I spent a few hours on the phone last night with an old boyfriend, now turned phone friend. He moved to Japan awhile ago. We hadn’t spoken in a few years actually, and he called to check in on my love of America status. Out of the blue. I decided it was a sign. I’m counting up votes for the upcoming election, and we need all hands on deck. I must recount part of our conversation that leads to the diluted point of today’s post.
“Yes, I still love America, but not a lot of my fellow Americans. We are a diminishing species. Ok, Mark, you need to come home. The country’s a mess, and you need to come home. Before the end of October. I can make your flight arrangements if you want.”
“I’m not an American anymore. I’m not coming home.”
“Being an American is not something you can choose to be. You were born here, and whether you like it or not, you are an American. You can change your citizenship to Japanese, but like it or not, you are an American. Besides, you are six feet four and no one in Japan thinks you are anything other than a very tall American who speaks really good Japanese.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Listen, saying you are not an American anymore is like dying your hair blond and saying you are a blond. You aren’t. You are a brunette with dyed blond hair. Changing your name from Ted Bundy to John Smith and saying you are not a Bundy anymore means you are a Bundy who changed your name to Smith. Do I need to go on? It’s getting late.”
“I’m not coming home, and I’m not an American anymore. Did you know that even if you change your citizenship to Japanese, earn all your money in Japan and pay Japanese taxes you can still be called on by the US to pay US taxes?”
“Well, I didn’t know that, but please tell me you’re not so delusional as to take on the IRS? You are way too far away for an intervention.”
I’m not sure that anyone in other parts of the world change things that can’t be changed and actually believe them to be changed the way we do.
I have a friend who was Jewish. Actually, come to think of it, most of my friends are Jewish. Anyway, she used to like to say that I was a WASP pretending to be a Jew and she was a Jew pretending to be a WASP. She wore those ridiculous velvet headbands that women on the upper east side of New York wore in the late eighties to show they were WASPs. I never wore the headbands and went around saying “Oy vey” (or is it Oy vay?) all the time. But both of us knew who we are and were only wishing we were something different. At least I knew it. I try these days to be woke and not speak for other people.
Think about some of comments in our life that we take for granted and no longer question.
“I’m 6 foot one on a good day.” Huh?
“What are you talking about, I didn’t have my boobs done. I was always a size zero with a 36 ZZ cup size. And, I’m just lucky that they point up instead of down.” Alrighty then.
“The fact Bernie Madoff is my cousin and I took all my money out of the Madoff fund five minutes before his sons made the phone call when the money had been there for twenty-six years was a coincidence.” Ok, this last one is just a plain and simple lie, which is different than trying to change what you are, but I had to stick it in because it’s so rich and everyone is still really mad about Madoff. How many years later?
As usual, there is an amazing moment in film illustrating my point. Remember Working Girl with Melanie Griffith and the fabulous Harrison Ford? Griffith is a secretary pretending to not be a secretary, but rather a deal maker, and her friend Cyn (Joan Cusack) is worried she will be fired. She says, “Just because I dance around my apartment singing in my underwear – doesn’t make me Madonna.” She says it with a wonderful Staten Island accent and huge hair and sky blue eye shadow. Great moment.
Look some things are what they are. If you were born and raised here and left when you were forty-something, you’re an American like it or not. And, it’s time to come home, regroup and figure out where we go from here.
I so relate to write you wrote. Everything clicked with me. The Working Girl reference was one that always stood out for me as well. Too bad I moved shortly after we met. I have a feeling we would have been good friends.