Notes From Hairenik
May 21, 2007
I have used the term “apero” on this blog on more than one occasion and I felt that it was high time that I define what it means. Some of what you may read below may be familiar as similar descriptions have appeared in other posts or articles that I have written.

An apero is a young man who conforms to the rabiz lifestyle and culture, although “alternative,” non-traditionalists are now prevalent. The apero has two primary interests: automobiles and expensive, sleek mobile phones. Aperos are on the whole arrogant and more often than not are rude, obstinate, or both. They address each other incessantly as “akhper” or “aper,” slang terminology for brother, and they usually add the term “dear” as a deceptive expression of sincerity. The usage of a phrase that literally translates as “I take your pain,” but with the contextual meaning “give me a break” or “giving you a break,” is spoken in such frequency that it fails to maintain any real significance and is rather an empty promise. For the most part they speak what can be described as “wise guy Armenian,” which is becoming a standardized dialect. The pronunciation of words is usually exaggerated to the extent that it sounds as if the speaker is moaning, almost incoherent, and from the speech an impression of profound ignorance can be sensed. Armenian is intermingled with Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and Farsi very naturally, and if asked about a term they have chosen they may not immediately realize that it is not from the Armenian lexicon. To emphasize a point, the apero uses hand gestures, the most noticeable being one where the index and middle fingers are pressed against the thumb, positioned upright, and the arm is extended from the elbow at least one or two times towards the person with whom he is speaking. Sometimes the lower back is bent slightly while making the gesture. When an apero wants to persuade a friend, he begins to caress the vertical center hem of his companion’s shirt while speaking softly to him, even straightening out the collar or flicking away dust if necessary. Whenever two of them meet or part ways, their right hands clasp and they kiss each other’s left cheek. Aperos are prone to loitering, during which time they tenderly smoke slim cigarettes or madly munch on sunflower seeds. The posture of the apero is in many cases poor with slumped shoulders.

The type of automobile an apero chooses to drive is one of three types: the Lada 2107, 110, 112, or Niva fitted with black tinted windows, oversized tires (in the case of the Niva), premium allow wheels, and high-end stereo systems; a 5-15 year-old Mercedes-Benz or BMW with deluxe, personalized trim packages, sometimes including small monitors displaying video discs; or any sport utility vehicle make or model, although German or Japanese flavors seem to be the preferred choice. The wealthy ones cruise around in relatively new European or Japanese sedans. Custom license plates are obtained to accentuate the prestige of their vehicles. Aperos drive them recklessly, paying no attention to other motorists and especially to pedestrians. Traffic lights mean nothing to them. They are perpetually in a furious hurry to go nowhere.

Younger aperos, in their late teens or early to mid twenties, are generally thin-built and baby-faced. They wear slim-fitting pants and pullover shirts, with narrow, unusually pointed shoes supported by fairly high heels. The outfit of choice was once a sort of uniform: a white button-down shirt with an open collar, double-pleated cuffed black pants, and an extra-long black belt fastened by an oversized platinum-colored buckle. Their hair was almost always worn the same way: cut very short and parted from the far right to left. However, modern pop culture trends in Moscow are starting to exert influence on Yerevan fashion for young men, so now aperos wear varying styles of clothing in undiscriminating colors and are even growing their hair somewhat long, although the traditional dress is still in vogue.

As an apero ages into his late twenties or early thirties he develops a pot belly, which is a symbol of affluence. The larger the belly, the more successful men are perceived to be (or regard themselves as being). Expensive suits are fitted extra long and somewhat baggy regardless of the man’s height or weight. Designer athletic suits are worn as casual wear. Women instinctively gravitate towards them for the financial protection they may offer. Once an apero is married and has fathered at least one child, he takes on a mistress who is entertained in late evening.

Aperos generally do not contribute to the advancement of Armenian society. They are indifferent to politics or anything else that does not involve upholding materialism. They compete with one another for dominance in the realm of pretentiousness. The apero lives from moment to moment, and the future for him is the following day.

Towards the end of last year I began to feel suffocated by these guys as I found them at nearly every public place, with the exception of ethnic restaurants, high cultural events, or places frequented by non-Armenian residents and tourists. They even made their way into my workplace—one of the first employees who started with me it turned out was an apero in dormancy, and when he became responsible for hiring new workers he accepted those with whom he found a natural affinity. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the uncouthness of these dudes, the insolence and careless abandon they would display, and becoming infuriated with what I had to endure day in and day out. Finally I asked a friend who is an investigative journalist how he copes, and he responded that he does whatever is necessary to not associate with them. Although this is not always possible, I nevertheless realized after speaking with him that there was nothing I could do about the way they act, speak or whatever else, so I simply began to accept them for who they are. I also try to keep my distance from them, but when it is unavoidable I act as cordially as I can, and most of the time I am in turn treated with respect. But make no mistake that the old saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” does not apply in my case (and I am not alone by all means). For one thing I hardly ever understand what the hell they’re talking about.

Photo: The Lada 112, a classic example of an aperomobile.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Funny.. they remind me of the zoot-suitors in the 1940's in the Latino community in the U.S. But with them in was a reaction to the discrimination shown Latinos by the Anglos. With the apero's it's more pretension than anything else. Mostly all appearance with no substance-whether you agree or not. In a way it's tragic that these guys have no other outlet, or have been provided none, in which to participate and bring something of value to the society. You might say they gave us rabiz music but that wears thin after a while. Each society, throughout the ages, has experienced mini-cultures and communities that have felt on the outside of the norm and have reacted by either dressing or looking different. In this case, it's mostly illusory. They want to live vicariously through their cars or pointy shoes. I say live and let live unless they get "in your face". Then what I do is face them down and ask, "do I know you?" and " who the hell are you?". By themselves they're really little babies with inflated egos. Այսինքն..մեղք են.. Արաբօ

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I feel your pain or "tsavitan em"
I haven been to Yerevan in about a year...have their been any inprovment by the police to prevent the Niva driving nitwhits from their reckless driving?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Apero, tsavet tanem... es bloge kaif er," says the apero sitting next to me inside Glendale Starbucks.

Anonymous nanul said...
Funny and unfortunately pretty accurate...

Very well written.