Dorothy can kiss my ass.
First of all, have you missed me? Of course you have. My devoted dozen. The 12 people who read my blog no matter how lazy I am about posting/sharing it. For any other stragglers, let me say (by way of a non-apology) that I have been busy trying to get this damn PhD and finish my first novel DOBERMANS & DRAG QUEENS SAVED MY LIFE, the first (G-d and publishers willing) in a series of derelict debutante memoirs. Plus, Hubby and I have been blowing through our savings, drinking whisky, island hopping (that’s Hebrides, you fools) and traveling to points on the map new-to-us. (Bookmark: Vienna, Berlin, Prague). I have neglected my wee blog, but put your big girl panties on bitches, because I am back.
And, against all that is holy in my LGBTQ life, I am about to talk some trash about Dorothy.
Last week, my husband and I watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time in – quite frankly – many years. And I was struck by the end where Glinda asks Dorothy what she has learned. Since it’s been a while, I had forgotten about this Midwestern mid century PSA moment. For those of you who can’t recite the film, Dorothy replies:
“Well, I — I think that it — that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?”
I have never wanted to smack a gingham-clad farm girl in my life, but I found myself shouting a stream of wickedness (1) at the TV, including some very unladylike comments about Judy and her sequined shoes. In short, Fuck that bitch.
Read the whole screenplay, last revised March 15, 1939 here: (https://sfy.ru/?script=wizard_of_oz_1939)
Setting aside scholarly dissections of Baum’s grand metaphors of Oz as the New Deal Era America and the yellow brick road as the silver standard, Dorothy’s answer about happiness really “hit home” for me in an entirely different (stabby) way. I wholeheartedly think that living abroad, at least for a while, is an amazing experience that everyone should try if the opportunity presents itself. Its positives almost always outweigh the negatives.
It’s not hard to google “expat” and find a plethora of websites and blogs that will discuss how amazing life abroad can be for those who are adventurous. As an expat living abroad and doing a PhD, thinking of the concept of home and homesickness (often most piercing to ex-pats during the holiday season) I will argue (loudly) that Dorothy’s sentiments of isolationism and “never leaving your backyard” are wildly oversimplified and (I think) dangerous, not to mention what I believe is so perilous about US & UK politics these days.
Have no fear. This blog will NOT become political.
While I am no supporter of Hair Trump, I can’t be arsed to waste energy in my blog on him either.
When Hubby and I first moved abroad, we were too excited to focus on being sad or homesick. We posted 500+ pictures on social media highlighting that Glaswegians really are the friendliest lot on Earth, whisky is varied and amazing, Scotland’s beaches are extraordinary, haggis is, in fact, delicious, Scots love weird and wordplay street signs, and assuring friends that the drunk riding the conveyor belt in the Iceland checkout line is not me. We posted pics of food for the first time in our lives. We were incredibly (annoyingly) excited for this new chapter of our lives.
Once the newness wore off and a routine settled in, though, there were days when a sinking feeling also settled in my chest – the one that says. Holy Shit. What Have We Done? The research was daunting. The writing suddenly slow and painful. The Stress is real. The UK is fucking expensive. Brexit passed. Shit got more expensive. Opportunities shrank. We couldn’t find work. We missed our dogs. Deadlines moved. Timelines had to be altered.
Shit. Got. Real.Flexibility and Support. The same things that make a good bra worth $50 are the criteria for TRUE EXPAT SURVIVAL.
You must be flexible, know when to give and stretch. And when you are not strong (or have been stretched to your limits), know where to go for support. I moved to Glasgow with an on-board support system the way most people buy cars with SatNav. You’ve met him perhaps? Hubby. I would be way more derelict and zero debutante without him. (Those ratios fluctuate daily.) As a friend on FB pointed out last week, I am the Bonnie to his Clyde. But, you know, without the mass murdering.
Our first Christmas, we stayed in in our new home, Glasgow. Walked the city, took in some holiday concerts, cruised the Christmas festivals and holiday markets. (2) We’d only been here for a few months, but I spent £30 on the ingredients for a traditional holiday dessert made with US ingredients. $8 for bottle of frickin Karo syrup only for Hubby to admit that he doesn’t actual like pecan pie. I was so focused on giving him a “missing piece” of “back home” that it didn’t even occur to me that it was something he didn’t miss at all. He wanted a Cranachan Trifle and Sticky Toffee Pudding (3).
Instead of whimpering to any tinman or munchkin that would listen, Dorothy could have stopped to enjoy the wonders and delights of her adventure. But no. Instead she pursued with single purpose returning home to heal Auntie Em, who was neither broken or in need of Dorothy to return, quite frankly. The next Christmas, we walked around Vienna for the week, Mozart’s music, cathedral concerts, Eugene’s libraries, the Holy Roman crowns and Hapsburg crypts. We drank mulled wine and hot punch at the markets watching ice skaters in snow flurries, and heard the bells of the entire city ring at midnight, ushering in Christmas Day.
Fuck Dorothy and her idea that happiness (or your heart’s desire) can only be found in your backyard. That simply isn’t true. Certainly not for us. Happiness – and Home – can be found in so many places, in so many faces. You won’t know what glorious moments await you if you are too scared or too comfortable or too complacent to ever leave your own backyard.
I’m not blind to the fact that not everyone has the means or opportunity (or drive) to travel abroad, or live as an expat, for a matter of years much less a lifetime. And not all expat adventures go well. (Just ask a girlfriend of mine who had to flee an eastern country because of a stalker!) But I believe that great things don’t happen without risk.
I’m not suggesting I live a zen life without stress or sadness. Much of what I am currently engaged in with my research and writing involves intensity and hunger and pain in remembering those who saved my life when I could not save theirs. So I cry when I’m sad. I don’t feel guilty or weak or lonely. Not every Dorothy is brave enough to engage with the great wild world; I remind myself why we came here and the goals we decided were worth all the risks to pursue.
Oh I miss crawfish etouffee, Honey-baked ham, and Ranch dressing, but it doesn’t take a witch threatening to kill my dog for me to see that I have Great Happiness in my life (and “Home” that reaches well beyond the confines of my “backyard”. Happiness can be found in enjoying the life that’s right in front of you, right here, right now.
PS Hurricane is making landfall in about 5 days. So those of you in Glasgow may feel a disturbance in the Force. You have been warned. We’ll do a meet and greet at Oran Mor’s whisky bar Sunday 26 Nov. https://oran-mor.co.uk/
(1) Ha ha. See what I did there?
(3) RECIPE HERE: https://www.yummly.co.uk/#recipe/Raspberry-Cranachan-Trifle-439088