We were waiting in the Social Security office in Hudson to arrange for Eric to receive his official card and number, now that he’s fully legal to work in the US. There was a poster up on the wall of Patty Duke and the Asian guy from Star Trek in space outfits. I studied their pictures, glad it had their names underneath the photos, or else I might have thought they were just anyone’s grandmother and grandfather doing PSA’s for Social Security, and wondered why had the man been allowed to dye his hair but not the lady?
When we got up to the desk and there was another poster with two Patty Dukes, this one saying “Even my cousin’s applying online”, Eric looked questioningly at it and said – cousin? To a foreigner trying to make sense of America, perhaps it had a hillbilly ring to it, and what with gay marriage recently legalized in New York state…
Having gotten the idea from the other poster that Patty Duke was now a spokesperson for Social Security, I was all primed to tell him how she was one of the first American teenagers on television playing not only herself but her British-bred “cousin”. How the Patty character had been so kooky and mischievous that a hot dog made her lose control while cousin Kathy had been sophisticated and posh, having lived most everywhere from Brooklyn Heights to Berkeley Square. To help bridge the cultural gap, I even threw in a little tidbit about how Herman’s Hermits had been in an episode.
“Ah, Peter No-one,” Eric said, getting the idea quickly that for moving the culture forward, Patty Duke Show was a step or two below the Beverly Hillbillies.
In France, it had been Eric explaining how things worked, or didn’t. Here, it’ll have to be me who provides simple, reassuring answers to questions like:
“I know ‘ground beef’ is what you call mince, but what or who is Ground Chuck?”
“What exactly will the children do to us if we don’t give them treats on Halloween?”
“The snow won’t come until late November or around Christmas, right?”
So – sometimes you have to lie.