Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Three weeks of this American life have left me too full to write. Too full of friends, of holidays, of birthday parties, of overpoweringly wonderful emotions.

But I saw this today, and had to agree. In his short essay on Americans The New York Times Book Review, the British writer Geoff Dyer gets it all just right:

"...I always feel good about myself in America; I feel appreciated, liked. It took a while to realize that this had nothing to do with me. It was about the people who made me feel this way: it was about charm. Yes, this is the bright secret of life in the United States: Americans are not just friendly and polite — they are also charming. And the most charming thing of all is that it rarely looks like charm. The French put a rather charmless emphasis on charm, are consciously or unconsciously persuaded that it is either part of a display of sophistication or — and it may amount to the same thing — a tool in the service of seduction."

Call it friendly, call it charming, call it unsophisticated bumpkin goofy optimistic happiness. I don't care. I never saw this so clearly before we left, but Americans really do make me feel good. Not just my friends and family, but also the many New Yorker Americans who weren't even born here: the cheerful Indian cab driver who nearly killed us. The counter guy at Connecticut Muffin who still remembers how I like my coffee, and wanted to hear all about the way they make it in France. The people on the subway who think my kids are adorable.

It's taken me a week or so, but my blank French face has softened back into the old smile. Charmed, I'm sure.

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