Marriage, it is said, is the continuous process of getting used to things you never expected.
This is probably true. For most relationships, just being man and woman is difference enough. If you listen to pop psychologists, this is because men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. If you listen to real married couples, it's because men never ask for directions, while women are always giving them.
But this sort of thing is normal. You wouldn't want to marry an exact copy of yourself and in any good relationship, the partners should bring different things to the table. For instance, my husband brings the breakfast cereal to the table and I bring my grumpy, pre-coffee attitude.
Some marriages come with more differences and baggage than others. This can be because the partners come from different classes or age groups. In my case, it's because I'm Canadian, and he's British.
Now you'd think, given that Canada and Britain share a common history, that there wouldn't be too many disparities to worry about. But there are plenty.
Consider the weather. In England, there are four seasons: wet, wetter, sodden and squelching. In Canada, there are also four seasons: broiling hot steam bath, cold, colder, and Hell has frozen over. I know many of you will be surprised to hear that Canada has a hot season, but it's true it can get as high as 40 degrees Celsius here in the summer (in American measurements, that's almost 20 football fields).
What this means is that on rainy days, you will find me swathed in rain slickers and armed with at least three umbrellas. My husband, meanwhile, might turn up his collar a bit and say, “Bit damp out. Fancy a beer to warm you up?” On hot days, you'll find me contemplating mowing the lawn, or playing a vigorous game of frisbee. I'll generally find him melted into a puddle somewhere, and he'll say, “Crikey it's hot out. Fancy a beer to cool down?”
Which brings me to, well, beer. While every country claims a love affair with the suds, Brits are of the firm opinion that if a cup of tea hasn't fixed what ails you, a drink of beer certainly will. This would be fine except that Englishmen consume ale by the pint. (In American measurements, this is nearly two footballs). They also, apparently, start developing super human tolerance at the age of about two. On our first date this meant that he had to look under the table to find out if I wanted a third pint.
Cooking together on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise. I don't know who it was who first said that the English can't cook, but my theory is that it was either:
A) A French pastry chefEven here though, we differ. Brits have a fondness for a greenish-brownish yeasty spread they put in sandwiches or on toast. They call it Marmite. The Aussies call it Vegemite. You and I would call it lawnmower mulch.
B) An American fast food retailer
C) Someone who's never had roast lamb and Yorkshire pudding.
Our biggest problem by far however, has been language. This became painfully obvious during a recent repair crisis. It was one of those extreme weather days we have in Canada, where it wasn't so much raining as it was as though the entire contents of Lake Erie had just been dumped on our house. Water was sliding down the side of the chimney and gushing through the ceiling. But we were cool, smooth, and collected; he popped the attic door, I planted the ladder. He found the source, I started throwing down towels. All went well until:
HIM: Bring me the mastadon!We're getting better, little by little. But for now, I guess we'll remain (with apologies to Shaw) one couple entangled … by a common language.
ME: The what?
HIM: The maskingbon!
HIM: Where's the matterdun!
[poking his head out of the attic and pointing]
HIM: THAT thing! The mastic gun!
ME:Oh! You mean a caulking gun!
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.