The American Brit

[This is another installment of the Life of Kiki series. We are going to be in London for a while. You can catch up HERE on the previous posts. And a brief caveat: It's kinda weird to be married and write about a past relationship. I don't really plan to do that with the exception of British Pete. As you will soon see, Pete came with enough drama to fuel a mini-series. He got happily married about six months after we broke up, so I don't feel badly about how things ended. I also got Rob's okay on this, and as long as he still comes out the winner, it's all good. And with no further ado...]


I was going to meet the guy I would marry in London.

The thought crossed my mind before I left Virginia. It was a fleeting thought, but one that left a serious impression. I did not realize how serious until I met that guy.

Ginny and I, being Christians, looked for some kind of fellowship in London. We were wholly unsatisfied after a weirdly structural Anglican church experience our first Sunday, but saw a flyer for something called the Christian Union on campus and decided to give it a try.

I remember a few things very clearly from that meeting. First of all I remember Pippa, the girl who stood up and gave the announcements in an incredibly ill-fitting sweater. Ginny and I still, when we see a girl in a too-tight shirt, call it a Pippa. God bless her, I don’t think she had a clue that probably no one in the room was thinking about the announcements.

The second thing was how friendly all the students were. They looked at Ginny and I like we were some kind of novelty, a little freakish in a good way. Like celebrities. Or puppies. It was the first warmth we had really experienced since arriving in London. I finally felt a bit of a welcome. Until the third thing almost negated that feeling.

During his Bible talk, the adult staff guy for the Christian Union made not one, but several cracks about Americans. Not just jokes, though I thankfully can’t remember specific examples, but also actual judgmental remarks about the United States.

The students we met before the meeting kept turning around and making apologetic faces or whispering sorry, but it brought me right back my feelings of displacement and alienation. After the meeting, the students introduced us to the staff guy and I waited for an apology. Nope. The lack of remorse made it even worse somehow, like if he didn’t apologize it meant he either stood by what he had said, or that he just didn’t care.

Thankfully he didn’t go out with all the students afterward. They invited us out to the pub, which was by US Christian standards, absurd. I can knock this truth about Christians because I am one and have been guilty of this, but often they we try to live out our faith by what we DON’T do, rather than in DOING something, like showing grace or love. Christians in the states didn’t cuss, didn’t have sex before marriage, and didn’t drink. Well, some did drink, but only after they were 21. I was one of those, having my first-ever beer only a few months before on my birthday.

So going out to a pub after the Christian Union meeting made us giggle. Of COURSE we went, laughing about how it would have been received if we had invited people Intervarsity (our college fellowship) out to a bar afterward. Pubs were different than American bars, we had learned in our British Life and Culture class. Unlike bars in the states, which are often associated with escape from work or home, pubs were like an extension of Brit’s homes. They even looked like living rooms—dark wood paneling, dim lighting, comfortable seats, fireplaces with wood fires. Everyone went to pubs. They really were places where everyone knew your name.

Though I wasn’t much into beer then (I ordered half-pints like a pansy), I loved the pub. I loved feeling like I was a part of the group, standing in front of a fireplace with a bunch of English students. Ginny and I stayed for a few hours and ended up talking with two guys named Thom and Pete.

Thom was exactly the kind of British guy I had imagined meeting. I remember his clothes more than his face. He wore a tight ribbed turtleneck, fitted dark-washed jeans, and black leather shoes with a small heel. A heel! He was so British. I was smitten as he talked about wanting to be a missionary after he finished up at uni. He wrote down the George's number before we left.

Pete, on the other hand, would have looked at home in the states with his chin-length blond surfer hair, hiking boots and faded jeans. He had a great laugh and charmed Ginny with his humor.

On the bus ride home Ginny and I talked giddily about maybe making some friends, and about our brand-new British crushes. I hoped Thom would call within a few days. I kept thinking about him and his turtleneck, how different he was from the guys back home. He did not call.

Ginny, with her discerning self, came to me a few days later. “I think Pete likes you,” she said. I waved off her suspicion but she held to it. “I think he likes you, and I’m okay if you go out with him.”

After that conversation, though, I noticed what she had: the way Pete looked at me, how he stood close to me in groups. Thom hadn’t called, and so I considered Pete. His crooked grin, the warmth in his face, the way he made everyone around him laugh. So when he did, only a few days later, ask me on a date, with Ginny’s blessing I said yes.

I found out the week before I finished my semester abroad that Thom had planned to call me. That is, until Pete told him not to. But I did not know that then, and I figured that if it wasn’t going to be ultra-British Thom, I could date—and maybe even marry?—an American-looking Pete.



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