“Wicked cool” is what I thought I’d be when I was 17 and was about to attend a Greek Orthodox wedding for one of my cousins in Queens, NY. I refused to wear a tie to go along with my suit. Instead, I put on “love beads.” You know, the ones that hippies were wearing in 1960s. I was a hippie wannabe. I wanted to protest the institutional requirement to look one way when I wanted to express myself another way. That is, to be in love with everyone and to share that love with all for whom I was going to come into contact with.
I wanted to be cool. “Wicked cool.”
Well, my dad argued against it and threatened to leave me at home unless I took off the beads. He was old school Greek, coming to America when he was only 15 when he left his island of birth but not its culture. In his world, you didn’t disrespect someone by showing up with such a protest symbol.
I put on the tie as we travelled from Philadelphia to New York. But hid away the beads until we got to the church. That’s when I made the switch, slipped the beads over my head as we entered the church proper.
I couldn’t believe it. No one said anything about the way I looked or the love beads around my neck. That included my father, Achilles Contoveros, who simply rolled his eyes when he saw me but said nothing to me or anyone else.
No one commented about the beads when I joined in the Greek snake dance at the reception later. My act of civil disobedience and rebellious effort had apparently gone for naught. I simply blended in. Just like the others who didn’t care what a person looked like — they simply cared about how I loved them and enjoyed being with them
Now that was cool. Wicked cool actually.