So what if we don’t have money? We have each other! Love! Do you feel me?
I love Athens.. I spend a lot of time here. I’ve got to know its streets and buildings and parks and squares. But I don’t live here and so I don’t have the same preconceptions of places like many Athenians do. If somewhere appeals to me.. I’ll go. I see things fresh and without judgement. Come the end of the night, I may find myself drinking a beer on the streets of Exarhia marvelling at graffiti, sipping raki with leftist friends or playing with kittens in artists’ studios.. But many a time i will also end up on shiny dance floors covered in carnations, poolside bars drowned in moonlight, secret hideouts or backstage get togethers.. And I love them, for what they mean to me.. Whether it be an amazing cocktail or inspiring company.. Or a dj that always manages to make you forget your worries. But at some point, and often much to my disappointment, I always discover that these places symbolise something totally different to everyone else.
To many they are the “in” places, the places to be seen, the places to encounter football managers, music managers, teenage heart throbs , actors in the latest soap opera to air on tv. And suddenly my perception of them changes. They mean something different. They are exclusive, expensive, vacant despite their popularity, unrepresentative of the whole and despite the smiles on show, are tinged with sadness. And I think twice about going back.
Last night I was at such a place.. filming for our documentary on love in the crisis. I liked the bar for its décor, it’s low hanging lights, hospitality, abundance of huge white candles everywhere and music you couldn’t help but move to. . And I met Lilly. Who, every night, navigates through the cigarette smoke to instruct waiters, guide guests to tables and leave lipstick marks on people’s cheeks. Her job is to look stunning, to smile and make sure people are not left waiting more than ten minutes for their champagne and whiskey on the rocks. And she blended in. Camouflaged amongst the platform heels, short skirts, credit cards and eyes that promise one night only of no sleep and pure pleasure. And she appeared to be one of them.
“Shall we go lie down together..?”
But, to my surprise after taking some time to speak to her, I discovered she wasn’t at all. In fact, in all this showiness, extravagance, and bravado designed to create the illusion that all is ok in a country falling apart at more than just its seams, Lilly suddenly stood out as the only true thing in it.
“What you see around you is not real love. Men and women are afraid of love now.” She told me. “Men think it means drinks at 10 euros a pop.. Red roses at the door.. and a weekend away to the islands. So they steer away from love. No one in the crisis has the money for this anymore and their relationships have become meaningless ones. Thats what you see here. They are superficial and shallow. Here today and gone tomorrow.. but perhaps at least the sex will be good right??”
- “Giannis I love you, even though you’re a wanker..”
And yet at that point, when she revealed to me what sounded like the most depressing situation for single people to be in, she smiled and explained how she sees things differently.
“If you realise that once you clear away the rolex watches and diamond rings and expensive holidays.. you are left with the truth. Something real. Something genuine and I feel it. I live it.”
She wasn’t at all how I had expected her to be. And it gave me hope.
Because, stood amidst all that fakeness, what Lilly was really describing was a new generation of Greeks. A new Greece. And how those who still cling to the old one, those who insist on sweating their guts out 24/7
to keep their pricey bachelor pads, designer clothing and flash cars, will soon realise they have no one they truly love to enjoy it with.
Because the old Greece.. the showy, shiny, ‘look at my Mercedes Benz’ Greece isn’t coming back.. no matter how many porches the Bouzoukia club managers hire to be parked outside the club for show.
“You just have to have faith”, Lilly said.
I wish all people here could trust in a better future, in a more genuine, honest, less material obsessed country, like Lilly. I wish I could. But Greece gets to you. And when relief from the harshness of poverty and struggles of life comes in the form of a half eaten sandwich in a bin on your street, people tend to give up on having faith in a better tomorrow.
But then you meet someone like Lilly.. Who in the face of all this pretence.. Who, despite an inability in others to understand and adapt to the fact that the old Greece just isn’t coming back.. Who in her costume jewelery, pretty outfit and full time job tells you to have faith because a new Greece is waiting around the corner.. And our parents and grandparents don’t have to tear themselves apart with blame for past mistakes, because there is a generation already looking to the future, who believes that out of this darkness will come light.
Once, I read that only truly happy people are able to look back on their lives and see every single moment – both good and bad – as necessary, because it had all led them to the point they are at. Lilly says she is thankful for where she is now. “I’m in love.” She admits. “And it’s a love I’ve never felt before. It is raw, I can’t really explain it.”
It is like the relationship therapist we interviewed for our documentary told us. Love in the time of crisis can’t really be explained… or defined just yet. It’s ongoing. The crisis is but a chance for us to learn HOW to love…