In 1966 I was born into an Italian American family living in the northeast. Tradition and the importance of family was invisibly etched into our coat of arms, and consecutively witnessed during ritual Sunday gatherings around a giant bowl filled with macaroni and meat gravy. I can still see the velvet red pattern of my grandmother’s textured wallpaper. That wallpaper symbolized the royalty of my “Mamoo’s” matriarchy. (Just writing that sentence made me realize the reason why I may have felt so comfortable at my grandparent’s home. The power dynamic was reversed, and my grandmother clearly wore the pants in that apartment, all while rocking a housedress with costume jewelry.)
My struggles with the concept of tradition began at an early age. Me with my self-identified tomboy persona seeking the same privileges and responsibilities as my three brothers. I wanted to mow the lawn but always got stuck cleaning the bathrooms, dusting the furniture and folding the laundry. Girls wore pretty dresses while boys got excused early from the dinner table to throw a football outside as I cleared their plates and plotted my escape from the patriarchy.
When I watched the Oprah interview of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on Sunday night, I was viewing through a skewed lens of a girl who grew up with unwanted and unfair traditions. I was able to empathize with that suffocating feeling of being trapped as someone who woke up and took notice rather late to the ideals of feminism, social justice, and the importance of diversity, inclusion and the denouncement of racism. The original soil I was planted in never had those essential minerals, it has been through continued education and my constant interludes with compassion that led me to value these ideals. Working in the social service sector has shaped me, and opened my eyes to the importance of justice and equity.
I can see why people can exclaim on the surface, “That Meghan, crying a river over her abundance of privilege.” But the message I received from those two hours was more about how tradition, if we are not careful, can stifle, haunt and severely impact us, and, it can also take down a person, a couple, a family and potentially, a culture. The lack of support and the lack of empathy from the “firm” even when people are genuinely seeking out help, is unconscionable, especially because the institution of the monarchy has an incredibly deep well of economic resources to offer, but still, they refused.
We’ll never know the entire story, but what we do know is that there were lives potentially at stake and people in pain, who reached out for help, and were turned away even though there were resources that could have been allocated to help mitigate the situation. To me, this is the exact definition of dysfunction and contributes to my viewpoint that there are times when truth should triumph over tradition, when change is warranted. No tradition, in my opinion, is worth the sacrifice of someone’s wellbeing or someone’s life. This is where the practice of reasonable accommodation comes into play, and should be a theory examined, discussed and practiced in all of our school systems, so it is not foreign to future bosses and employers.
There is so much more to this conversation, and I am interested in hearing about your experiences with tradition and how it shapes your decisions in the workplace and in your social life. Please respond and let me know your thoughts!