About the Albanian Male - A non-official synopsis of masculine Albanian traits as observed by a non-sociologist American female.
One can sum up my whole adult life to this point as being influenced by one factor only, the Albanian male. Not just any male but the one I happened to fall hopelessly in love with…(and the little Albanians that followed). My art school roomie hit a home run when she titled me, “The Albanian Magnet.” What was it that attracted several suitors of the Albanian genus to me, or perhaps more likely, what was it about them that I was so obviously attracted to? Let’s investigate, shall we?
Male Albanian Babies
(Birth - well, they are always considered babies)
It’s easy to sum up an Albanian baby in general. Nobody says “no” to an Albanian baby. They rule the house and everyone’s lives therein. They are the light in everyone’s eyes…they are pretty much Godly. Now, a male baby could easily be considered even more sacred…being in possession of the future family line and name. Some day this male baby will be head of the family…untouchable. The Godfather. Spoiled is not the word for these babies, worshipped is more like it. I’m surprised families don’t go around waiving smoky incense and throwing fronds of palms down on their path. Are we one hundred percent certain Jesus wasn’t Albanian?
Should any Albanian baby act like the devil incarnate (or say, throw kitchen knives at you...I've seen it happen) someone will quickly say (more like a prayer and a hope), …”Dasht, ursht e vogel!” “Never mind, he is small!" Like he will somehow grow out of his devil suit when he is bigger. (This excuse goes on even well into their pre-teen years.) Strangely enough, ninety-nine percent of the time, they do grow out of “it” and become the sweetest person you’ll ever know…and it totally goes against any parenting logic known to civilization.
Young Albanian Boys
(12-20 years old)
Young Albanian boys are a joy to watch—in the pure mothering kind of way. Huckleberry Finn, The Hardy Boys, and the Pope’s right-hand Swiss Guard all come to mind when evaluating young Albanian boys. They are adventuresome, always willing to lend a hand, so respectful of elders and they also feel comfortable spending time conversing with their elders.
In Albania, young boys are close with each other like brothers, and there is no fear or negative stigma of boys being close. They hug, hang on each other's shoulders, ride together on a one seated bike…they act caring together, and it is heartwarming. There are no early signs of outwardly machismo, aggression (except for on the soccer field…of course that’s an exception for everyone), nor the need to be the top dog like I see so much of in America. Boys are outwardly sweet, loving, and kind to women and especially to little children.
In America, you would never see a 14 or 17 year-old-boy go and pick up a toddler to kiss and hug them; in Albania, this is a common sight. It can almost make you think that perhaps these Albanians might be on to something. Wherever I go in Albania with my youngest son (whom is beautiful…no bias of course!), servers in restaurants (they are almost always young men) will always go to pinch his cheeks and you’ll see such a kind gleam in their eyes when talking to my son…it is genuine and beautiful. Then they will take him to pick out a treat or edible gift. Again, kids are king.
Young Albanian Men
(25 - marrying or married age)
Ah my favorite age group, the marrying kind! From about 25-45 years of age (rough estimate), Albanian men are at their best, (or worst, depending on if you are married to one). They are either married and wanting babies or already have babies and want more…they are dads in training. Albanian dads are SO SO SO SO SOOOOOO loving! Much like how they were when they were young boys (see section above). They love kids, all kids, and anyone’s kids. They will coax any child nearby for a hug and a kiss on the cheek, or perhaps to slip them a few Lek (Albanian money) in their hands. Albanian men get to spoil any kid rotten and like their predecessors (parents) will never say “no” to a child (Mom rolls her eyes).
I love to see my husband interact with his boys. My husband’s father passed away when he was very young, and I think that by watching my Albanian with his boys, I get to experience what my father-in-law would be like with his grandsons and my husband never wastes a moment showing them affection. My husband is always stealing my fun ideas to do with the boys. Telling them first of “his” ideas as to selfishly soak up all the love from their excitement. No matter how late my husband comes home from work, no matter how tired he is, he must always go and kiss his boys even before taking off his work tie. So, as you can imagine, bedtime is not an Albanian invention.
My boys will never get too old to receive a kiss on both cheeks from their father when he drops them off at school. Luckily, my boys are half Albanian and smart enough to know this is a beautiful thing.…and there is no shame in it. No dry machismo punch in the arm, “have a great day son!” I’ve never quite understood the American male relationship, at what point do you stop cuddling your son, showing love, kissing, and then start treating your son like he is a friend or a pal. I’ve seen American dads kiss their daughters no matter the age, but boys are not given the same sweet affection? (to be fair, I know not all American dads are like this, but it’s rare to see)….but anyway…back to Albanians.
I’ll never forget a time when my Albanian and I were vacationing in Spain (pre-marriage era) we were on a tram heading somewhere and a mother with four young kids gets on the tram, two in her arms and the other two toddlers holding hands. The tram was packed, she was stressed and didn’t know what to do. A gentleman got up to let her sit and my Albanian said he would take the two toddlers for her, she was so grateful. My husband (me not one to like strange kids) pulled them close to make sure they wouldn’t fall down and chatted kindly with them in their language (my husband is a polyglot and I hate him for it…but it sure is helpful when traveling), he then got that same famous Albanian bright warm look of genuine love in his eyes for these two kids, patted their heads, pinched their cheeks, asked them their names and made them feel at ease with a stranger. The mother got off soon and was ever so thankful to my Albanian for helping her…and my Grinch heart grew two sizes that day.
Now single ladies (“all the single ladies!”), I definitely have an opinion about Albanian husbands, but Albanian men becoming dads…you will NEVER, EVER need to worry about…they are simply the best.
Older Albanian Men
This genre of Albanian men is my second favorite. Imagine what comes after all the aforementioned stages of male Albanian life…their finale. At this stage of life, an Albanian man is definitely head of his home, has successfully married off his children who are then ready to give him his most prized possession yet, grandchildren. Much like everywhere else in the world, grandparents are only around to live and breathe for their grandchildren. Don’t ever say a negative word about an Albanian’s grand-baby to their face, even if it is so obviously true and a productive suggestion…they don’t want to hear it. See, we have come full circle, the grand-baby is a gift from God and is sacred. Gjushi, (grandfather in Albanian) loves to show off his grandchildren, and will sit at the head of the table with his grandbaby on his lap, feeding him, kissing him endlessly (of course), and telling the baby how much he is the light of his life….it’s intense!
Of course, this adoration isn’t limited to just one’s own grandchildren. In Albania, any old man will quickly snatch up your children and treat them like gold gilded works of art, it’s just the way it is…and not creepy at all.
Although I often (and proudly) tell both of my sons “No.” I do hope their genetics will kick in and they will follow this fine example of masculine Albanianism. This is what masculinity should look like, caring, warm, loving, sweet, and carefree. From what I saw of them this summer in Albania, making sure every baby is safe and not getting in trouble…I think my prayers have been answered.
In Albania, love is not just limited to one's own family, it is shared and genuinely given to anyone, not just by mothers, but equally by young boys, men, and elders. This, above everything else that is beautiful about Albania, is the most important. It is what makes Albanians just wonderful people to love. Albanians will teach you how to love by loving you, no questions asked.
Dedicated to Mark Mataj (1950—1992) Father to the most loving man I know.