What is it Like being Married to an Armenian - First of a series

Monday, October 29th, 2018


ACOM presented the first in a new series of interesting and informative panel sessions, at the Merriam Park Library on September 30th 2018. The new series is entitled "What is it like being married to an Armenian" and was moderated by John Parker der-Boghossian. Topics covered by the panelists during the session dealt with - how long married, the panelists own ethnicity and experience in it, prior knowlege of Armenia and Armenians, involvement in the Armenian community since becoming married, what new things have they learned about Armenians, what are their likes (and dislikes,If any) of "Armenian ways". The following article by Bradley Erickson gives a capsule take on the session:

By: Bradley Erickson

Following a very successful 10 session run, ACOM decided to include a new perspective—Odars married to Armenians.
The first session of this series was held on September 30th at 1pm in the lower conference room of the Merriam Park Library. Panelists for this first session were; Ruth Charchian (Aram Charchian- 54 yrs), Terry McGibbon (Naïry Digris - 22 yrs), and Jennifer Collins (Tom Keljik - 16 yrs). Moderating the panel was John Parker-der Boghossian.
The format was similar to the original series where the panelists were asked a series of questions about their own lives and their experiences being married to an Armenian.

RUTH CHARCHIAN – Married to Aram for 54 years. Knew nothing of Armenian identity before meeting Aram, and was surprised that Armenian identity meant so much to Armenians. Only Armenian she’d heard of before Aram was on Johnny Carson. She valiantly tried to convince Aram to take her name upon marriage, but he wouldn’t become Aram West.
She had Scotch/German heritage, but didn’t feel a connection to those national identities. She observed from her mother- and father-in-law exactly how strongly Armenians value their Armenian identity. She also learned about an old Armenian raisin poultice when her young son had an infection, and this episode helped her to trust and accept the ways of the Armenian people. She learned also the historical significance of the Armenian people that resulted in the Genocide rather than them just assimilating into the Ottoman Empire.
The one thing she hates the most about the Armenian culture is how patriarchal it is. Aram once stated “Get me a peach”, and she knew she had to correct that flaw right away. What she has learned to like about Armenians is that they always seek out other Armenians, often helped by the “-ian” at the end of the last name. Armenians are always welcoming to other Armenians.

TERRY MCGIBBON – Married to Naïry Digris for 22 years. Only knowledge of Armenians was the phrase “Remember the starving Armenians.” Terry Grew up with a Catholic identity, in a community including Irish people, though he personally has Scottish, Irish, English, French, Czech, and German heritage.
Considers himself an ABC. Terry strongly dove into folk dancing, and experienced, through that, a wide variety of cultures. He met Naïry through that, and dove into the deep end of the Armenian culture, learning about culture, food, dance, and music. He gets told that he’s “More Armenian” than Armenians. The number one thing he’s learned about Armenians is that they are fiercely Armenian, and he finds that it’s likely tied to the national conversion to Christianity that occurred in 301AD.

One thing he finds surprising in the Armenian community is that when conversing, Armenians look like they are in serious confrontation getting louder and more animated, but then they sometimes break out in laughter. He has observed that this is similar with other Eastern European cultures.  Another thing he’s noticed is that the first thing you hear in the door is “Can I get you something to eat?”.  What he likes the most is the natural hospitality, general warmth, cultural pride, and the food.  He is a happy and satisfied ABC.  Although he has not switched his Christmas from 12/25 to 1/6 (since his wife is also Catholic), as a bonus, he is allowed to extend Christmas to a full 12 Days of celebrations.

JENNIFER COLLINS – Married to Tom Keljik for 16 years.  She knew nearly nothing of Armenians before meeting husband.  She grew up in an ethnically homogenous community, and first encountered Armenian culture in grad school in Chicago, when an Armenian technologist took her to Sayat Nova and she tried things like tabouli and hummous.  She has Swedish & Irish heritages, and didn’t have much connection besides Swedish Meatballs and St Patrick’s day.

The number one thing she’s learned about the Armenian community is how pivotal the Genocide is to the Armenian community.  One thing she dislikes about Armenian culture (or maybe just Tom) is the need to find the Armenian connection in everything: baseball, movies, school.  If the identity isn’t so focused, then maybe we’d all get along.  She likes how the community is very welcoming.  She also likes Armenian time and that Armenians always like wine.


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