I left it on her table; she chased me out of the house with it. I told her to keep it as a tip, she told me to bugger off (actually, she used stronger language than that…). Finally, I held my ground and got her to take it, but let me tell you I was sweating bullets because she’s scary! Did I mention she’s a Greek Sicilian?