Not just because you’re Lithuanian

M. M. De Voe
4 min readDec 14, 2023

(wishing you Seasons Greetings in any language)

Long ago, I wrote an essay about making out with a boy just because he was Lithuanian. (“J.F. Will Never Read This,” Bridges Lithuanian American News Journal. October 2016) The event happened back in the wild days of college, long before apps like Tinder made it simple to find an attractive and willing stranger. What strikes me about the moment is not that it was in any way immoral or loveless — it was, in fact, sweet, clumsy, and charming. But it happened because of an inherent knowledge that because we were both Lithuanian, our parents would approve more of this drunken makeout session than of most of our other drunken makeout sessions.

And why on earth is that?

It makes no sense.

Wouldn’t you think that a wiser/older adult would actually prefer any connections that allowed your child to expand their experience, deeply consider opinions of people that don’t look like them, thoughtfully drink in the stories of childhoods unlike their own, and explore ideals and values from other cultures to see — not where they differ — but where they intersect, where they overlap, and wonder with joy at how the world can become smaller and tighter and get along better together? In other words, wouldn’t it be nice if we looked for the underlying humanity that makes us similar to our partners and not just a list of surface similarities that we already know exist?

A child of the Cold War, I was raised on a fear that “our people” would vanish. This fear was not surprising (Soviets were eliminating the language in Lithuania, and Americans had no mental space for occupied countries, generally lumping us in with the Soviets) but what is surprising is that this fear gave rise to this bizarre assumption that any two people from the same small group would naturally maintain the all traditions of that group.

(Feel free to replace my Lithuanian “our people” with your own preferred small group to see how well that works in the real world. No two people have the same traditions. Similar? Yes. But in every marriage, family traditions are always a negotiation. You’re unifying two disparate families. No one is marrying their cousin anymore.)

In fact, I married an American and despite this, I did pretty well with passing down my Lithuanian heritage to my kids. For the first ten years, my husband and I exchanged eager lessons on my traditions vs his traditions. My…

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M. M. De Voe

Fictionista, collector of obscure awards, admirer of optimists in the face of dread. Author of 2 books that are polar opposites and yet the same. mmdevoe.com