Nowadays I am charting the progress of my growing Britishness with its correlation to my growing dislike of Oprah Winfrey.
e.g. 1999 - the unstable and confused and lethargic young Nia with 'Indefinate Leave to Remain' rewards herself for sleeping too late to go to her Cruel-and-Convoluted-Things-We-Did-To-Animals In-the-Name-of-Neuroscience lectures by tuning into the Oprah Winfrey's show and watching it with great enjoyment.
2000 - The student Nia has a British passport but still has not been repressed by the spirit of Britishness. She hates beer! She thinks the food and the weather and the pub crawls are awful! Instead she continues to supplement the void left in her life by the loss of Sunset Beach with Oprah. She turns to this show for inspiration and spiritual guidance and attempts to eradicate the word "difficult" from her vocabulary and supplement it with the word "challenging" upon Iyanla Vanzant's reccomendation.
2001- The working-for-peanuts Nia dreams of the day upon which she herself will be famous and inspirational enough to be on Oprah. Occasionally she evangelises about important life messages gleaned from that show to her friends and they are good enough not to smash her skull with a wrench.
2002 - Nia still continues to tune in to Oprah, but the glamour is fading slightly since she bought Jewel Kilcher's CD on the Oprahtic reccomendation and discovered it was a pile of cat-skinningly awful crap.
Fast forward to present day where say:
It is rare for Nia to be able to sit through an entire episode of Oprah without wanting to stab herself with a pencil in the eye or do damage to the furniture.
And what are my objections you might ask?
- It's so twee. It's airbrushed wholesomeness grates at me and all that I've learned of Rightness from a nation whose soap opera heroes are ugly people living in bad housing.
- It's oversimplification of human pain into "lessons you've learned"; I believe there are lessons in everything and often these are Thou Shalt Not Take Thyself Too Seriously.
- It's too big and bold and brash and sanctimonious!
- Everyone's teeth are straight and dazzling and unnatural.
- The aura of smugness and moral superiority which radiates out from the telly and scratches at my black heart.
- It's full of all that Genuiness! And Wholesomeness! And Sincerity! And Self-Congratulation! And it reminds me of the creepily chipper saccharine children from old movies and I did not like those either.
In translation this is the emergent British in me battling against the glaring Americanisms of Wrongness (too simple, too serious, too sincere, devoid of irony) in its struggle to promote The Importance of Understatement and Not Being Too Earnest.
Don't misunderestimate me. Individually, on the whole, I like Americans a great great deal. I think they are wonderful people and great lovers. It's just that certain American principles of Big! Bigger! Louder! Brasher! Earnester! are direct challenges to all those Britishisms I have grown to treasure (yes, even weatherspeak and pub crawls). [For a deeper and more witty and articulate treatise on the intricacies of Britishness check out the writings of George Mikes or Kate Fox's excellent book Watching The English.]
I don't know what to make of this British Takeover of my soul. Melodrama is no stranger to me. After all I was born to a Balkan-Jewish Mother (a hybrid practically genetically engineered to produce World Domination through guilt trip). I understand the value of minding everyone's business and dropping by for coffee unannounced and tell people things like: "Ah! Why did I not succumb to typhoid as a toddler but lived this long to hear my own child whom I birthed through invasive medical procedures say such things to me???"
Once upon a time I loved all those thoroughly un-British things. The spontanaety, and the warmth and the drama. And now they've seeped out of me. I still dig the black humor and the self-mockery of the Serbs but I've increasingly started to value Minding One's Own Business, Queueing in an Orderly Manner and Not Taking Anything Too Seriously [and other Cardinal Rules of Englishness]. Whither hast my previous personality trickled away to? How is it that I am Actually Getting Resigned to the Weather? Why do I think that steak and kidney pie sounds like a good idea?
I don't know the answer to these questions. Perhaps I have been brainwashed into Britishness by Emmerdale and Eastenders and formative years of my life in a country where people addressed me as "duck", or "love" and apologised when I bumped into them. Or perhaps it is the chemicals in the water, perhaps the same ones that seem to have made everyone around me to either get cancer or get engaged in the last few months.
And as my last anti-litigation and excessive outrage note - please don't get me wrong; none of the above is to say I don't actually watch Oprah*. Instead I watch it every chance I get so I can keep my Righteous British Indignation fit and healthy and well exercised. It could be that I am just an emotional masochist. This would explain the high heeled shoes and many other of my life's hopeless unrequited infatuations.
* I just make sure to keep the sharpened pencils well away from myself.