I'm going to start with the one that most Americans will nod sagely at: dentistry. When I first arrived in the US, it took a while for the person who is now my closest girlfriend to tell me that she didn't quite believe I was British because my teeth were OK. Hmm. I was lucky I guess. In Britain, when I was growing up, it was just not common for kids to wear braces. This meant that teeth sprung up and grew in whatever direction they fancied and no one really cared. Really, why would it matter? Looking at older TV programs from the eighties and earlier it's astonishing how many presenters had really bad crooked teeth, but, that wasn't an issue. How they did on camera and their personalities was the most important thing.
Here in the States, getting braces is a rite of passage: every kid gets them, and by the time they're 18 or so, most kids are done and have perfectly straight, even, white teeth that literally glow. Fiona started this process when she was just 7 years old, since her jaw was literally too small for her teeth and had to be widened with spacers, which sounds exactly what it was: a torture device where you turn a screw to stretch the mouth with a metal frame. I was mortified, but she took it all in stride. Six years and thousands of dollars later, the braces are off and we're done with orthodontia (I hope).
On the other side of the pond, Brits will tell you that as soon as someone smiles they can spot the American. All those gorgeous teeth really do stand out. Nowadays I think braces are more common in Britain, but I'm sure glad the huge gap in my teeth closed up on its own......... we're not talking cute Madonna here: just bad. If I had an electronic photo I'd post one to prove it, but my scanner's broken (honestly!) so you'll just have to trust me.
OK, dentistry aside, what else is different?
Short hair on women. I chopped all my hair off when I was about 18 and it remained short until I decided to change things up a little at the age of 42. Since then it's been up and down, blonde and brunette and everything in between. Short hair in Britain and the rest of Europe is trendy, fashion-forward, cute, gamine, or whatever other word you'd like to use. it's perfectly normal to see young women with short hair.
Here in the US, short hair is usually found on women over 65, and hardly ever on younger women. In fact if you have short hair here, you're likely to be thought of either as a lesbian or as a recovering cancer patient. Brutal, I know, but the American definition of beauty includes very long hair as well as sparkly, even teeth. It's funny really. I don't remember anyone ever thinking that Princess Diana, one of the most beautiful women in the world, was either a lesbian or a cancer patient and I happen to like short hair on women but then again, I'm English.
When famous women here chop all their hair off, it makes headlines (Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Ginnifer Goodwin) and most of those who go short, invariably grow their hair long again (Victoria Beckham, Cameron Diaz, Keira Knightley.) But look at that photo of Ginnifer Goodwin: she's gorgeous!
For now, I'm keeping my hair sort of long. One day I'll get bored again and cut it all off, but that's just me.
In my next post I'll touch on a couple more grooming issues: with some for men too.