As of today, the child bride and I have lived in Britain for one full year. I'm expecting Prime Minister Gordon Brown to drop by the house to offer congratulatory tea and shortbread.
To be honest, our first year is still very much a blur. I'm hoping that some greater sense of perspective will come as time carries forward. At the moment, I remember the year like this:
- It was hot (summer 2006 was the hottest on record)
- John Barrowman was on "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?"
- It got rainy and cold and windy.
- John Barrowman was on "Never Mind The Buzzcocks."
- I consumed a lot of alcohol (around Christmas time, practically every drink and foodstuff in this country has booze in it).
- John Barrowman was on "Torchwood."
- The weather was really nice for a while.
- John Barrowman was on "Any Dream Will Do."
- It rained some more.
- John Barrowman was on "Dr. Who."
- Now it's July and I'm suffering from John Barrowman withdrawal.
John Barrowman, FTYPAH, is an actor who is on television every 12 minutes over here. I find myself using him as a marker in my personal timeline: "Oh, gee, I should probably throw out this milk because it was bought back when John Barrowman was on 'Would I Lie To You?'"
So, at the moment at least, this year hasn't felt too much different from all those lived in the United States. The past 365 days are a haze of weather patterns and media images. That's a bit surprising to me.
I'm not really sure what I was expecting or hoping for out of my first year; something a little more sexy, I guess. Sure, I can score meaningless better-than-you points against ex-girlfriends with the statement: "I live in Europe." But several if not all of those points are lost if I follow the statement with a detailed list of media appearances by a guy who plays an immortal time-traveling bisexual.
Somewhere in America, a person has just read those four words -- "immortal time-traveling bisexual" -- and decided that whoever John Barrowman is, they don't like him. And they probably don't like me for writing about him.
That's just the way America is, I suppose -- immortal bisexuals don't go over well. Here, though, they are turned into action figurines. Therein is the quiet underlying fact of my first year in Britain: my wife and I live in a place that is very much but not at all like the place we used to live.
At first glance (and increasingly so), Britain can feel quite a lot like the United States. Every main street has a Burger King and KFC, giant box stores and their parking lots consume what were once perfectly good places for trees to grow, and everything on TV and radio looks and sounds familiar. But then you turn around and see that everyone -- I mean everyone -- is good at soccer, people are mystified by the mere idea of root beer, and it's OK to say naughty words on television, and you realize: "Hey, I live in a different country."
It's like having everything in your world shift just slightly. A year on, and my wife and I have acclimatized to most of the differences, so what stand out are the things that didn't change. Of course, the most important unchanging thing was us.
This life has swirled all around us and it's given us highs and lows, but at the center of it we've still woken up next to each other each morning. I still have my wife to occasionally laugh at my bad jokes, she still has me to occasionally clean the bathroom, and we both have each other to pull, push, and encourage the other to carry on forward.
We're both eager to see what this next year will bring (John Barrowman's autobiography's coming out in 2008! Yes!), but there's joy in knowing that some things will stay the same.