When I wrote British by Marriage, or What It’s Like Having an English Expat Husband, I was working on a deadline. With a plan to dedicate the post to the husband for our 20th wedding anniversary, I wanted to publish it the week of the big day. As such, I was a little rushed. In between bouts of typing, I would think to myself: Is there any aspect of our lives that I’m forgetting? Nothing came to my middle-aged mind, so I hit “publish.”
Sure enough, the next day I ran into our friend Jan at the gym. She had read the post. She had also just finished swimming laps with the husband. “His Speedo!” she cried. “You forgot to mention his British flag Speedo!”
*Head slap* Of course – clothing!
I also failed to mention his irksome penchant for programming anything digital in Celsius and military time—units that force me to do cumbersome mental gymnastics. He does this not only because it’s what he grew up with, but also because he knows neither my tech skills nor my patience are advanced enough to change it back.
But no other event, habit, or lifestyle choice makes the husband feel more English than our annual trek to Minneapolis for the British Arrows – formerly known as the British Television Advertising Awards – an hour of the year’s award-winning British commercials that are a guaranteed ride through the gamut of human emotions. By American standards, some of the ads push the boundaries of decency. They poke fun at serious issues, speak to topics Americans like to sweep under the rug, and openly address things that some would consider “not for polite society,” all while trying to sell cars or teabags or shoes. In other words, while Ricky Gervais isn’t their spokesperson, he certainly could be. This is one of the reasons we never miss seeing this montage of hilarious, shocking, clever ads.
The ad below (source: Youtube) is about the black, yeasty spread known as Marmite®. The makers of this pungent condiment recognize that people seem to either love their product or hate it, and they market this knowledge to their advantage. The ad below got some push-back because it touched on hot-button topics like race and sexuality. Some people took umbrage; others found it comical.
Incidentally, the husband is a lover. I’m a hater.
Alas, this year the viral menace prevented the usual gathering of devotees at a downtown theatre (my use of the British spelling shall be considered a belated anniversary gift to the husband), so we did what we could to re-enact our beloved ritual, keeping up traditions where possible, and deviating when necessary.
Tradition: pre-show walk from parking lot to theatre.
Deviation: pre-show walk around the golf course.
Tradition: arrive a full hour early to get the first spot in line, enabling the husband to nab the best seat in the house (dead center of the screen).
Deviation: move the armchair from its normal spot in the corner to the closest living room equivalent of “dead center of the screen.”
Tradition: while standing in line, partake of an overpriced cocktail from the theatre bar.
Deviation: while standing in the kitchen, partake of a seemingly free cocktail from our home bar; throw in some hors d’oeuvres.
Tradition: attend with our good friends and Italy travel partners, Anne and Dave.
Deviation: attend with our companion animal, who watched from her tube under the settee. (We call this “riding the tube.”)
Tradition: enjoy the current year’s best British television ads.
Deviation: enjoy a look at the best ads since the early ’70s, with a handful of current-year ads at the very end. This year it was commercials for Hovis bread and John Lewis Department Stores that had me tearing up. The rerun of the public awareness ad to destigmatize period blood in visual media was as shocking and inspiring as it was the first time I saw it.
Tradition: out to dinner with Anne and Dave to a British restaurant or pub, where the husband can get the only food that makes sense after the Brit Ad Awards: fish and chips.
Deviation: fish and chip takeout from nearby chippie.
Tradition: back to their house or our house for as many rounds of bridge as we can endure before we start nodding off at the game table. (Related tradition: the men bid wildly; the women bid sensibly and usually win.)
Deviation: make plans for a Zoom cocktail hour to catch up and reminisce over this years ad awards.
What about you? How are you being a tradition deviant this year? Also, where do you stand on Marmite®?