I Am Toula Portokalos

My Big Fat Greek Wedding was one of my favourite films growing up, and watching it for the first time in years has made me realise how similar Nigerian culture is to Greek.

For anyone who’s never seen it (you really need to because it’s great), the plot centres on Toula Portokalos, a Greek American woman who falls in love with non Greek Ian Miller, to the disapproval of her family because Greek girls are expected to marry Greek guys, make lots of Greek babies and feed everyone.

(SPOILER ALERT: They eventually get married, win the approval of everyone because love conquers tradition, Toula learns to be proud of her Greek heritage and they all live happily ever after. Very cute.)

So there are quite a few similarities with my family and Toula’s. First of all they too are quite loud and crazy and weird and there’s a lot of us. We have loud parties with lots of food; the scene where Toula says Ian’s vegetarian and the reaction to that is pretty much what would happen if I ever announced I’d given up meat, because we eat so much chicken and beef that going veggie would just be unthinkable.

Like the Portokaloses, eating is a big part of Nigerian culture because if I had a penny for everytime a family member called me “pelebe” (Yoruba for thin), I’d be pretty rich now. So I totally understand Toula’s annoyance when Aunt Voula tries to get her to eat more because she can “snap her like a chicken.” Story of my life.

My family are also “traditional” and are all gung ho about me marrying a “good Nigerian boy.” It’s funny because my mum and dad don’t really care who I end up with, it’s grandma and the extended family in Nigeria who check up on us to ask for details on boyfriends. Seriously.

I do love my cray relatives though because even though they can be embarrassing, in my face, and too much sometimes, they are family and like Toula acknowledges at the end of the film, they will always be there.

So in the wise words of Nico Portokalos, “Don’t let your past dictate who you are; let it be a part of who you become.” Translation: I love you very much grandma, but I will marry whoever I want and it won’t be the end of the world. Promise.

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