March 9. 1969

March 9, 1969

This wasn’t my first – or last – fantasy about taking drastic measures to escape my life. I didn’t follow through on this brilliant plan or any of the others which didn’t stop me from devising new schemes to start over someplace else whenever I’m overwhelmed where I am.

Flying away to Sweden
Flying away to Sweden

Before my wedding, I thought about hopping a plane and disappearing in Sweden (because I took Swedish at UCLA, as if that would do me any good.)  Thank God I lost my nerve – or regained my senses – and showed up at the church on time. Sticking around and seeing things through was always the right choice.

Hop a train to a new life, new name, new city.
Hop a train to a new life, new name, new city.

The fantasy of running away – starting a new life with a new name – is probably impossible in our high-tech surveillance-happy world. Even if I could, there’s no reason to believe my new life would improve on the one I’m living. As the saying goes, wherever you run to, you take yourself with you.

Go where?
Go where?

And of course, “myself” is the problem. The only way to change my circumstances is change myself. It’s an inside adjustment, not an outside one. I didn’t know that in ’69, as I sank into a bottomless clinical depression. I find solace in the fact that no matter how much I wanted to leave this life, I stayed – and you know what? It got better.

These boots are made for walking - incognito woman of mystery somewhere far north of here
These boots are made for walking – incognito woman of mystery somewhere far north of here

About Scandinavians

In a few days, I’m leaving on a trip through Scandinavia. I’ve never been there, even though I’m half Danish and almost half Norwegian (there’s a smidge of Swedish on the Norwegian side).  I have my own stereotypes about Scandinavians based on my extended family but in the interests of objective research, I skimmed two recent books on the topic – The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia) by Michael Booth and How to be Danish (A Journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark) by Patrick Kingsley. The following bullet points are culled from these books.

  • Danes are joiners; they belong to more clubs than most nationalities.
  • Clubs include choirs, in which the blending of all voices is more important than any one voice – a perfect illustration of the Dane’s flock instinct.
  • Danes have the highest level of trust (in other people) in the world.
  • In the 90s, someone did an experiment in which they left 40 wallets unattended in forty cities. All 40 wallets were returned in only two countries – Denmark and Norway. So apparently some of that trust is warranted.
  • All of the Scandinavian countries talk smack about their neighboring Scandinavian countries. Danes are knocked for deteriorating language skills. Norwegians, resented because of their oil wealth, are knocked for being stupid country bumpkins. However, Sweden is the most intensely despised by its neighbors.
  • Swedes have a heightened fear of appearing foolish “reflected by one of the key words by which the Swedes define themselves – duktig. It literally translates as clever, but this is a specific type of Swedish cleverness; a diligent, responsible kind of clever; punctual, law-abiding, industrious clever.” (Booth)
  • In Sweden, it’s a major faux pas to touch wine glasses after a toast.
  • Swedes don’t converse with each other on buses.
  • Swedes are considered shy and self-effacing.
  • Ake Daun, author of The Swedish Mentality, describes Swedes as “a race of wallflowers racked with insecurities; they would rather take the stairs than share a lift.”
  • Norwegians dress in extravagant national costumes on May 17 (Norwegian Constitution Day) – heavily embroidered dirndls, hobnail shoes, shawls, bright-buttoned breeches, etc.
  • Oslo residents are the second richest in the world, right behind Hartford, Connecticut citizens.
  • Oslo is extremely expensive! Taxi drivers apologize for the fares. “Sorry. It’s Norway.”

More to come in future posts!