The Longest FAQ Ever, And It's Not Even Over Yet

So obviously I'm not at the airport anymore (that would be one pretty delayed flight) but I still haven't answered all the questions that were posed. I've been too busy wandering the aisles of the supermarkets in England, running my hands reverently over all the British food products I'd forgotten were in existence. I'll admit I was moved to tears in front of the chocolate biscuits.

I'm about halfway through this giant FAQ though, and I thought I'd at least post what I've done so far. Not that it matters---I'm sure the novelty was more in keeping me amused at Newark than it was in any real interest about the answers. Man, it's not like I'm Dooce or anything.

Where were you born?
Ooh, that’s a nice easy one to start. I was born in Epsom, which is in Surrey, which is in the south of England. I don't know how far it is from London---forty minutes? I have a horible sense of geography. But it’s most famous for the Epsom Downs, a horseracing track.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Since I’m likely the world’s most irritable person, I have many. Everything peeves me. I hate when people answer questions with "huh?" rather than "sorry?" or "pardon?" I hate when people say “myself,” as in “Sean and myself are going traveling.” And there are all the usual suspects too: Valentime’s Day, li-berry, ekspecially, irregardless. Sean and I once had a roommate who had trouble with any tense that wasn’t the present; she’d leave notes that said things like “Sean, your mom call.” Once she left a note that said “Sean, John call, he says the pictures are Amazon.” Sean and I spent half the day wondering how the pictures from John’s Halloween party were on (or were they Amazonian? Really tall pictures? Or did they remind him of the Amazon?) before we finally figured out that John thought the pictures were amazing. So my biggest pet peeves, I guess, have to do with people messing up the English language. And also talking on their cell phones at the gym.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
Once, at Balboa Park in San Diego, I walked in on a man who was pooping in a public bathroom. We’re talking mid-poop, pants around ankles and everything. But that was probably more embarrassing for him than me. I fell off the ski lift once at Okemo Mountain in Vermont, which, you know, was embarrassing enough, but when I tried to get up, the ski lift HIT ME IN THE HEAD and I fell down again, scattering all these orange cones around me, while everyone formed a circle and shouted “don’t get up! Or it’ll hit you again!” And then later in the day, I got stuck in this snowdrift on my ridiculous snowboard, and this little group of ten year old girls had to form a sort of chain gang, one pushing the other, while the one at the front pushed me, and finally I slid out of the snowdrift and lurched my way down the mountain. A couple of hours later, one of the little girls waved at me and shouted “hi!” and Sean was all, “how do you know that little girl?” and I was all, “uh, never seen her in my life. No idea.”

Do you have dual citizenship? Are your parents in the Mafia? What do they do?
No, I don’t have dual citizenship, but I do have a Green Card, which means I’m a resident alien. Actually, when my sister Susie was little, we used to tease her horribly and call her The Alien because she was kind of weird, and the day our Green Cards---which said “resident alien” on them---arrived, we hid everyone else’s and just gave Susie hers, and said “look, Alien, your ID card has arrived! It’s official---you really are an alien.” Which in hindsight was kind of mean. I think she probably cried.

Oh, and my parents aren’t in the Mafia. My mother writes and my dad works in HR for Rolls Royce, though before that he worked for Citibank, and before that Reuters. His Citibank office was totally gay---instead of calling the kitchen the kitchen, you had to call it the CitiCafe. I wish I could say you had to call the elevator the CitiElevator and the hallway the CitiHallway and the restrooms the CitiShitters, but I’d probably be lying if I did. Still, he doesn’t work there anymore, so we can pretend.

Spill the list of favorite words on your office wall.
Ooh, I can’t remember too many of them now, but I’m fairly sure the following made an appearance: medulla oblongata, fisticuffs, Elysium, chipolata, sassafrass, alfalfa, brouhaha, panache, Sumatra, erstwhile, tupelo, tantamount, and schmutz.

How many languages do you speak?
I used to be near fluent in French and German, but I haven’t spoken either in a while now, and have probably forgotten way too much, though I did manage a few years back to explain to a security guard at the Gare Du Nord that the vending machine had taken Sean’s francs without dispensing the bottle of water he’d paid for. I also took Latin for a while, but all I remember from that is “mox” which means “soon.” Which I guess means that I’d be screwed if a vending machine took my money in Ancient Rome.

Are you and Sean engaged? You always refer to him as your boyfriend but in your "About" section you said you had dozens of wedding etiquette books scattered about.
No, Sean and I are not engaged. I had the wedding books because one of the magazines we produced at the company I used to work for was a wedding one, and so publishers used to send me wedding-related books all the time.

