My Own Private Ellis Island

On Tuesday we returned home from a birthday celebration trip to Barcelona. For what might be the last time, I accepted a landing card from the British Airways purser, supplied my name, address, profession, and place of birth, then got in the non-EU passport holders line at Heathrow Terminal 1. Husband schlepped alongside even though he holds a British passport and that line was, as usual, much shorter.

Avoiding this landing card/long line routine is the original reason I applied for my British citizenship. That and the fact that British citizenship would make me eligible to work in Europe (Paris specifically, because in my fantasy life that doesn’t mean I need to speak French). It’s been months since I parted with the £600, lengthy application, and stack of old utility bills required to apply for citizenship. I hadn’t thought much about what becoming a British citizen actually meant until this week when the ceremony in which I swear my allegiance to HRM the Queen takes place. Now the doubts have set in. Have I earned the right to be a loyal subject in this fair land? Is being too lazy to fill out a landing card or wait in line at immigration control a worthy cause? It hardly inspires comparison to Ellis Island.

To make matters more confusing, America is on the up. Sure, the economy is in the pits but so is the UK’s. Obama is starting to restore the country’s reputation, the dollar is up, and the pound is down. I’m not renouncing my American citizenship to become a Brit, but even going “dual” feels a bit like betrayal. It’s like I got separated and now I’m getting remarried without getting divorced…which makes me a crazy Mormon bigamist. I told you I was confused.

In an effort to sort things out, I sat down and made a list of why I deserve to be a British citizen in addition to remaining a proud if not exactly flag waving American.

1. I am proficient in British. Specifically, I am totally au fait with the nouns: boot and bin tumble from my lips on a regular basis. Adjectives are a bit of a stretch. Bloody still doesn’t sound right coming out, but I did ask someone if he was cross the other night without so much as a pause. Verbs are fewer in general. Most are some variation of hooking up –to shag, to pull, to cop off– and in my eighth year of marriage I have little use for such vocabulary. I have been known to fancy something, as in “I fancy an Indian tonite,” by which I mean a curry dinner not shagging an Indian man.

2. I have made a genuine effort to fit in. My lean Los Angeles limbs have morphed to a pie-filled pear shape. My perfectly aligned teeth used to practically taunt “my dentistry is better than yours,” but now, with increased tea consumption, have mellowed to a less ostentatious gleam.

3. I am addicted to “The Archers,” an agricultural soap opera and Radio 4 institution. Imagine if “The Guiding Light” never made the leap to television and was set on a farm. Recent dialogue in an episode featuring a lambing scene included: “This one’s cervix isn’t dilated. Where’s the lubricant?”

What’s most remarkable about this last one is that I used to hate “The Archers,” whose chirpy opening diddy seemed to start up every time I turned on the radio on a long car journey. Now I love it, perhaps coaxed into its grip by a regular car commute and country life. But reasons don’t matter. My change of heart is the equivalent of developing a taste for Marmite, certain proof I am worthy of calling myself a Brit.

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