Being foreign   Leave a comment

My friend is a rich girl from a nice town in the stockbroker belt just outside London. She is intelligent, pretty and has a professional job.

My friend is British and really loves her country. But (unlike me, a complete foreigner) she is second-generation and carries with her, the cultural and historical associations of her family. Most of the time she does this with pride, but sometimes, just sometimes it becomes a little much!*

She has just given birth to her first child. The baby was slightly premature. Her husband and mother were with her at hospital.

I asked her how it went. ‘Terrible’ she said. ‘But it was not the birth, it was the shame! I was lying there with my legs spread, telling my idiot husband to hold my hand, and then my mother suddenly started praying up against the wall, salaaming loudly, going through all the motions and wailing.  All the doctors and nurses in the West London hospital really tried to maintain a blank facade, frantically pretending that she was not there and the wailing was not happening, but were still trying to peek whilst pretending not to. They were having to manoeuver around her physically in order to do their job. I kept trying to tell her to stop but she wouldn’t. I nearly died of shame. It took all my attention away from the pain. She would not stop all the way through the birth! I was pushing hard just to make her stop.”

(*Zadie Smith in  White Teeth – explains the dilemma well)


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