What word do you use to describe a sweet, carboned beverage?
I have become so Americanized over the last few years that I say soda. I can't remember what I used to call it when I lived in England, but when I was growing up, we always just called it “fizzy.” Which gets the point across, I guess. Don't they just call it a coke in Texas, even when it isn't actually a Coke? Doesn't that get confusing?

What are you jealous of?
Ooooooh, I’m jealous of people who sincerely enjoy exercising. I’m jealous of people who can buy a bikini without trying it on. I’m jealous of people who don’t get streaky when they do Mystic Tan, and who have long, luxurious, fringe-like eyelashes. I’m jealous of people who have cool last names like Scarborough and Hudson and Montgomery and LeBlanc.

When was the first time you drank alcohol without your parents’ knowledge? What was it, and how did you feel afterwards?
When I was fifteen, I went to Hong Kong on vacation to see some friends I still had there (we’d left the year before to live in England.) My friend Beth and I stayed in her stepdad’s apartment---he was a pilot and was away a lot---and we hit the bars in the evening, in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong district. For some reason, they served two fifteen year old girls, one of whom was wearing a black evening dress (me) and the other a white tank top that said “Eat Me.” To this day, I cannot be in the same room as a bottle of Bacardi, so inextricably linked is it to memories of throwing up in a bus stop. Repeatedly. Like, for two days.

What happened to the BlogAds?
Yeah, good question. I guess no-one's wanted to advertise with me yet. Do I smell weird? You can tell me. I’m using this new deodorant and I’m not quite sure about it. To add insult to injury, the good people at Google AdSense emailed me yesterday to tell me my account had been shut down because of "invalid clicks" and my $25.81 would be given back to the poor advertisers who I'd obviously swindled and hoodwinked. I've no idea why they'd say this---I've never clicked on the ads on my own site; there's something about it that reeks of sadness---but I've written them a strongly-worded letter to find out. That $25.81 was mine!

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you reach the pearly gates?
"You're just in time! This is actually Banana Republic and we're giving everything away free. Also, there is cheese."

What airport in the world is your favorite, whether because it's wonderful or spectacularly awful?
I read somewhere that people go expressly to Singapore's Changi Airport to have dinner because it's so fantastic, and I'd have to agree that it's probably my favorite. They have a dish of candy at the Immigration desk, which is pretty much all you need to sell me on anything.

Do you want to get married? Do you want to have children? And if you knew before you got pregnant that your children wouldn't live past age 13, would you still try?
Someday. Someday after that. And probably not. Because they're kind of mean to you when they're 13, and it would really suck for us to say goodbye with one of us still angry at the other.

If you could have written any novel or poem currently in existence, which would it have been and why?
There's a part in The Squid and the Whale, which I just saw last week and which you should totally see right now, where the teenaged son performs Pink Floyd's "Hey You" at the school talent show, and tells everyone he wrote it. And when he's caught out, he says "well, I felt that I could have written it, so I really didn't think it was that much of a lie." And that's why you'll find me telling whoever will listen that I wrote Bridget Jones' Diary.

Seriously, though, I sort of wish I'd written The Bell Jar. But then not put my head in the oven afterwards. Maybe I would have bought a silver convertible Mercedes instead.

What brought you to Charleston?
After I graduated from university in London in 2002, I moved out to San Diego to live with Sean; the long-distance thing was getting old, and I'd always said I wanted to live in America after college anyway. Since I had my Green Card (and since I had, by this point, told Susie that we were all resident aliens, not just her), it was easy enough. Six months later, Sean's job transferred him to Charleston to teach nuclear power to Navy recruits, and I came too. We drove across the country with our stuff in a Penske truck, arrived in Charleston, and found an apartment that we loved within a week.

Of all the places you've lived, what was your favorite, and why?
I was too young, really, to remember Paris, but Holland had fantastic licorice. Singapore the first time around was fun, I think, and Abu Dhabi was pretty bizarre. I learnt a song about a camel in Arabic at school and this was normal. Also, once we came home to find a tank in front of our house, and soldiers surrounding it. I think we had to drive around the block a few times until it was gone. They had these amazing beaches though, called Ladies Beaches, and only women and boys under six were allowed in; there were playgrounds on the beaches, amusement parks almost, and they were free and it was fabulous. Still, I think I'd say Hong Kong or Connecticut were my favorites---really only because they were the two places I lived for any substantial amount of time, so I had a chance to find a sense of familiarity and continuity. Also, they both showed Ricki Lake regularly.

