Connected

When you live far away from your friends, it’s hard to stay connected.  Facebook used to be good for this: as long as people were posting updates, I could feel like I wasn’t that far away.  Lately though, it seems like the people I know have stopped using Facebook so much, and consequently a lot of my news feed is taken up by George Takei, whose posts have taken a downturn of late.  He used to post pretty funny, sometimes subversive stuff, now it seems to be just another aggregator.  But I digress.

The point is, I loved Facebook when people used it.  I get to see birth announcements and wedding announcements and keep up with my former students graduating and going out into the world.  Now more people use Instagram or Twitter, but those aren’t very helpful for keeping up with more personal news–they feel too public to me.  And more problematically in this scenario, my closest friends don’t seem to use Facebook very much.  In fact, when my son was born a couple of months ago, one friend looks at Facebook so little that she didn’t realise I had him.  Meanwhile, I relied on Facebook too heavily and didn’t send a birth announcement email.

Such is the difficulty in staying connected in the modern age–we can access each other instantly across the whole world, but everyone has to agree on the platform.  I have kept some of my oldest friends because we don’t have a constant need to stay connected–we were happy to reunite after a semester of college and catch up on everything.   Even today, they’re happy to meet me when I’m in town and we catch up on everything.  It’s just that those visits are few and far between, and so right now I only know half stories–one friend moved to Brooklyn when I thought she would never leave Manhattan–I’m dying to know why that move happened.  Another has finally managed to get her own place on the Upper East Side and I’m curious to know if living alone suits her as well as she thought it would.

The obvious answer would be to write an email, as that’s how we mostly communicate.  But I’m at the point now where there’s so much to say I hardly know where to begin.  I’ve always felt more connected to people when I know the little details, and it’s been so long there’s only time for broad strokes.  I miss those friends though.

All too often in my life, I’ve let connections fall by the wayside.  I’ve left letters unanswered and never replied to emails, and thus people I very much wanted to keep close I lost–my friend Travis who was on my study program in France, my colleague Maureen who was kind and who I had great respect for and loved talking to.  Rather tritely, I suppose the answer is to simply make time and write that email.  After all, I’m writing this blog, so…

Of course the problem is the cycle: I have a queue of emails and texts I’ve needed to answer for ages but haven’t.  I want to write and send them, but then there’s the embarrassment–it’s been too long.  How do I explain that?  If I don’t have an explanation, do I have any right to send a message as if I’m not completely thoughtless?

Alternatively, I could just chill out and write, couldn’t I?  And ultimately, that would probably be the best course of action.  If I get a message out of the blue, I’m not reproachful, I’m happy.  So why shouldn’t I apply the same logic to messages I send as well as receive.  And while I’m writing those emails, maybe it would be good to agree on a communication platform so I could What’sApp them more frequently.

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Source: Connected

Envy

In a parallel universe I never left NYC.  MR and I waited the nine months and paid all the fees and the lawyer and decided we would be apart for the first 9 months of our marriage to settle there, even if it meant being apart

Sometimes I envy this me.

Not often, because if we had chosen to be apart, we wouldn’t have Feliciraptor, and she is worth giving up a country for.  But when I think about the mess that is the 2016 Presidential election, I miss being in America.

One of the things no one tells you about being an expat is that you automatically become an ambassador for your country.  And, man, is it hard to represent the United States sometimes, because isolated on their continent, Americans have no clue how they’re coming across to the rest of the world.  And newsflash–it ain’t good.

It was tough traveling abroad during the Dubya years.  He was not popular around the world, and the war he started in Iraq was even less popular.  In comparison with now, however, those were much simpler times.  I had to do a bit of defending against ridiculous conspiracy theories like Bush masterminded 9/11 (wtf?), but for the most part, all I had to say when I travelled to England was ‘*I* didn’t vote for him.  I pretty much disagree with every word that comes out of his mouth’ and people understood.  After all, a lot of them disagreed vehemently with Thatcher, and they subsequently drummed Blair out of office, so it wasn’t a huge stretch.

Then we elected Obama, and while I routinely faced questions about whether every American owns a gun (answer: no), things were overall better.  The world likes Obama.  I like Obama.  The gun issue was the biggest thing I had to speak to during that time, but it most people seemed to understand that it wasn’t the whole sum of the US, although Brits do think Americans are *nuts* for refusing to even examine firearms legislation.

But now things have gone crazy because Trump stands an honest chance of becoming President, and he is an insane fascist.  There is nothing that makes this man a viable candidate for President.  First and foremost, he clearly only wants to represent white men.  He reacts to insults like a child, or worse, threatens acts of free speech with violence.  This flagrant disregard for the first amendment is truly alarming, because the Constitution is one of the things that makes America exceptional.    Not only that, he is a straight up fascist.  His slogan, ‘Make American great again’ sums that up.  Make America great–how?  What does a ‘great’ America consist of?  He has no real concrete ideas about this, just insults he hurts at minority groups, religions, and other nations.  Furthermore, it implies that America is in a state of complete ruin–not so.  It is rare to find any nation in a state of complete ruin.  Alongside this is the word ‘again’, as though America should turn back the clock to some unspecified point in the past.  Going back is never a good idea.  The future lies ahead.  And moreover, the whole statement implies an entitlement to greatness which is probably the most obnoxious thing about America.  No nation is the greatest nation by default, and the rabid patriotism this slogan presents is exactly what makes other nations roll their eyes in disgust at the naive ego of America.

