Thursday, 13 December 2012

You say tea, and I say, "No thanks"

“Cup of tea? Do you want a cup of tea? Do you?”

When I moved to San Francisco at the impressionable age of eight, I had little idea of the number of times I would soon be asked, mockingly, whether I wanted a cup of tea. My American peers had never met a “real” Englishman, but their knowledge extended far enough to routinely ask me about if I knew the Queen, in variations on the same ridiculous accent that was like a cross between Basil Fawlty, Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, and someone with Downs Syndrome. When I replied that, no, actually, I didn’t, they all, without fail, first laughed at my accent, and then lifted their pinkie fingers and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. General mirth inevitably ensued.

To add insult to injury, I didn’t even like tea. The only time I’d tried it, I thought it tasted like someone had stirred some hot water with the world’s rustiest iron pipe and then had a homeless man spit some chewing tobacco into it. 

That unmistakable aroma of stagnant rust

It’s just a stupid stereotype, I thought, until I moved back to London ten years later and found that, indeed, the English were constantly drinking the stuff, to an almost neurotic degree. The only thing they drank more of was alcohol. To this day, it boggles the mind that British people aren’t constantly rushing back and forth to the toilet from the countless pints of diaretic liquids they’re constantly chucking down themselves.

In any case, to this day, I can’t have a cup of tea without thinking, “Look at me. I’m fulfilling their hideous prophecy. I am the Oedipus of tea! I am a walking cliché.” And I’m surrounded by dozens of tiny, mocking, American faces. Trust the Americans to ruin a perfectly decent cup of tea, eh?

You ruined it, you utter utter bastards.

The upshot of all this is that I’m trapped between these two worlds. I have both passports, but this just means I can be a bit of a freak on two different continents instead of just one. As a bisexual friend of mine once said, “You’d think it would mean twice the opportunities, but it just means twice the rejection,” and being a British-American feels similar sometimes.

I know I’ll never convince Brits that baseball is a brilliant sport, any more than I’ll be able to explain the joys (and rules, for that matter) of cricket to Americans.  I’ll always seem a bit over-enthusiastic and loud (to the point of crassness) to my British friends, just as my American friends will always wonder if I’m just a liiiiiiiiittle bit of an alcoholic. I’m perfectly comfortable in both worlds, but to “natives”, as it were, I’ll always be a bit of an oddity, like a zebra with a long neck who’s inadvertently wandered into a herd of giraffes.


However, like the man who will mercilessly mock his brother only to bristle at anyone else who joins in, I find myself criticising my respective countries one moment only to be resolutely defending them the next. I feel uniquely placed to tell Brits and Yanks alike just what their problems are, and also why those weirdos across the pond are so…well, weird…but great, too.

This blog will try to explain you all to each other, and cross that great transatlantic barrier that divides us by a common language.

Now, first thing’s first. You see, the batsman needs to protect his wicket without nicking an outside edge into the slips, and….oh, forget it.

No comments:

Post a Comment