Why do you suppose some authors write a fantastic novel (Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.) and then never publish again? Fear of a sophmore slump? That one story was so good that all their inspiration was used up? Or do you suspect these authors did secretly publish under another name?
Wow, for someone who's spent the last two days reading magazines that say things like "Chubby Celebrities Hit The Beach!" and "Brian Wants Custody Of Kerri's Kids!" on the front, this question might be a little intellectual. Ask me something about Brangelina. I know everything about that. Seriously, though, I'm not sure. I'd probably say yes, fear of a sophomore slump. It's kind of why I leave it so long between blog posts, sometimes. Because everyone will decide that actually I'm really not very funny or interesting. Which is kind of becoming obvious through my answers, isn't it?

As I secretly long to do the same, I want to know how can you afford to quit your job and travel for so long? Oh, please divulge your financial secrets! Which is kind of along the same lines as: How do you pull of quitting your jobs and taking this trip? I mean, did you have the idea and then save a years worth of income? And, if it isn’t really too much to ask, how much do you estimate the whole thing will cost? Will you budget out daily? How did you decide where to go?
Sean started saving AGES ago, like two years or something. As such, he's saved about a year's salary, if your salary was really bad. Me, I only started saving last year, so I haven't got quite as much. It's incredibly worrying sometimes to think about, but that's when I just pour myself another glass of wine. And shut down on my computer. Seriously, though, Sean's job will pay for some of the moving costs, around a third or so. We've stockpiled the rest and have both got some freelance work still trickling in. We're budgeting less for Southeast Asia than you'd think, mostly because we're fine with staying in some pretty grotty places and eating market food and traveling on buses next to pigs and chickens. And we decided our route pretty randomly, really, hinging it mostly around the fact that Sean wanted to go to China, and I used to have some far-fetched idea that I wanted to live in Shanghai, so I decided I might as well check it out. I've lived in Hong Kong, obviously, and I've been to parts of Malaysia and parts of Thailand, but most of China is going to be new to me, as are Vietnam and Cambodia. So we just sort of decided where we wanted to go, really. And then decided to make it a big loop. My mother tells me every time I talk to her that I need to go to Burma, but IT TOTALLY MESSES WITH THE LOOP. And I'm sort of obsessive about the loop.

When you are sitting in the airport, surrounded by fellow passengers, I would like you to pick out three of them and come up with a scenario in which they are all connected. Or tell us their life stories, or where they are going, or what they will be eating for dinner.
Hmm, I didn't get to this one in the airport, but now I'm sitting in my grandma's living room, leaching off the wireless internet connection of the only person in tiny Hamsey Green, Surrey to actually have one, and I could tell you her life story but it might take a while. I think we're having steak for dinner though.

Do you have any phobias? What are they?
I hate cardboard boxes. And also wooden spoons. And also that bit of cardboard at the back of a notepad, god, I can't stand that bit of cardboard. My brother Tom is the same way. My mother thinks it's because we moved around so much as children and came to hate the feel of packing boxes. That doesn't explain the wooden spoons bit, but I suppose it makes a sort of sense.

Does Pretty Coworker Elle need a replacement person to send lipgloss to? Because I volunteer.
I suppose it would depend on whether or not you wore the same shade as I do. And also if she finally stops buying that shade.

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May 18, 2006

Wooden spoons! I'm always afraid they'll leave splinters in whatever I'm cooking. And I won't lick them because I'm afraid I'll get splinters in my tongue. And its not like splinters are the worst thing in the world, but I guess if I can avoid them I will.

Are you soon to be posting great drunken London stories? Sigh! I have a few myself, you know. We could do some kind of drunken London head-to-head competition.

May 18, 2006

Thanks for sharing! These FAQ posts help to satisfy my nosey personality!

May 18, 2006

Thanks for answering my question about soda - and thanks for saying soda instead of pop. We can still be friends.

I share many of your linguistic pet peeves. How about when people say "jewlery" instead of "jewelry"?

May 18, 2006

Ah, Holly -- YOU didn't click on those ads like a demon, but probably someone hoping to get you across Asia did. If someone daily and repeatedly clicks on every ad you have -- or seven people do it, or twenty -- then Google shuts you down because they want to at least PRETEND to be getting targeted visitors for the people who buy ads, and not just giving money to bloggers who are well-loved:).

At least you had that, though! My ads were largely ignored by my tiny audience since they have a tendency to be anti-commerce and all Salon-ish (, not hair salon.)

So I took them down! Before I even saw this!

And I love this entry. Thank you!!

May 18, 2006

I am embarrassed to admit that not only did I read every word of this, but I am eagerly anticipating more. EAGERLY. That might be the part I'm embarrassed about.

Also, while I'm humiliating myself, and I have questioned whether I should tell you this because IT SORT OF FREAKS ME OUT, but I had a dream about you the other night. A dream that I was stalking you.

And that I broke into your house.

And there was something in there about me going through the drawers in your bathroom, trying to find a hair ribbon.

