So here we are in the second of my series of answers to your questions. This weeks writing prompt comes from Heather and asks a question I am both excited and scared to answer in case I offend any of my Darling readers across the channel, all of whom are of course, deeply appreciated…

“Part of the reason I enjoy your blog so much is that it gives me a sneak peek into British life. The food, the terms you use for things that I have to look up on google to see what they are (chuckie egg buttie), the places you travel to, etc. is all very fascinating to me. It’s like you live a life similar to mine, but in a different romanticized (to me) way. Is there anything about America or Americans that fascinates you, tickles your fancy, or absolutely horrifies you? What is your impression of Americans-and yes, I’ll take the bad with the good…”

Great question right? So off we go. Just beware: this post is long and possibly rambling…

The thing is this: I have never been a traveller. Never wanted to globe trot or see the same stars from a land far away. For me home is where my heart is, but I just wish my heart was in America, because I’ve been aching to visit since I was about knee high to a grasshopper and have never yet managed to get there…

Perhaps it is my Nana’s fault: this blatant admiration of a country I once knew little about beyond that which I saw in my movies, because wasn’t it she who who saved every penny she had to fulfil her life long dream of visiting the USA at the grand old age of sixty, and set off all by her four foot eight self to report back that it was every inch as grand as she had hoped it would be, but that she was too scared to leave her hotel in New York!
Wasn’t it she who sat me in front of vintage Hollywood movies every Sunday of my childhood? Wasn’t it she who made it seem like the most glamorous of impossible lifestyles in comparison to hers, never for a moment acknowledging that for for every star with her name on Hollywood boulevard, there must have been a million single Mothers suffering all the same hardships as she? Only with Southern drawls and Brooklyn twangs?

Now I’m all grown up and my precious little Nana is hopefully draped in fake fur and singing her heart out on a star spangled cloud, I still carry her love of America in my heart: still believe that this is a nation that creates the most generous people on Earth and still believe, like my Nana clearly did, that anything is possible there…

But I know more now. I have been blessed with the wonder of the Internet and can travel places my Nana could only dare to dream about, meet real life Americans, immerse myself in US culture and  form truly wonderful friendships with so many women who are just like me.
Because that’s the thing isn’t it? The parallels between us are many. In so very many ways your lives are just like mine: we share the same hopes and dreams for our children and face the same struggles to get dinner on the table each night. We are alike. In fact there are times when I believe my outlook on life is more like yours than it is like that which I am supposed to share with the woman I stand on the playground daily with, the friends I grew up with, those terribly British women I see perusing the aisles of Waitrose.

But of course I generalise. No doubt you are no more my version of “American” than I am an English Rose. We are all the same but fundamentally each one of us is different regardless of the continent in which we live. It is the Internet that assimilates our lives and rubs the corners off nationalism as soon as we come together in “tribes” online, united by common interests and willing to forgive, adore or ignore the traits of our country’s that we cannot help but display.

And so my opinion of America these days is culled not from the wider picture on television; not from the sanitised lives I see in Friends, nor from the best of what Hollywood has to offer, but from personal experience within a very narrow field. From forming judgements of American women’s lives gleaned through their vintage lifestyle blogs. From reading between the lines in what they write and assessing their reaction to me in the comments they choose to share here on BrocanteHome. And it is from this very specific point of view that I am now able to write that I remain as much in awe of America as I ever did, but that there are parts of your culture I couldn’t embrace for a big clock: terribly English parts of me that can’t quite get a grasp on some aspects of American society that seem deeply rooted and are essentially a part of who you are…

1. While I admire  the dedication to family life that I see described in so many blogs daily, I can’t fathom the urge to have millions of children. Here we raise eyebrows at anyone mad enough to have more than two, on the basis that the kids should never outnumber the parents, probably because we rarely have the space and more than three or four kids are usually fiscally impossible regardless, and large families here have long been associated with the kind of poverty stricken, church driven lives of our Victorian ancestors. Which is a shame  because large American families often seem to display the kind of clansman-ship rarely seen on these shores.

2. We simply aren’t as religious as you. British women rarely discuss God and when we find religion forced upon us, we simply pretend it’s not there and go on cultivating our own very personal spirituality in whatever form that might take. So while I completely, totally and utterly respect your right to discuss, refer to and write about your God, I don’t always relate to it and very occasionally, if I am to be truly honest, resent it, because in some circumstances reference to personal religious belief seems deeply inappropriate, though judged right it can be both timely and comforting and I remain truly open to expanding my very limited horizons.

3. Your loyalty astounds me. While we British may be known as a polite nation, my country’s womenfolk are always willing to acknowledge the shortcomings of our families, acknowledge when things aren’t good, and swear like fishwives when they are truly terrible, but rare is it for me to read anything even remotely negative about you and yours online, which only goes to accentuate the glossy facade of the blessed lives we are thus led to believe you lead. This is something I recently saw rather hysterically discussed in a post about  Female American Mormon bloggers on Salon, and experienced myself in the backlash I felt when I was hurting after my relationship broke down and I found myself  frequently accused of “husband bashing”, and subsequently lost a dramatic proportion of my American readership. Many women seem fiecely resistant to critisism of the institution that is marriage and avoid discussion of anything that may or may not ignite deeply personal flames…

4. But then you seem to have great men! British men are a rare and difficult breed, not given to hardship and liable to fall asleep at the drop of a hat and ship out at the merest hint of marital crisis, but with a sense of humour that has laughed many women’s knickers off. We love them and we loath them, but while they might settle into steadfast old age, I know, not just from my own experience but from  discussion about and observation of many British marriages, that in the early years they make great friends, generous lovers and often terrible husbands, because they are deeply enlightened beings, scared of their own feelings and desperately afraid of acknowledge their emotions out loud. Not so, it seems the American male. Travel the blogosphere and you will see many an American husband perched happily in the sidebars, supporting their wives endeavors, and seemingly utterly willing to partake in many of the family reinforcing rituals most British men would scoff at. You are lucky and I truly hope you know it!

5. You work incredibly hard and have huge faith in your skills as homemakers, entrepreneurs and educators. In this country home-schooling is practically unheard of and yet you seem to do it in your thousands, and I can’t even begin to express my admiration for this. Here we seem either too oppressed by the system to dare to dream of better things for our children, or we simply don’t place enough faith in all that we are capable of. And so it goes with starting our own businesses,  with being truly brilliant home-makers, or inspirational writers or artists: we just don’t seem to be capable of applying ourselves to the same degree as you do, whether it be by necessity, empowerment or sheer utter strength that you choose to do it.

To me it has always seemed that the cliche that America is the land of the free is somewhat true so long as adherence to strict moral guidelines we barely understand here, are kept. A true comparison of our lives is difficult because we don’t have the same standard of living that you do and the cost of living is comparitively high here and space remains at a premium, so most homes are comparitively small, no doubt to what much of America is used to.Life is harder. Food is more expensive. Books are twice the price…

So the truth is I’m jealous. While I might be able to wander down streets paved with history, your opportunities for making history are much greater than mine. You have such fierce enthusiasm for everything you do, give with all your hearts in a way we will never fathom and seem infinitely more content with your lot than we will ever be. While I sometimes wonder whether your enviable morality is not a little claustrophobic and fear for a country that from my view point seems under threat from Christian fundamentalism and extreme right wing politics, still it remains a country I deeply admire, not for what it represents but for the generous, funny, daring women it inspires.

All that and Dunking Donuts, George Clooney and the best sitcoms on the planet, you lucky lot! Do feel free to weigh in and tell me if I’m wrong, and what it is that YOU love about Britain…