Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wacky Canadian Customs

Since moving to Canada, seven months ago, I immersed myself in the culture of the great white north. I learned to say “eh” after every third sentence even though I am still not sure what it means; I practiced pronouncing the word “about” in a manner of a true Canuck – “ aboot” – but coming from my mouth the aforementioned word still seems a bit affected; and I learned to hold my giggles each time I requested change in the form of a loonie or toonie even though it seems like a very peculiar thing for anyone over the age of nine to request. I did everything and anything to fit into this wacky and wooly culture – that is I did everything and anything until last weekend.

Last weekend TW and I went out for drinks with two acquaintances she knew from her graduate school days in Montreal. As we entered the bar, TW worried that she would not recognize her acquaintances because she had not seen them in close to five years but she spotted them immediately. As we strode through the bar they spotted TW immediately and stood up from their bar stools to greet us – mid-stride. With lightning speed, Amy, one of the women we were meeting held TW by the shoulders and planted a kiss on one then the other cheeks. Once Amy let go of TW, Danielle, the other acquaintance, grabbed her by the shoulders and planted her own cheek kisses.

As these two women manhandled TW I feared I was next. Ever since I was a very young child I required a great deal of personal space – I even requested that TW sleep on the floor next to the bed when we first started dating – so the thought of two strange women manhandling me sent me into an anxious panic. Nor could I forget how the one other time I met TW’s Montreal friends the cheek kissing confounded me. It confounded me so much so that when I moved my head to dodge the kisses I received two well-placed kisses on my ears – from people whose names I did not even know yet. The cheek/ear kiss is not my friend.

As I fretted over the introductions, the cheek kissing, and the invasion of personal space I tugged at my shirt and futzed with my hair to distract myself. Then, to my chagrin, Danielle let go of TW and it was my turn for introductions. Once TW gained her composure she pointed at me and said, “This is my partner, mini proportions.” As Amy readied herself to lean in for the cheek/ear kiss, TW continued slowly, “She is an A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N.” Amy leaned back, looked at TW, and nodded her head knowingly. Then instead of going in for the cheek/ear kiss she put out her right hand. Danielle followed suit. I shook each of their hands vigorously in an effort to demonstrate my appreciation for the civilized greeting.

The remainder of the evening progressed uneventfully until we had to say goodbye. The moment we announced that we were heading home, Amy again grabbed TW by the shoulders and planted a kiss on each cheek. Once Amy let go of TW, Danielle grabbed TW. I watched – mouth agape. I futzed. I fretted.

Then Amy looked at me with mischievous eyes. She leaned in and planted a kiss on each of my cheeks. I, like a good American, went limp.

I like to think I did my people proud.

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