Wednesday, May 17, 2006

questioning my bona fides...

As you might tell from the links I just added, I spent a bit of time (when I should have been studying, of course) looking around Armenian-related websites. I do this from time to time. Some of them had minor flamewars going on. There was one in particular- this one- that really bothered me. This guy Rupen is trashing the site's author Raffi, who is about to marry a non-Armenian woman. This is what he says:

I mean, I’m here trying to convince a guy who has already taken the first step in losing his Armenian heritage by marrying a non-Armenian…Think of it this way…Your children will only be “half-Armenian”…right?!? And if they end up marrying a “non-Armenian” like their father did, their kids will only be considered “quarter-Armenians”, and so on…Wow, I really love your approach in preserving the Armenian culture…Quite interesting!

People who say this kind of things also bandy the word "odar" (non-Armenian, foreigner) about like an insult. OK, I take that stuff personally, because I *am* half-Armenian.

And then I start questioning my bona fides. Am I a real Armenian? I mean, I went to Armenia last year and I felt I was with my relatives. It felt familiar.

But at the same time I feel like I'm always playing catch-up with my Armenianness. I hardly speak any Armenian. OK, if I'm at the dinner table playing host I know how to ask if you want bread or wine or tea, I can say hello, how are you, I'm fine, good morning, good night, Christ is risen, and thank you. And probably something else too if I really wrack my brains. But let's be honest, that's not much. And I only know a fraction of the alphabet- of course I know a lot more now that I spent a whole week in Yerevan, but I still don't know the whole alphabet.

Next year I'm going to study Armenian, but let's be honest, I'll never be a native speaker. I feel like I'll always be a wanna-be. But these are MY people! This is my heritage! I kind of feel half-in, half-out. I don't know what I'd have to do to feel totally "in." I don't know if whatever that would entail would even be worth it.

So it's not easy listening to yahoos like this Rupen guy question my bona fides when I'm questioning them my own self.

And let's not even get INTO the whole "Why aren't you Armenian Apostolic Orthodox, but the other kind?" question. Let's just not.

I barely speak any Armenian because my dad, an Armenian from Iran (a "Parska-hye", they call it) chose not to teach me or my brother. He thought (erroneously) that it would hamstring us, would impair our assimiliation into American culture. Well, baby, are we ever assimilated.

Speaking of questioning my bona fides, I had a while there questioning my Orthodox bona fides cause this guy I knew, who converted about the same time as I did, got rebaptized after he was chrismated, and had me wondering whether MY chrismation was really valid or not, and was I *really* as bona fide Orthodox as all those cradle Orthodox who were baptized as babies?

I got over it.

Maybe I'll get over this "am I really Armenian?" thing too. In the meanwhile I'd like to tell Rupen he can kiss my half-odar posterior. I'm interested in Armenian culture. I *want* to learn Armenian- it's not my fault I didn't grow up knowing it. If you're really interested in preserving your Armenian heritage you should be more concerned with passing on culture than bloodline, IMHO. Hybrid vigor!


  1. My forefathers and foremothers came here so long ago and from so many places that I just consider myself American. All of my recent family was born here. It's been many generations since there was a foreign language in the bunch! I wish there had been.

  2. Am I really Australian? Or possibly English, Scottish, an NZer.. the list goes on.

    Also, the only way to feel totally at home in any culture is to live it. But do you want to live in Armenia anytime soon? Meanwhile are there local cultural groups that you could join to explore your heritage? I'm sure there'll be one somewhere.

  3. rita- My mom's family has been in the States since the 1600s, so same situation.

    But on my dad's side, I'm an ethnic.

    Whatever that means.

    side note- my own blog is making me robot! (to keep out the stupid spam...)

  4. You can take the robot off, BC. Seeing you have comment moderation in there.. if you get spammed, just delete it, don't post it. Then there's no robot.