6 Ways to Impress an Aita

If you’re lucky enough to be dating someone from our lovely Basque American community, the big meeting with the family is inevitable. Meeting your partner’s dad, specifically, can be incredibly intimidating.

Basque dads, a.k.a. Aitas, are remarkably tough or easy to please, depending on your perspective. Get a few simple things right, and you’ve got his approval. Get them wrong, and you will forever be known as that skinhead who took his daughter to prom (true story).

To avoid Aita’s immediate disdain, be sure not to utter any of the Top 5 Things Not to Say to a Girl’s Aita. To win him over completely, take the following advice to heart:

1. Respect his family.

Whether you’re dating his son or daughter, the #1 way to impress an aita is the same: respect his family. Do not interrupt his son or daughter (presumably your boyfriend or girlfriend) when they speak, keep PDA to a minimum (or even better, leave it out entirely in his presence), make eye contact when speaking, greet everyone appropriately, compliment him on his home, and thank him for his hospitality.

Above all else, Aita wants you to be someone who will integrate well into the family, not someone who will shake things up. Find the balance of being polite and respectful without being a suck-up, and you’ll go far in winning him over.

2. Be Basque.

Aita loves fellow Bascos, especially as potential spouses for his children. If you’re of Basque descent, you’ve won half the battle already just by your genealogy.

However, check to see if you come from a family the aita in question likes. Basques are known to have their prejudices and disagreements, so it’s no use being Basque if Aita doesn’t like your family.

If you’re a Montague, don’t be surprised if Capulet Aita gives you the cold shoulder at first. I won’t tell you to stay away from the Capulets entirely, as love is love and opinions can change, but just know you might have to work a little harder to prove you’re better than those family members of yours that Aita dislikes.

Now, if you’re in no way, shape, or form Basque: show appreciation for Basque culture. Your honey should have filled you in on the basics, so you should know a bit about it. Ask Aita about where he came from, tell him you love Basque food, or just express that you would love to learn more about the culture. Respecting his family’s roots is key (see #1).

3. Show knowledge of any of the following: agriculture, sheepherding, cattle ranching, dairy farming, landscaping, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, construction, car maintenance, property management.

Preferably, have knowledge in Aita’s specific area of expertise, but it helps to know something about any of these topics. Most likely, Aita has spent his entire life engaged in manual labor or as part of a family that has, so showing appreciation for his background can go a long way.

To have him instantly love you, actually work in any of the fields listed above. Aita will automatically make positive assumptions about how you make good money, how hard of a worker you are, and how handy you are around the house/garage/yard.

If you don’t know anything about these manly fields, don’t make stuff up or pretend that you do. Aita can smell a fake from a mile away. Just ask him questions about his work and show interest. That’s how my charming, white collar ex managed to crack my Aita’s tough exterior.

4. Present yourself as clean cut and polite.

Ditch the ponytail, shave the beard, dress appropriately for the occasion, cover up your tattoos, take out your piercings, show up on time, and accept any food and drink offered you with a “thank you very much.” Aita doesn’t want any hippies, punks, skinheads, gangsters, or hoochies associated with his family.

Part of good presentation is making sure your car (or truck–Basque bonus!) is clean and well maintained. Yes, Aita will most certainly judge you on your vehicle of choice. Make sure you stop by the car wash before you head to his house.

5. Be prepared to answer difficult questions.

Like all dads, some aitas are quiet observers and other are a little more in your face. Prepare for the more confrontational ones just in case–even the quiet Aitas have brazen Amas for wives who would be happy to ask you personal questions.

Be able to articulate what your intentions with their son or daughter are. Practice tactfully answering whether you practice a religion, want to get married, want to start a family, hold certain political views. Being ready for anything will make you look cool and confident under pressure. Aita will respect that.

6. Bring him wine.

You can check with your boyfriend or girlfriend to see what kind of alcohol Aita likes best, but chances are you can’t go wrong with a bottle of wine.