This is the delicate line I have to walk.  On the one hand, I do not just disagree with Trump–I think he could cause a world war if elected, and that’s not hyperbole.  This man is dangerous.  Yet when British people deplore the state of the elections, when they start telling people who to vote for on my Facebook feed, or when they ask whether I am going to give up on being American should Trump get elected, my hackles raise and I feel like saying ‘It’s not your election.  Butt out.  And also, stop insulting my country.’

I am not suggesting that America should listen to the rest of the world when deciding its next President.  Part of the unique strength of Americans is that willingness to pioneer and go it alone, whether it be as a nation, as explorers in the west, or as immigrants starting a life all on their own.  Nevertheless, the opinion of the world can be a useful reflection.  Is this who we want to be as a nation?  Do we want to be more like Franco’s Spain or Mussolini’s Italy than the America which has stood for more than 200 years?  Because if we elect Trump, the nation will become Trump’s America, and frankly, that’s a nation I don’t know how to defend.

But I don’t want to have to surrender who I am, nor will I ever be able to.  People always see me as American.  Living in a quieter corner of England I’m also the only one.  And I don’t know how to represent a country with such a dangerous leader.

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Source: Envy

An unexpected journey

When I  started this blog a year and a half ago, I conceived it as a witty look at a geek relationship, which really reads that I was indulging in a moment of narcissism where I believed the world would care about my newfound relationship.  Look, he’s British!  Look, we’re geeky together!  I don’t know how bad a thing that is, or if it’s even a bad thing–isn’t a lot of writing, great and otherwise, born of egotism?  Besides, it liberated me to do something that I had never wanted to do before in my writing–I wanted to write about myself.  I had kept journals, of course, and had a daily email correspondence with a close friend, but I never wanted to write anything about myself that was meant for an audience of strangers to read. Continue reading

Parting is such sweet sorrow

A couple of months ago, I would have scoffed at Juliet’s sentiment.  There is nothing sweet about parting, I would have said.  It is hard and miserable, and the only thing to do when standing in front of the security line at the airport is to think about the next time we’re going to see each other and swallow tears.

I spent a good ten months in a long distance relationship, and it was very hard to pull through.  At the beginning and end there were huge stretches of nearly 100 days where we couldn’t be together, and that’s a very long time.  There’s so much of a romantic relationship that comes from physical proximity.  And you get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m not (only) referring to that.  Although there is that.  But there is also being able to do things together, or just curling up on the couch and watch tv together.  Or doing totally different things, and then getting up to get a drink and, in passing, giving a kiss or touch.

When I was grappling with the decision to up sticks and move to England for love, a lot of people advised me to stay.  “Nine months is a drop in the bucket,” I heard.  And by way of additional comfort “You can talk through Skype!”

But let me tell you something–Skype sucks.  Ok, that’s not really fair.  Skype has been a great boon in a lot of ways, and the fiance and I used it to the hilt.  I sent my Skype conversation records to the British consulate for my visa approval and they showed conversations of 6, 8, 10 hours routinely.  It was good because we felt like we could be able to talk to each other all day, for free.

Still, though…while Skype is good for keeping the channels of communication open, it’s not very intimate.  And, if I’m honest, after awhile it gets boring.  Think about it–how much time do you spend actually conversing with your partner?  You probably talk to them most of all, but even so, two solid hours of conversation every single day?  That’s a lot of talking.  Plus there’s the fact that we were staring at a computer screen.  We couldn’t go for a walk together, or even go into the other room (my laptop at the time was 5 years old and had no battery life).

So Skype helps, but it’s not a remedy.  Long distance relationships are still hard, because as nice as seeing each other’s face is, we were still living largely separate lives, and at the end of the day we still went to bed alone.  That is particularly painful when I had been waiting so long to be in a relationship and stop feeling lonely.

It gets so painful that eventually we both started to shut down a bit.  It’s impossible to miss someone constantly for days and weeks on end, so it’s easier to build a little wall around that feeling, keep my head down, and carry on.  I suspect this is the death knell for most long distance relationships, because it’s all too easy for that protective wall to be a real wall, and pretty soon you’ve blocked the other person out.  I think in my case, the fact that our long distance stint was relatively brief and that we were both so stubbornly and tenaciously committed got us through.  It’s not possible to date long distance casually.  By the time we got to see each other again, the joy of reunion had faded with too much anticipation, and the moment was instead full of weary relief, a sigh of at last.

In the midst of the last long stretch (mid April to the second week of July), my best friend’s husband went on a week-long bike ride through England.  Before his departure, she was fretting about being alone and how much she’d miss him.  At the time, I had very little sympathy.  A week? I thought.  What I wouldn’t give to only be separated for a week.  I was alone in the house every night.

Eventually though, I was forced to eat my words (thoughts?).  The fiance has had a trip to China planned for ages, since the week we first got together.  I couldn’t really complain about his departure, although the stuff we planned afterwards (like our wedding) made the timing less than ideal.  As the trip approached though, I found myself growing bluer and bluer about having to say goodbye.  There may have been some tears.  What’s more, these past nine days I’ve missed him more than I’ve missed him in all those long six week stretches.  I am so excited about seeing him tomorrow I’m practically vibrating, and I’m going to give him the biggest, most joyful hug.

At first I wondered why I had turned into such a hypocrite.  But then I realized–it’s not hypocritical.  When Juliet says “parting is such sweet sorrow” she adds “That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow,” fully intending to see Romeo the next day.  The melancholy of being separated is a novelty, an indulgence in emo romanticism.  A week is long enough for a separation to be noticeable, but not long enough for it to be real, or truly painful.  I have to say, it’s rather nice to have that luxury.