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So I’m on my annual summer trip back to the U.S (Salt Lake City and New York City) and here are the things I have noticed (belatedly, in some cases, years belatedly) about my native culture:
1. Fashion Front- Even the soccer moms in Salt Lake City are wearing boleros. However, none of them were wearing turbans (yet). Everyone is wearing stripes which is something I did not know when I bought three striped t-shirts at Zara for my summer wear. Now, not only do I fit in, I look as though I’m a part of a flash mob composed of members of the French navy. At any moment, someone will bring out a boom box and blast the Marseillaise, at which point we’ll all stop what we’re doing, whip baguettes out of our bags and use them as props in an impressive and unexpected synchronized dance routine.
2. Television Front- The show Portlandia is awesome. Actually, it was my English friends Sophy and Dan (aka @mrcottonsox) who pointed this out to me on a visit to Bristol 2 months ago. (Because it turns out that Bristol is the Portland of England so they know about these things). The show Girls is also awesome. For those of you who don’t know, it’s about a bunch of girls in their early twenties who live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They hook up with gross boys, break up with nice ones, have crappy jobs, try to break away from parental support, express themselves creatively and go to cavernous loft parties. The reason I like this show so much is because I was once a girl in her early twenties who lived in Greenpoint and let me tell you, my life was EXACTLY the same. Except that I didn’t have a cell phone and also, their building is much nicer looking than any building I’ve ever seen in that neighborhood. Ah, memories. But then the other day as I was watching it and busy relating, I was plummeted back to reality by the following exchange which went something like this:
Ex-boyfriend of gorgeous twenty-four year old girl: I’ve fallen in love with someone else. She’s a filmmaker and she’s 38.
Gorgeous twenty-four year old girl (in patronizing voice): Ohhhhh, she’s OLD! She’s a mom!
As a 37-year-old mother (who is not even a filmmaker), this put a frown on my face. But then one of the characters accidentally smoked crack and ran through the streets of Bushwick wearing only her party top and a pair of nylons and I was distracted out of my funk.
3. Food Front- I have finally been to Trader Joe’s and it is indeed fantastic. Although this does not mean I think it is fantastic enough to stand in a line that goes outside the front door and around the corner just to shop there. As for the cupcake, it has become completely over-exploited. I remember reading an interview with Ira Glass in Bust Magazine several years ago in which he complained about the new cupcake shop opening on his block in Brooklyn. The gist was the now that cupcakes were so popular, they were no longer cool. I have to admit that reading this soured my perception of Ira. Because who cares if they’re cool or not, as long as they’re yummy? Now the problem is that they are so widespread that they are not necessarily yummy anymore and that is a much more serious problem. If every greasy bodega and deli has cupcakes (not to mention every bakery), how do we then know which ones are good and which ones were baked in a factory in Yonkers 18 months ago?
There is no longer any cupcake quality control, no cupcake curation. However, I just found this article in the Voice so I guess that problem is solved and I can stop complaining.
Okay well that’s all for now. I am busy working on a new illustration that features Swiss cheese, a dangling light bulb and a butcher knife so I’d best be getting back to that.
Nico: So I’ve decided I don’t want to marry a woman who wears glasses anymore.
Me: Oh really? So what kind of woman do you want to marry now?
Nico: Well, I want her to be sweet like my English teacher, pretty like my English teacher, fashionable like my English teacher, and wear tall boots like my English teacher… But I don’t want her to speak English like my English teacher because actually she really doesn’t speak English very well. I think if we got married, we’d probably just have to speak Spanish.
Last night I made Indian food and as usual, Nico devoured it all, proclaiming that he loves how the cuisines from countries such as India and Thailand combine flavors that he wouldn’t ordinarily think would go so well together (i.e. cashew nuts and yogurt). I beamed as he complimented the food but unlike in times past (when I deluded myself into thinking that it was in some way my doing), I took no personal pride whatsoever in having a son who will eat almost anything and who loves trying new and unusual foods.
This is because on the opposite side of the table sat Luca, a kid whose idea of a filling Indian curry dinner consists of several cashew nuts dipped in mango chutney. Actually, I suppose you could say that Luca’s tastes are fairly exotic for a two-year old. He loves capers, olives and smoked salmon, and when we go out for sushi, he eats the pickled ginger off of everyone else’s plates. The problem is that he will usually refuse to eat anything else (i.e. pasta, rice, pizza, etc.) and as for vegetables, forget it.
I do like to think that I have something of an influence in my children’s behavior but in this case, I’ve come to realize that it’s completely out of my hands. I have one child who is a “good eater” and another who subsists almost entirely on condiments. So the next time I take Luca for lunch at a friend’s house, only to have her confess in an embarrassed tone that her child will only eat frozen chicken nuggets, I’ll just sigh and ask if they happen to have a jar of capers on hand.
Nico and I just returned from a weekend in Bristol with our good friends Sophy and Dan (plus Alf and Ivy!) The best part of the whole weekend was getting to hear an actual English person say to her child “If you don’t eat your peas, you can’t have any pudding!” The worst part was when I attempted to make a cup of tea for Sophy and she insisted on pouring it down the drain before even trying it. The following dialog ensued:
Me- “But what’s wrong with it!?”
Sophy- “I came into the kitchen to find a cup of tea with a string thing hanging out of it and an American person pouring milk that she just got out of the microwave into it. Obviously I couldn’t drink that.”
Me- “But I thought I was spoiling you by heating up the milk first!”
Sophy- “Yes, spoiling is what you certainly did.”
I think you have to be an English person to understand her logic.
Me: Oh hey, there’s X and Y* over on the playground
Nico: Oh no! They’re the most girlyishest girls in my class. You’ll see, they’re going to try and get me to pretend I’m either a cute little puppy or a unicorn.
*Names have been omitted in order to protect the girlyishest.