If you’re more of a green thumb, Aita also loves homegrown fruits and vegetables so bring those along. They could be an excellent conversation starter.

If all else fails with the first five steps, Aita won’t think you’re a complete loser if you at least have the decency to bring him a bottle of wine.

What other things would you add to this list? What impresses your Aita or Aitatxi?

Aita Calls Bullshit on My Swearing Habit

After weeks of not checking Hella Basque and relative peace in the Chiramberro household, Aita read the recap of Jacqueline and Chris’s wedding.

The only thing he had to say about it: “You used ‘bullshit!'” Aita did not approve of my choice to drop two swear words in the post. Out of a 2,214-word piece, those were the two words he singled out. He told me I shouldn’t write swear words, because it isn’t polite. He said using swears diminishes my class and that I should aim to be classy.

This seemed pretty rich to me coming from the man who taught me to fully appreciate the word “bullshit” in all of its glory. In conversation, Aita and I swear together and it’s hilarious. But somehow writing swears down on the Internet is too much for Aita to handle. I guess he wants the world to think his little princess is classy.

He would rather I put on a false persona for my blog, to present myself as someone polite and dignified. But what’s the fun in that? And where the honesty in that?

If I’m angry or feel strongly about something, I’m going to probably include some swear words. It just helps to get my point across. I’m not going to pretend to be cool with things when I’m not. I’ve tried that and it hasn’t really worked for me.

Although some of the posts on this blog can be pretty fluffy, Hella Basque is not about sugarcoating our microcosmic Basque world.

Here is my commitment to you guys to keep swearing and writing passionately, despite Aita’s disapproval. As a reader, I appreciate when writers are honest and vulnerable. So here I am on this little blog of mine, striving to be the kind of writer I would love to read.

23 Tried and True Ways to Piss Off Your Aita

1. Go out with your friends, especially during family dinner time.

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2. Don’t get Straight A’s on your report card.

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3. Mess up your room and keep it messy.

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4. Get in a car accident.

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5. Don’t tell him things about your life, but tell your mom and sister.

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6. Talk to your mom more than you talk to him.

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7. Go on vacation with your mom and leave him at home to watch the cat. Maybe forget to call him one day too.

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8. Decide to move to Europe. Or just decide to move out.

Why You Want to Leave Me?

9. Decide to go traveling instead of working toward your master’s degree.

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10. Get a spa treatment.

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 11. Get something pierced.

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12. Tell him you’re sharing a hotel room with a boy for a Basque festival weekend away.

The Lord is Testing Me

13. Go on vacation with your boyfriend.

nooooooooooooo

14. Get engaged to a non-Basque.

 15. Say “I love you” to your cat more often than you say it to him.

What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?

16. Tell him his piperade omelette looks gross and refuse to try it.

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17. Forget it’s time for an oil change.

Shane Dawson Pissed Off

18. Only wash your car twice a year. Refuse to let him take it to the car wash for you. Because you’re independent.

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19. Forget his birthday.

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20. Tell relatives things about your nuclear family that he wanted to keep private.

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21. Accidentally lock yourself out of the house.

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22. Ask him to clean up after himself.

rickey

23. Write about him in your blog.

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My response to it all:

I-dunno-I-love-you

Top 5 Things Not to Say to a Girl’s Aita

5 things not to say to a girl's aita

If you’re dating a Basque woman and things are going well enough for you to meet the mythical aita, know that there are a few things he does not want to hear:

1. I’m not Basque.

For some reason, Aita has a slight obsession with knowing where his daughters’ beaux come from: ethnically and patrimonially.  He always wants to know who the family is, and if he doesn’t know them, he straight away assumes they’re scum unless proven otherwise.  It’s inevitable that he learns you’re not Basque.  Just try to understand that this is hard for him, and you might need to step up your game a little more than usual to win him over.

