|Howdy brah! Do you floss?|
Luckily, this temporary hiatus (is there any other kind?) means I return to you with a new perspective on life, as I am by now essentially a bona-fide American. I have a Social Security number, think entirely in US Dollars and just the other day referred to coriander as 'cilantro' without so much as retching. I eat Twinkies for breakfast, sleep in Stars-and-Stripes PJs, and ride a bald eagle to work.
Just kidding! There are still LOADS of things I still can't wrap my head around, and here they are:
1. The workplace obsession with being a 'Rockstar'. Close your eyes, click on literally any 'situation vacant' on Craigslist and (open your eyes for this bit, obviously) you'll find a job description calling for a bloody ROCKSTAR. 'PR Rockstar'; 'Rockstar Intern'; 'Rockstar Office Assistant'. From what I gather, it's intended to refer to someone who marries exceptional Excel abilities with the sexual magnetism of Bodhi in Point Break; however, the term loses its meaning when applied to 'Rockstar Barista', 'Rockstar Dental Hygienist' and (this is totally the best one) 'Rockstar and Garage Organizer'. Just to be clear, all of these are very real postings on Craigslist right this second. It's not even the gut-wrenching awfulness of the word that gets me. It's the fact that no-one in their right mind would ever ACTUALLY WANT TO HIRE A REAL ROCKSTAR. Successful touring musicians are by their very nature mercurial individuals with well-documented issues around substance abuse and timekeeping, and these employers know as well as I do that Mick Jagger would be STAGGERINGLY unreliable in a workplace environment.
2. The way that people here say 'that's so funny' without actually laughing. This is one of the US-UK conversational gulfs that has most unsettled me, because if your supposedly-amusing anecdote is met with these words in Britain, it's kind of bad news for your social capital. Allow me to translate:
US: That's so funny = "How amusing!"
UK: That's so funny = "Christ, you're dull."
In Britain, saying something is 'funny' without physically chuckling - ie. showing that you really do think it's funny - would be regarded as passive aggression par excellence. It's the verbal equivalent of someone looking over your shoulder to see if there's anyone better to talk to at the party - the sign that you should wrap this conversation up and go and bore someone else. But I've learned that here, to be told your story is funny - rather than shown - isn't actually a cause for concern. Unless, of course, everyone here is sparing my feelings, and I really AM very dull. Oh, America: you guys are the best!
3. The teeth. This one is the worst, because it's one of those cliched observations I swore I'd never sink to (see also: "Isn't everything big?" and "Driving on the right? I DIE") but it's true: everyone's teeth are just beautiful. It's not so much the regularity, or the straightness even, but the gorgeous whiteness that greets me every time someone opens their mouth. (Do you remember those big, blinding-white windows in the Overlook Hotel in The Shining? Well, that's them, and I'm stuck as the dead woman in the bath.) Writing as someone whose dental colour-match falls somewhere on the 'Magnolia' Dulux swatch, I must confess: it is simply mortifying. In the UK, I'd be judged to have 'good to very good' teeth - here, I'm the 'Before' photo. The startling preponderance of white, white smiles leads me to conclude that tooth whitening must just be one of those things that everybody does here as part of their dental regimen and just doesn't talk about. All I know is: perhaps it's time I contacted a Rockstar Dental Hygienist .