Seven Years and a Day

It was seven years and a day ago that I met my wife, Al. I thought it would be nice to celebrate by revisiting the location of our fated meeting – the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. David Sedaris was doing a show there two nights ago, so we got tickets and went along. It was surreal being in that same room. “That’s where I saw you wandering around”, “that’s where we had our second kiss”, “that’s where we talked, right between doors 5 and 6”. I still wear on a necklace the key she gave me that very night, only taking it off occasionally to de-knot it when it gets tangled in its chain.

At the end of the show, Mr Sedaris took some questions. One clearly English woman’s voice piped up “what’s your favourite thing about the English and what’s your least favourite?” Mr Sedaris, who lives in England primarily, told a bawdy story illustrating the English lack of political correctness, and said it was something he liked. In response to the second part of the question, he cited the culture’s envious nature; “in America if your neighbour has a Ferrari in the driveway, you want a Ferrari. In England if your neighbour has a Ferrari in the driveway, you want them to die in a fiery accident”, he quipped.
The next day at work a customer was asking me about England. Why did I move here? My wife’s American, we have friends here, I explained. Did I really prefer it here compared to London? I told him the David Sedaris story. Then he asked “do you find Americans more complicated than Britons, in general?” This caught me off guard. I thought a while and responded that I thought they were both as complicated but in different ways.

If I had had longer to respond I would have told him that, in my experience, Americans have complicated relationships, often with their families. They have complicated emotions, just like anyone, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that people move around so much, leaving things behind. People come from all over the world to America, often with very different backgrounds and beliefs. It’s a fluid, fast moving, rapidly evolving culture, and that can generate issues.

The English are complicated in how they view one another. Because of the emphasis on class and social status that has evolved over centuries, people are very socially aware. In a room full of English people, you know you are being watched, whereas in America I have learned that it is rude to stare.