Secrets of Ex-pat Happiness
by Fred Reed --show me more like this
Actually, I just wanted to say that. The column is really about how I'm going stark raving mad trying to get out of the Yankee Capital and go live forever in fronded warm lands where you never have to listen to Connie Chung in bars.
I know. You really wanted to know about the cross-referenced sex maniacs. Hey, it's a recognized sales scam: Bait and switch. Tell the FTC.
Anyway, I'm about ready. Condo rented, phone killed, power switched, addresses changed, stuff I don't really want stored where I'll never look at it again but think I might. Later I'll pay an arsonist to burn it. I've got a 48-page passport, multivariate shot card, as much of my life as possible transferred to the internet. I'm packed: Bag of scuba gear, laptop, two pairs of shorts, three tee-shirts, and a pair of sandals.
The trick to living well is getting your priorities straight.
Maybe I'll leave one of the tee shirts. I don't want to be encumbered.
Expatriating is apparently a hot fantasy nowadays. I get a lot of email about getting out of Dodge. The urge to flee probably says something tedious about America, though I'm just not sure what. Sure, my correspondents aren't interested in me: I'm just some news weasel who snapped, started bouncing off things, and shot out the southern exit. They like the idea of bailing.
Letters say approximately, "Gee, Fred, I've always wanted to go somewhere exotic on a beach with funny drinks involving rum and lissome brown maidens if only as geographic credentials so I'll know I'm in paradise and no pestilential intrusive do-good government to make me feel like I'm being engulfed by a giant garden slug. Just once I want to listen to the waves crash and look at one of those sprawling gaudy-ass molten sunsets I figure they really make with PhotoShop because nothing that gorgeous can be real.
"But I've got two kids and a vast looming mortgage on a house I don't like and three cars I'm bored with and my wife doesn't like bugs. Or lissome brown maidens. So much for this life. It's shot. At least tell me about somewhere else."
I feel bad for them but don't know what to say. OK. Give me a couple of weeks. Reports to follow. But I'll tell you something: A whole lot more people could get out than think they can.
I suspect that if folk looked around and asked, "How much of this dismal junk do I really need? Want? Do I really have to have a riding mower on my over-manicured quarter-acre plot in some hideous suburb? Do I really want to spend the rest of my life cleaning gutters? Being a cubicle wart for Housing and Urban Development?"—well, passport applications might rise.
You just gotta do it.
Extraneous thought: Last night I talked for a couple of hours with a buddy who lived in the Pacific islands for years and married a Filipina, which is a good choice since they are not lemon-sucking shrews with shoulder pads. (Which may explain why I met the woman I will probably marry on a dive trip to St. Maarten.)
They came back, looked at what is going on in the States, and started pricing tickets back out. Neither hates America. They just wonder where it went.
Anyway, ex-pats these days form a sort of global community. The internet helps. You go to the local hangout in wherever—Bangkok, Mexico, the Philippines, Phuket, or a thousand places nobody has heard of with garish flowers and lizards on the walls—and in two weeks you feel as if you lived there. If you want to go somewhere else for a while, someone likely knows someone there. Email occurs. You arrive and you know people. You do the same for the next guy.
Ex-pats form roughly three tribes. You've got the retirees who don't really want to be in, say, Mexico, but want a warm place with low prices and maids. Then you've got the unhappy single guys who drink themselves to death. Finally you have the ones who have girlfriends and wives (I don't mean at the same time) and learn the language or parts of it and burrow in for the long haul. (That may be a mixed metaphor. I'll deal with it later.) They're smart, savvy, good company, and have stories to tell.
Why do these engaging oddballs abandon the US? Several reasons predominate, only occasionally involving law enforcement back home. First and commonest, believe it or not, is weariness with American women. This is heartfelt, almost universal, and saddening. I'm not sure what the problem is between the sexes in America, but it's there. Yes, there are lots of nice women in the US, etc. But I'm telling you what ex-pats say.
Whenever I mention the preference of American men for Asian women, or Mexican women, or Albanian women, I get (1) lots of letters from men, almost without exception saying, "Amen!" and (2) angry letters from angry American women angrily saying that men are pigs and foreign women are just sexually easy.
Not exactly. Actually American women are easier than those in conservative Catholic countries like Mexico. If all a man wanted was sex, he would have no reason to leave the United States. The men I know in Mexico are not marrying prostitutes. Universally they say they like the local women because they don't have The Chip, the Attitude. They're feminine. They're not always coiled to strike. They are just plain pleasant. Which is how I remember American women, back when. Some still are.
The other common reason given for crawling through the escape hatch is diffuse, but powerfully felt: An amorphous political dissatisfaction, a weariness with the background anger, growing incivility, and compulsory politics in the United States. Yes, I know that in towns in Wyoming it isn't this way yet. Most people do not live in towns in Wyoming.
The..."tension" may be the word...is unmistakable on returning after an absence. Part of it is the loss of the easy courtesy of America in former times, part is the unresolved racial hostility that quietly pervades the country, part is a sense of over-regulation and the suffocating miasma of political correctness. It shows as aggression on the road, aggressive begging, aggressive jay-walking. It's there.
But I won't be, soon. Hooo-ah. I may buy a burro, or one of those big Technicolor parrots. I'll watch storms come in over the mountains, and listen to Bob Dylan and Carmina Burana and a lot of blues. And never, ever see network propaganda. Not ever. Ha.
Copyright © 2002 Fred Reed.
All rights reserved.