I suspect most thirty-something single women are well-aware of the constraint and constant worry that comes with speaking aloud; in our case, speaking to members of the opposite sex can be especially problematic. At our age, any comments you make about weddings or babies could conceivably cause the male of the species concerns about our intentions. This results in sleepless nights, thoughts of “I should NOT have said that” and a development of a nascent capability to pause before speaking to edit every comment, no matter how casual it may sound in your head, for fear of it being misinterpreted or over-interpreted. There is simply a lack of true freedom of speech that comes with certain situations, like being a single woman of late child-bearing age.
In this case, as an expat living abroad, I find that the above-mentioned scenario is translated to every situation. Not only do I, as a single female of a certain age, have to try to edit my comments about marriage and children when speaking to eligible bachelors, but as an American living amongst the English, I pretty much have to edit my comments about absolutely everything. I think this is part of what forms the strength of the bond in the expat community, especially with people from your own geographical background: there is a freedom to speak your mind without fear.
I mention this because I am heading back to the US for a brief trip this week for work, where I will have not only the great pleasure of seeing one of my good friends, but I will also have great freedom to speak my mind. I can’t wait–all this mental editing has me absolutely exhausted. And frankly I’m not at all good at it. For some reason I always sound very “black and white” even when my fuzzy gray matter is, appropriately, gray. The more tired I am, and the more stress I am under, the more likely I am to accidentally say something that will leave me wide-awake at 1:32 am wondering if I will ever learn to be less effusive, and let’s face it, less American. Thank goodness that for five full days this week I will be free to speak my mind. Because I find that the art of expat communication is to communicate less in order to fit in more.