Satirical Semite: Learning to Be English

I have found my mission impossible: finding a kosher organic Thanksgiving turkey in England. It may be easier to find a unicorn.

And if that weren’t enough of a task, I am facing an even bigger challenge. The pandemic inspired me to temporarily move back to the United Kingdom and be closer to my family, but after 10 years of living in Los Angeles, I must now relearn how to be English.

One national pastime is complaining. Complaining about Brexit is a safe option, so is bemoaning how Megan Markle abducted the royal formerly known as to Prince Harry to Los Angeles, or kvetching about how it gets dark at 4pm and how the sun never shines. I even complain about someone calling me a ‘Brit,’ since in Hebrew ‘brit’ is a circumcision, and being referred to as a circumcision feels very… cutting.

It’s been three months since I left Los Angeles, and I do wonder if we are now living in a dystopia where the sun has burned away completely, but there won’t be any way of knowing that until the bleak British winter has passed. I can’t blame Prince Harry for packing up and moving out to the beautiful hills of Santa Barbara.

Another thing many British people complain about is wearing masks, saying “It’s uncomfortable! We’ve had enough! You can’t see people’s faces.” But do we really want to see peoples’ faces? This isn’t Los Angeles, where citizens at least have the common decency to inject themselves with botox before leaving the house.

“But we can’t see people’s smiles!” say my friends. Perhaps this is another saving grace. Although I staunchly defended the power of British dentistry, after a decade in Los Angeles, I’ve finally realized it may be a good thing to hide British smiles. I thought my childhood dentist did a good job with my braces, but I only learned recently that you are supposed to have a lifelong retainer to keep your teeth straight after treatment. Next week, I’m starting Invisalign to get everything straightened up and make myself look more American.

According to the British media, after Brexit we are going to have to eat American chlorinated chicken, since EU-chickens will no longer be available. The UK fake news didn’t mention that you can buy organic kosher chicken from Ralphs at $12 a pop versus the equivalent non-toxic chicken over here at £16 ($21).

I plan to smile again sometime in 2023. Unless I eat American chlorinated chicken that rots all of my teeth.

Masks serve a purpose. I’ve been taking the whole COVID-19 thing seriously, since burying a friend’s father at the start of the pandemic. The gravediggers wouldn’t touch the coffin, so I personally helped unload it from the hearse, pulled the cart to the graveside, helped lower it in, and then shoveled in over half the earth. To say it had an impact on me would be an understatement. When someone complains about wearing a mask, I ask if they complain about being alive. Ouch.

I picked up other bad habits in Los Angeles, like saying hello to people when walking past them on the street. If you smile at a stranger on an English street, it is considered a micro-aggression. The Talmud says that we should initiate and ‘greet everyone with a happy face,’ but since Britain is a Church of England country, clearly the Jewish principle doesn’t apply. British etiquette demands that the way to express warmth and good wishes to a stranger is to completely ignore them.  Traditional British restraint is something I now find difficult, but I don’t want to get beaten up, so I make sure I don’t smile and instead show my warmth by ignoring people.

This year, I am celebrating Thanksgiving with my parents, even though it is a festival partly connected with the Pilgrims leaving the British Empire and doing their own Brexit.

There is much to be thankful for, notwithstanding the lack of healthy turkey. I may have to settle for vegan Tofurky, although it isn’t gluten free. If that sounds like a complaint, I am terribly sorry, but I am an Englishman, after all.

If that sounds like a complaint, I am terribly sorry, but I am an Englishman, after all.

Nevertheless, I love America, miss Los Angeles every day and can’t wait to return. As we say in West LA, Happy Organic Free Range Grass-fed Ethically Treated Turkey Day.

Marcus J Freed is an actor, author & filmmaker.


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