Thursday, September 29, 2005


This brings to mind a Christmas eve dinner a few years ago, in fact, Christmas eve of our first year in England. Kathy and Greg invited us over, with two other families, to celebrate.

We talked and visited, met new friends, ate and drank and laughed, and finally sat down to eat supper at Kathy’s long dinner table. As it happened, Mr D was down by Kathy’s end, and I was sitting next to Greg at the opposite end of the table.

Talk went round and round, and eventually came to the inevitable topic of “the expat experience”. I asked Greg how they’d come to England -- were they both happy about it?

Greg leaned back in his chair and said, “You know, if Kath weren’t happy, I wouldn’t be here. We’ve moved a lot -- around the States, to Singapore, now to England -- and I have to say, if she wasn’t 100% behind me, well, it just wouldn’t be worth it. In fact, I always say that, really, she has 51% of the vote. If it comes up a tie, deciding to move, then she gets to be the tie-breaker.”

I looked across the joyful Christmas eve table at Kathy, who looked up and beamed her gorgeous smile at me. Wow, that was something! What a guy! Fifty one percent of the vote. How considerate, loving, kind. Kathy looked radiant. I thought about feeling railroaded into coming to England, and then I tried to just put it out of my mind. What was the point in making comparisons? It was Christmas eve, after all.

“Enjoy the evening, lovey,” I said to myself, “... have another glass of champagne...”

The next day I called Kathy to thank her for a lovely dinner, and for including us.

“No problem, darlin’! That’s what Christmas is all about! I’m proud to call you my friend!”

I broached the subject, ”Well, gosh, Kathy, I was so impressed with how you guys, you and Greg, make decisions about moving and so on. I think Mr D and I are so completely bad at all of this crap.”

“What? What do you mean?” Kathy sounded genuinely confused.

“No, Greg told me about your 51% vote rule. I think that’s great. Wish we did it that way in our family!”

“What? What? What fifty-one percent!?!? WHAT did he say?” Kathy sounded alert, irritated, surprised, maybe even angry.

“You know, he just said that any time you guys move, that you get 51% of the vote. So if you don’t want to move... that’s it. Because your vote is the decider. So he would just shut it down if you didn’t want to go.”

“God, I don’t BELIEVE it! He actually said that?”

“Didn’t you hear him? You were beaming away at me from across the table. I thought you heard what he said, and that you were nodding along in total agreement!”

Kathy was just revving up.

“God. That is so freakin’ incredible! What a laugh! I oughta take that ‘fifty-one percent’ and bash his brains in with it! Let me tell you....” and Kathy launched into the long and wrenching tale of moving from Singapore to Chicago for 10 minutes, to Japan (maybe... oh wait, didn’t have to go to Japan after all), to ... England... to... where next? Somehow, it didn’t sound anything like the story Greg was telling the night before....

”So you see ....”

“You know, I saw you smiling away at the far end of the table, and I thought, here’s a lovely marriage, an equal partnership, two people who are....”

“Dream on, babe.”

Yes, I suppose I will...

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