Life Lessons from a Greek Drag Queen

“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.”  Mae West

A group of friends and I were traveling around Europe one Summer, we had broken up into a few groups and, this being in the days before cell phones, we came up with the very romantic idea that we would all meet up at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece at dusk on a certain date.  Sure enough, as the sun set over the city, we spotted each other as the last tourists were hurried out the gates.  We were so excited that our crazy plan worked that we failed to notice that it was about to rain, no, it was about to pour – giant, sopping buckets of water.  We all ducked into a doorway to catch up on our various journeys and to stay out of the downpour.  This being about two weeks in to our trip, my group had handed over all of our dirty clothes to a laundress earlier in the day.  By the time the rain stopped and we made it back to the laundry, we realized that it had closed and we were now soaking wet with no dry clothes back at the youth hostel.

To save money (and avoid chores), we had given up a few countries earlier on the “official” youth hostel system, preferring to find “unofficial” hostels in each town.  We chose the “Hostel Anabel” under the very logical theory that Anabelle is my grandmother’s name, so it must be a good place.  The manager turned out not to be another black clad widow renting out a few rooms like our previous spots, but instead a wiry little sun-wizened guy who operated a bar downstairs and rented out bunks in the rooms above.  Frankly, the man was a genius of knowing his clientele – not only did the backpackers pay to sleep there, they then spent the rest of their money on cheap beer and wine in the bar below.  We were sitting in the bar of the hostel, shivering and looking pathetic when the manager came over and told us that he had a ton of clothes left behind by prior guests and offered to take us to find something to wear.  Hallelujah!  We followed him to a wardrobe full of women’s clothing and we each grabbed what fit and happily changed in to something warm and dry.

It was only on the train ride home that we started to ponder – why would he only have women’s clothing left behind when this was a co-ed hostel?  Why would he keep it all neatly hung in a wardrobe instead of just piled in bags or boxes?  Why was it all his size?  It dawned on us that this was his personal stash of women’s clothing.  Our young, naive eyes widened and our jaws dropped as the reality slowly crept in (and this helped to explain why he had so many pairs of sparkly leggings).  I think we were still laughing about this days later as we parted ways at the end of our trip.

The point of sharing this story with you is that we all need to be shocked and surprised every once in a while, just to remember that we aren’t in control of this crazy life.  We are going to find out that people aren’t always what they seem and things don’t always turn out how we hoped, but we can find the humor and the joy in life’s shocking moments.  If I hadn’t got caught in a downpour in Athens, I would never have known that the manager of our hostel liked women’s clothing and I would have missed out on several hours of belly laughs, not to mention a great opportunity to wear sparkly leggings!  When you find out that someone isn’t who you thought they were – you can be shocked and upset or you can be shocked and laugh at the absurdity of life.  Your choice.

Your reaction doesn’t change who people are, it only changes your experience of them.  Who in your life can you see with new, laughing eyes instead of judgment?




  1. What a delightful “slice of life” story with a great morale

  2. Esther Durán Lumm says:

    Hilarious! Love this story!

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