Family, Social Customs, Village Life

Women: 1; Men: 364

March 8th was International Women’s Day. Did you know?

I only became aware of IWD two years ago when I was working in Human Resources. It was part of my job to arrange displays in the hallway of things like Veteran’s Day, Hispanic Heritage month, Black History month, etc. We bought a poster in March for International Women’s Day. I’d never heard of it before. I wasn’t sure whether I should be pleased or insulted. At least we get one day, I guess.

International Women’s Day is celebrated in Georgia. A good thing. Really. The place of women in Georgia is strange for me. Gender roles are very traditional here. The whole check-the-sheets-on-the-wedding-night bit. Women are traditional and both some of the men and women are very proud of it. I attended a supra where there was someone who was able to translate the toasts for me. The toast to women curled my hair. Well, curled it a bit more. Not everyone here is eager for “liberation”. In fact liberation, especially of the sexual kind, is bound to be repressed.

School was actually cancelled on Women’s Day. A real holiday. I was impressed. There was a small concert at school the day before. The children recited long poems and/or speeches about women. A few girls performed traditional dances. I understood like 5% of course. I suspect that the speeches and poems affirmed, rather than challenged, the traditional roles of women in Georgia. But if nothing else, women were given a little recognition for a day. It’s something.

And how do Georgian women celebrate this most auspicious of days? With a supra of course! Possibly even a women’s only supra, such as the one I attended with my host mother on the eve of International Women’s Day.  

Now a women’s only supra indicates one thing for sure: plenty of drinking. In my experience, Georgian women do not drink any significant amount in the presence of men. That wedding supra I went to? I had maybe 2 glasses of wine and stopped lest I garner myself the label of “foreigner lush”. I’ve learned, however, that when Georgian ladies are alone the alcohol flows much more freely. Much. So I was not surprised that drinking played a central role of our Women’s Day supra. Drinking and toasting, followed by dancing and loud singing of traditional songs.

The ladies were adamant that there be no witnesses to their fun. Faces kept appearing in the windows all night, small faces that were shrieked away when they were noticed. Mama wants to let it all go, but privately, amongst close friends and neighbors. Not that Georgian children are innocents when it comes to drinking and its effects. Their papas are likely under the influence on a fairly regular basis.

Another quirk was how militant the ladies were about their drinking. If they are going to drink, everyone is going to drink. I’m telling you; women here have to do everything together. Lots of checking on the level of each other’s glasses. Loud demands for bolomde, if anything was remaining. The ladies down the table had their limonate bottle confiscated because the tamada was sure they were drinking that and not wine. I myself was not exempt from having bolomde called on me, though I was usually game for it.

I have no idea how late the drinking and carrying on continued. By 1 AM I was falling asleep in my seat. I attempted to make a break for it, but was caught and forced to dance to 2 more songs. Then I literally RAN out the door before anyone could stop me. Unfortunately the hostess still followed me, got down on her knee, and begged me to stay 5 more minutes. I knew if I went back in there, it would be another hour at least. So I stayed firm, thanked her profusely and walked off into the dark, snowy night. For their sakes, I hope the ladies partied it up all night.

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One thought on “Women: 1; Men: 364

  1. Conney Alexander says:

    Very interesting. I have observed this same phenomenon in Mexico, though in sophisticated form among the university faculty. For example, at a university formal dance for faculty and visiting professors from the U.S. (us), I was astounded to discover that the unspoken rule is that Mexican women dance ONLY with their husbands! What? Does lust run so near the surface that a man can’t even trust his wife to dance with a family friend (male)? Apparently, no.
    Also, I was irritated by the custom that at cocktail parties and receptions, women faculty and wives stand on one side of the room talking, while the men take the opposite side. Whenever I tried to breach this custom, I was treated cordially, but no other woman would come over and join me in talking to the men.
    In this day and age, I find it utterly baffling, especially, as at the same time, women are wearing spike heels, tight skirts/pants and lots of makeup. Attract them but hands off?

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