Taking a Stance on Missiles of Ligneous and Petrous Consistency
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”- Voltaire
Voltaire’s freedom of speech quote has always been a favorite. I don’t expect everyone to agree with what I write – my experience and my opinions on them are my own. I’m grateful for the questions and curiosity though about the subject at hand and I encourage the dialogue.
I plan to include all comments (both the positive and negative) on my pieces. I will, however, draw at the line at obscene or gratuitous name-calling.
I already have a teenager to contend with.
So some highlights from the last month:
The theme for my most recent post on privilege came about, as I mentioned in the opening line, when my husband and I first received an invite to a White Party (as in everyone wore white) hosted by incredibly generous friends who do two huge parties a year.
The invite itself was something else- frosted writing etched on a single square of transparent plexiglass.
At the venue, a Kit Kemp-designed hotel in London, I surveyed the scene and thought to myself, “Wow. How and when did this become my reality?”
The first few drafts of the privilege essay included a couple paragraphs on my reality from childhood. I took it out, in the interest of length but am pasting it here as an out-take:
“Before I explore this topic let me insert some disclaimers here. As a child of immigrants who came to Canada in the 70’s, and as someone who was raised without anything that even remotely resembled “privilege”, I grew up knowing very well what “normal” is.
And by “normal”– I’m not talking about what was considered normal from my childhood — family road-trips in my parents’ car (ours was a rust-colored Malibu), multiple kids jostling on vinyl seats in the back where no one wore a seat belt. Nor am I referring to parents who smoked cigarettes endlessly with the windows rolled all the way up because no one even knew the term “second-hand smoke”. And forget about Saturday morning cartoons, or playing outside till the street lights came on. These are all unwritten cyphers of a childhood from the seventies and eighties.”
My friends in the States grapple with their own set of issues on this theme of privilege that has nothing to do with moving your kid around the world. Anyway, it’s a topic that can be explored and discussed ad nauseum…
My piece, the Band-Aid Rip, continues to get some nice play. If anything, it’s made me realise how many of us (surprisingly not just expats) feel “disconnected”. It’s also shown me how so many of us need to know that someone out there “gets it”.
My ask to those of you with whom this piece resonates is this: Reach out to the Newbie. Reach out to the Lifer. Odds are, you have something in common. I too will make more of an effort and we can compare notes….
It seems my writing is somehow “sticking” in the most amusing ways. A few weeks ago a woman I’m fast becoming friends with showed up at my daughter’s ballet school with huge sunglasses and a scarf around her neck. She said, “I wasn’t feeling fabulous this morning so I took a hint from your essay on style and donned the requisite clothing.”
At a ladies lunch about a month ago, I turned up late. The manager offered to take my coat. I said, “Oh no thanks, I never check it.” The entire table burst out laughing and a few women screamed out, “That’s from Coat Check Confessions!”
Eventually one of the women excused herself. She winked at everyone and joked that she was leaving early for a “Cinq à Sept.”
I also posted what I believe to be my “wittiest” piece – “Let’s Just Assume” as a tongue-in-cheek way of addressing the gasps of horror and verbal sticks & stones thrown at me for my shoe comment on my piece on expat exoduses. Shoes, it turns out, are a hugely divisive topic. Who knew?
And speaking of shoes, the funniest thing happened to me at my daughter’s British ballet school. One of the British mummies actually approached me! And UNLIKE the one woman in Crocs in Connecticut who broke ranks at soccer practice, it wasn’t with the sole purpose of telling me I was in charge of the following week’s team snack duty.
Here’s the kicker – the British mummy at ballet school came straight up to me, introduced herself with a smile and told me she loved my shoes 🙂