My wife and I had quite different childhoods. She grew up more or less in one place – the place we live now, in fact – with a stable friend group and a stable cultural experience.
I was a military brat, moving every few years. Even after we settled into what would be Dad’s final posting (he managed to wangle two postings in a row at one base and I did two years of public school and four years of high school in one spot), I still felt like I was moving every frequently until well after I left home. Every base dad was stationed at, we lived in base housing for a year or so and then off-base for a year or so before changing provinces. Once we landed in Ontario, it was only the one house, but I spent the last two years of public school there before “moving” again to high school. After high school, I had a gap year where I almost went to RMC but hated the experience, before moving once per year as a student, even if all in the same city and then for a couple of years after that, but in a different city. Really, it was the summer I was 25, when we bought our first house, before I lived in one spot for longer. We stayed in that house until just before I turned 32, making it the longest I’d lived anywhere until we moved to this house, where we’ve been for nearly eighteen years now.
That said, I’ve only really felt like I actually lived in this town since COVID began and I’ve been hardly leaving it. Up until March, I’ve always worked somewhere that isn’t here, that I’ve had to drive half an hour or more to get to. Frequently, it was more convenient to shop where I was working. Most of my friends were through work and so was most of my social life, the rest being through my wife’s friend network. This was just where I slept, and I did most of my living elsewhere. Karate eventually bound me to the community a bit more because the dojo was here, but it was almost the only thing that did. Yes, my kids went to school here, but since I was never really in town, that’s been their tie, not mine.
All of which is a long way of saying that I had a different childhood and growing up experience culturally than most people. I’ve lived on two of the three coasts and a couple of places in between and scattered places even when I started spending most of my life in one province. I don’t have that fundamental, growing up in one spot background. Maybe I missed something and maybe I didn’t. Hard to judge that now.
But if one thing is apparent, even 25 years into our marriage, and after almost 30 together, my wife and I have a lot of very different cultural reference points. There are various television shows and musicians and cultural commonalities that we don’t have in common, almost as many as we do, and it manifests in weird ways sometimes.
Recently, she texted to remind me of something during a vet visit that had already been a topic of conversation between us more than once, plus research on my part, and that I’d already dealt with in my conversation with the vet as I was sure I’d told her I would.
Instead of texting back a simple, ‘K’, or something similar, I sent back that she was teaching granny to suck eggs. Yeah, I know. I should be smarter than that. Some days, I’m not.
This resulted in an extended text conversation, that I really didn’t have time for at the vet and carried over into a verbal one when we both got home. The short of it was that she’d never heard the expression before and wondered what planet I was from, anyway.
If you’ve never heard it before, I won’t go into the etymology, but take it as “You’re trying to tell me to do something or how to do something that I’m very familiar with, thank you.” And there’s probably an undercurrent of, “Please stop.”
I thought it was a very common saying. Apparently, that’s either in my head, or it isn’t common around here. Where she’s from. Where we live. Where we have lived since the end of 2002.
Ultimately, things boil down to the fact that I know I’m weird. I know that I don’t have all (or even necessarily most) of the same cultural touch points that everyone around me does. I’m okay with that, but by now you’d think I’d’ve learned to let more of them go instead of constantly trying to figure them out so I can express things differently. The thing is it happens just as frequently in the opposite direction. I can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve thought, just in the past year, “What the hell does that mean?” and then had to puzzle it out in the background while the conversation goes on around me.
It seems likely that there will always be more to figure out.
Life is weird, so am I. Both of those are likely to remain true.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by