“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.
Below is a comment on Facebook:
Just thoughts…Those beads were just a symbolism of you reinforcing a stance of indifference from the rest of the herd. Whether seen or not seen does not matter, how we suit up is just a beckoning inside that comforts our foundation and the signature of who we are. Celebrating our uniqueness is part of the dance of life & should be embraced. You are special Michael & you sure shall remain wicked cool.xoxo
Thanks. I think you are wicked cool too!
Interesting timing, Michael! Your post about beads was written a couple of days after the series finale of “The Leftovers” – a mini series about a sort of biblical rapture event, where 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared.
In the final episode, they had a goat, which they adorned with those hippie beads you mentioned, and then sent it off the forest. The symbolism was that it was formally identified as a scapegoat, and the beads were the sins of the world. (That series was heavily into subtle symbolism).
It was not at all a religious story – far from it, actually. But the symbolism remained, and was the first thing I thought about after reading your account. Mardi Gras’s theme involves those beads as well, and of course, if there’s any place on earth one might be tempted to call “sin central”, it might be Louisiana at Mardi Gras time. (So I’ve heard; I’ve never been)
So maybe you walking into that church that way was symbolic as well. (I know, I’m stretching the metaphor to its breaking point).
Did you ever retire those beads? Was not getting noticed for them the final straw with your bead adventure? : )
P.S. the poor goat got tangled up in a fence with its beads. The story’s heroine freed the goat by removing the beads from its neck. Rather than throw them away, she put them around her own neck – the symbolism of which blew my mind.
Wicked cool indeed.
P.P.S. If you haven’t watched the series, you may wish to do so. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen on TV since Breaking Bad.
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I will have to watch the show, the Leftovers, now that you mention it. I always liked the looks of it and I hope to check it out on Demand.
No, I don’t have the love beads. I gave them up when I got drafted two years later and ended up wearing nothing but dog tags around my neck.
I wanted to make a statement when I wore them way back then. I guess the hippie in me went undercover for many years. And then I discovered a way of expressing the symbolism of the beads in a place called “WordPress” where I met like-minded crazy people like yourself who shared their differences with others. I felt right at home and decided to stay with nothing but good ideas ad good writing to tie me down..
Now That is hot Bro. Which cousn ? Anna, George Sophia.
I can’t remember, but it is so good to hear from you. The Greeks know how to have a party and are provide acceptance for people from all walks of life, including the hippie types from Philadelphia’s Brewerytown!