2. I’m Unemployed.

Why would Aita want to hear that?  If you are unemployed, come up with a more creative response.  (Suggestion: “I’m applying to grad school.” Aita loves himself some higher education.)  He just wants to make sure his darlings are taken care of, and he’s not going to like you from the get go if you can’t do that for him.  I’m sure you have plenty more to offer, but sometimes Aita only cares about dollars and cents.

3. I’m a vegetarian.

If you lead with this, Aita most definitely will not respect your manhood.  Much of his life has revolved around preparing and eating mass quantities of meat, so you might as well just tell him you’re an alien.  Pick at the lamb if you can, or just avoid family meals until you’re ready to deal with the consequences of this statement.

Tour Guide Aita

4. I don’t drink.

While some might think this line will show you to be a conscientious and responsible person, Aita will just take it as weakness.  What do you mean you don’t drink?  Alcohol consumption is one of the foundations of Basque social life, so Aita will not understand what’s wrong with you.  He’ll either think you’re a pansy or a recovering alcoholic, and he doesn’t want either of those things for his little princess.

5. I don’t know anything about farming, gardening, plumbing, construction, or raising sheep.

Whatever Aita’s forte, make sure you’re mildly acquainted with it before the big meeting. Do a quick Google search, learn something, and hold on to it for dear life in case the topic comes up.

I will never forget how one of my sister’s friends blew my dad away with a story about how he helped someone uproot a palm tree.  At first Aita (a gardener in his past life) was aloof and silent, putting on his intimidating front, but once the palm tree anecdote came up, he was all smiles, laughter, and bottomless wine refills.  Find a way to establish yourself in Aita’s realm of knowledge, and you will surely melt his little heart.

What are some things your aita wouldn’t want to hear?

Piperade is the Crack Spot

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My family and I first ate at Piperade to celebrate my 18th birthday.  My birthday, my choice, and after 18 years of birthdays and countless family parties at the Basque Cultural Center, I wanted to try something new.

My poor aita hated it, and made the evening a miserable experience for everyone with his criticisms and negativity.  Several years later, I once again choose Piperade as the venue for my birthday dinner.  This time, my father is excited to return.  He’s heard some good things about it (mostly from me), and he’s willing to give it another try.

I think of Piperade as Sexy Basque.  It’s warm and homey with all of your favorite foods, like your mom’s house, but the combination of its chic clientele, eye-catching artwork, intimately dim lighting, and ambient Latin music give off a swanky vibe.  (Not to mention the higher pricing…)  It all makes you feel like you’re in an upscale, cosmopolitan spot in Bayonne.

It’s not surprising then my 70+ year old aita, born and raised in an isolated mountain farmhouse, would feel out of place in such a hip establishment.  Yet this time around, Piperade won my father over with a little sweet talking and complimentary goodies from the proprietor.  Success!

The Picky Aita in Question

The Picky Aita in Question

While most of the Basque restaurants in the American West were born out of sheepherding communities and boarding houses, Piperade represents the modern Basque.  It’s a place where the descendents of those sheepherders, armed with middle class cash and urbane taste, can gather to enjoy delicious Basque food while feeling sophisticated, rubbing elbows with the Financial District crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the family style meals offered by Woolgrowers and other staple Basque restaurants, but stepping into Piperade just makes me feel cool.  The place is always packed for dinner, and  reservations ahead of time are strongly recommended.

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Walking into a Basque restaurant packed with non-Basques makes me proud.  It shows there’s a significant number of Americans who appreciate Basque culture and Basque food.  Enough to pay $20 for a plate of piperade.  (Seriously, don’t you guys know it’s just peppers, onions, and tomatoes?  My dad’s got a freezer full of the stuff and I’m sure he’d be happy to share it with you for free.)

Jokes aside, my thanks go out to the Gerald and Cameron Hirigoyen for building this business.  Piperade gives us young Basque Americans in the Bay Area a place separate from our parents’ and grandparents’ Center to enjoy ourselves and celebrate our heritage.

Piperade

1015 Battery Street

San Francisco, CA 94111