There is so much to say on this topic that it’s hard to start with one specific point. Growing up Greek. Three simple words, yet the meaning stretches so much further. Yes, it’s easy to say that anyone with a background from another country, or come from parents who are immigrants from foreign lands can relate to this, but growing up Greek is a whole different story.

As a Greek American myself, there is thin wavering line that constantly battles in my mind that tries to declare which side of the line I am on. Some days I wake up feeling more American, some days (read most days) more Greek. It depends on the mood, the people I associated with in the days past, the music I heard in the car on the way to work and many other variables. To get to the main point, every single one of us, living in this great land of opportunity we call America (which in my opinion truly is), obviously has the right and ability to show their culture in whatever way that they so choose to. In this case, thanks to MTV taking advantage yet again in Jersey Shore-esque fashion, the cast of “Growing up Greek” shows precisely what it IS NOT like growing up Greek in America. I want to make it very clear of my disappointment in this show and MTV’s poor taste. Let’s just break it down for a second what it’s like Growing up Greek. Real talk.

Growing up Greek is on Thanksgiving or Christmas, there was always lamb in addition to the classic turkey and ham. It’s being called too fat or too skinny by at least three family members at any gathering or event. It’s at the same instance getting force fed by that same aunt that called you fat minutes earlier. It’s Sunday dinner with your family. Your whole entire family. It’s having your family around 24/7, 365 days a year, even when you aren’t near them. It’s the little things that we have get to remember and cherish, and when we have our own family we can pass along!

Growing up Greek is knowing value of family, friends and community. It’s knowing that the Greek Orthodox Church is for more than just religion and faith. It molds and connects our lives, friendships and communities. It’s something that our forefathers fought and died to preserve for all of us across the world. It’s the festivals, the dances, the food… oh the food, the GOYA basketball leagues (and our PGBL league of course… cough cough). It’s being around all of the friends and family from your community and celebrating life, not only for what it is, but for your life as a Greek. It’s the engagements, the weddings, the baptisms and all of the other celebrations that we have, remember and continue to do. It’s learning the actual meaning of pathos. It’s learning how to actually truly love. It’s our traditions. No other culture can compete with those!

Growing up Greeks is instead of spending summers down the shore like most American kids, you spent them in your father’s village in Greece, secluded from the modern world. It’s knowing the true meaning of hard work and dedication to your craft. It’s working 12 hour shifts as a kid at your family’s restaurant and laughing when you hear little Jimmy from down the street complain about waking up to complete his paper route during the summer. It’s having your name butchered time and again, yet you prefer not ever shortening it because you are proud. It’s arguing with your parents about missing baseball practice when you were a kid due to having to attend Greek school on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights, and then realizing 15 years later that the gift of education was the best gift that they could have ever given you.

Growing up Greek is when you’re cooking and you choose to use a different utensil than a wooden spoon due to the risk of having Vietnam War type flashbacks from your childhood. It’s being raised in a community where you’re not only reprimanded by your own parents when you step out of line, but your entire neighborhood. It’s learning from a young age how not only to respect yourself, but your family, community and everything else around you. It’s using the tools that the Ancient Greeks created thousands of years ago, like the arts, mathematics, all of the modern sciences, democracy and many more to help mold, influence and contribute to the world and to the country that we live in today.

Growing up Greek is not only an honor, but a privilege. We, as Greek Americans, are fortunate enough to grow up with the world at our fingertips. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents worked and built opportunities for us that they never thought they would live to see. From coming to this country without a penny to their names, we have become educated and have succeeded to the highest levels available in this country in hundreds of various fields. It is our responsibility to at least try to keep the same vision and continue those efforts for ourselves, our children and our Greek American community. Without that, we start to lose who we are and forget where we came from. We cannot afford to lose the very values and traditions that through thousands of years, our people fought to preserve and keep alive. To me, there is nothing more American than being Greek American.

For the cast and members of this show, I know you might think that it’s cool or you might make a dollar or two out of it (and believe me those who know me, know that I am always ready for having a good time), but think of the bigger picture and the consequence, not only for your own self-image, but the image of the entire Greek American Community. It’s a shame to see our great image that our people have built in this country ruined by a few episodes of a trashy television on MTV. Based off of looking at the preview for this show, this channel is clearly taking advantage of you, and if I were you I would leave this dumb idea for a show quickly and save some face. I can only pray that the actual show is nothing like the trailer. That’s my rant for now, but I’ll leave you all with one thing. I wouldn’t change growing up as a Greek American for the world. I will make sure to pass that along to my family when the time comes.