One phrase gets thrown back at me whenever I bring this subject up - "The grass is always greener on the other side". Well, two if you count "Shut the fuck up, Eddie".
But it isn't that. I know there's a proporation of you Yanks who wish they could be part of the history, culture and, well, smallness of Britain, but you're fools.
Ever since I learned to read and was captivated with pictures in my first encyclopedia of New York City, six-lane freeways, The Golden Gate Bridge, mile-long goods trains and rolling, endless fields of wheat, I have wanted to be in America.
I've been over there since then, but it wasn't the epiphany I thought it would be. It was akin to being given a mouthful of 1993 Rioja and then being denied even a drop more. I held heaven in my hand for three short weeks and was forced to give it back.
But why? I know what you're thinking. I don't see it. I don't know what it's like to live the day-to-day in the USA. Maybe you're right. But I'll guaran-damn-tee that it doesn't get close to the grey, small-minded, claustrophobic grind of a workday in England.
I don't just want it now. I want it back then, back when i was wide-eyed and innocent.
I want to have grown up playing touch football and baseball instead of settling for rounders and one hour of NFL highlights on a Sunday night.
I want to have had the chance to be the mathlete or the starting tight-end or the gearhead or the prom king, instead of watching endless videotapes of Degrassi Junior High (oh, actually, that's Canadian, but when you're 10, it's all the same), Ferris Beuller or Footloose.
I want to eat at Taco Bell and Wendy's. I want Snapple and Coca-Cola Classic and bagels and Hershey's and beef jerky and eggs over easy and Aunt Jemima to mean nothing to me more than my next meal, instead of being something special to savour, a taste of another culture.
I want to be able to use words like offense and aluminum and oregano without people telling me I don't know how to speak English.
I want to have been there in person as Joe Montana threw the winning touchdown or Wayne Gretzky scored on the power play (Okay, he's Canadian too, but you get the point). I want to have been one of the millions....and millions of The Rock's fans in attendance. I want to spend one Sunday every January with buddies who actually care about the biggest game in professional sports.
I want to understand what Sweeps Week is. I want to get excited about season premieres and finales. I want to have been there when Chandler Bing or Jerry Seinfeld or Homer Simpson or Buffy The Vampire Slayer first enthralled a nation. I want to be able to flick between Entertainment Tonight and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the sixth innings of a Yankees-Red Sox game.
I want to be able to take a road trip upstate. I want to be able to fly home for Thanksgiving. I want to major in history at UPenn. I want to go to pep rallies and keg parties and frat parties. I want to get to second base on a first date. I want to go on Spring Break.
I want to have kids and let them live it all. I want them to do all the things that this English kid could never do. I want to be American. But not now. I want to have been BORN American. I've missed most of the good stuff. And i'm English for the rest of my fucking life.
Can you imagine anything more tragic?
Update: A rebuttal to a brilliant wu by NightShadow.
Yeah, believe me, I know about the 'dark side' of America too. And maybe it *would* scare me if I didn't know what the world was like. Believe me, you could throw any of the problems people face in the US at me and I'll throw the same issue straight back at you from my home country.
'Cos living in the England in 2001 is as different from American perceptions of our culture as our Grease, Friends and Hollywood-inspired perceptions are about yours.
I live in a district of Manchester called Moss Side. We don't have guns here, right? So explain why my fiancée has been twice robbed at gunpoint in the last year. The gang warfare between the local black and Asian drug dealers is turning my area into late-Eighties Compton. I was at the doctor's the other day, picking up a course of antibiotics. While i was there a young woman came in to pick up two trays of methodone. One for her, one for the baby she was wheeling in her pushchair.
But I didn't grow up surrounded by this urban decay. I grew up in a nice, middle-class rural market town in the North of England. Nice enough that on any given Friday night, there was only a 50% chance that you'd be bottled by squaddies or lads coming in from a rival town. Nice enough that the one Indian family in the town were ritually abused as 'Pakis' by kids AND adults on their way to and from school. Nice enough that it is known as the 'trucker haven of the North' because there's a steady stream of 12-year-old girls who will do anything for ten quid and a few bottles of Hooch.
Yeah, we have the oh-so-wonderful NHS, we have the lovely EU making rules to stop the average Joe getting screwed on employment law, schooling or insurance. But we live in an impotent country, still living on the glories of centuries past, which is sadly embracing every single thing that is bad in American culture (gang warfare, racial hatred, ambulance-chasing and obesity) and assimilating it as its own.
I'm young. I'm an intelligent professional. I'm white, male and English. From a personal perspective, I believe I'd make a real big shot in The Land Of Opportunity. Don't try to tell me that there's not a huge proportion of white, suburban Middle America that goes blindly about its business, untouched by every single social problem around it in the same way that white, suburban Middle England does. I want America warts and all. Believe me, I can handle it.