And then I found a photo album, and sat down on the couch to look through it, but it was too late.

I had been caught.

By Jemima.

May 18, 2006

Holly, sometimes I feel like we could be, like, long-lost kindred spirits or something, like Anne of Green Gables and Diana. I grew up abroad, too, and I HATE when people say "huh" instead of "sorry," or when people say "myself" inappropriately or "I" as in "it's between you and I." UGH!! And The Squid and the Whale is my favorite movie of the last two years, and I, too, could totally have written BJ'sDiary! OMG.

Carboard boxes don't scare me, though.
And I don't have a Sean. ;(

May 18, 2006

Now... this only leaves me with more questions. WHAT does your mother write? Where in Holland did you live and how long? Does your father drive a RR?

Nothing But Bonfires
May 18, 2006

Oh man, it keeps spiralling. My mother writes lots of different things: newspaper columns, PR stuff. We lived outside The Hague, in a town called Wassenaar. And no, haha, the company car isn't a Rolls Royce; he works more for the part of the company that makes jet engines -- though every time we get on a plane which doesn't have a Rolls Royce engine, my mother sends my father a text message and says "this plane doesn't have a Rolls Royce engine! Should we get off?"

May 18, 2006

As someone who has worked both in the automotive field and the jet engine field, I heart your dad.

But don't worry, I haven't had any dreams about wanting to steal his hair ribbons.

May 18, 2006

Haha, I'm not sure what Harper Lee's excuse was for not publishing again, but I think we'll excuse Margaret Mitchell since she got hit by a car and died not too long after her book was published and the movie came out ;)

I've loved learning more about you through these Q&A's--and just so you can feel more at ease about the "Coke Conundrum", it's really quite easy. We just say, "D'you want a coke?" (note the usage of the lower case, signifying that it is not, in fact a proper noun) If the other person responds in the affirmative, the follow up question is always "What kind?" See, easy!!

May 18, 2006

We call it a coke here and they call it coke in Georgia-- where it all began.

Liberal Banana
May 18, 2006

Great post - thanks for answering my "jealous of what?" question! Can't wait to read more! (And thanks to everyone who asked about how you could manage to go on your trip financially as it's something I'd love to do and I was dying to know as well!)

May 18, 2006

I'm born and raised in The Hague and still go there 2-3 times a year to visit my parents. I'll bring you back some serious licorice next time!

May 19, 2006

Thanks for answering my question!

One of my friends lives in Shanghai (she teaches English to middle schoolers). You should totally hang out with her and her multi-national group of friends while you are there. ;-)

May 19, 2006

Holly, you are correct in that we Texans call any soda a 'COKE'. Unless you are referring to a Dr. Pepper which would be a DP. I think Jes will back me up on this one.

Thespian LLibby
May 19, 2006

I think I'll change my name to Scarborough Montgomery. That'll sound fabulous with a southern accent. Hope you're having a totally fabulous time, though all inhabitants of the big pink fortress are jealous! Not to mention that without you, we don't have a quorum for our meetings.....

May 19, 2006

Awesome post. Hope you're having a fantabulous time! (And hope word creations such as "fantabulous" are not a huge pet peeve.) Enjoy, but please keep posting.

May 19, 2006

Haven't you heard? Nothing But Bonfires is the new Dooce. Good FAQ and good to hear a word from you.

May 19, 2006

I soooo agree on the pronunciation issues - and would like to also add rappers (i hope it's just them and not a nationwide problem) who say 'aks' instead of 'ask', and 'gotsta' as in 'gotsta let you know' Eeeurgh!
Here in Scotland my issue is that they say 'proven' like 'woven' instead of 'prooven'.
My boyfriend laughs at my pedantic issues and repeatedly tells me I shouldn't get so bothered by 'pronounciation'. Yes, he says it like that, just to punish me. I may have to kill him.

jenny lee
May 19, 2006

i still volunteer for the lipgloss replacement person. :)

May 19, 2006

Meet the new Dooce.

Same as the old Dooce.

May 19, 2006

Mike: I'd totally back that up. But to further confuse NBB, we must inform The Readership that DP and DDP are in two TOTALLY different classes.

(Dr Pepper and Dublin Dr Pepper)

May 19, 2006

I love that your parents are capable of text messaging. Can they train mine?

They may be fairly untrainable, though. Once my father put a wooden spoon in the blender WHILE BLENDING. The results were disasterous, as you can well imagine. I understand your fear.

May 20, 2006

CitiShitter! Hah!

May 21, 2006

Ok. The Blogads. It took me a long time to get ads, but what I want to know is are you in any "groups". Like, I was in the parenting group and kids and babies. Maybe you can email someone there and ask them about that. (Because, I really have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Also, I TOTALLY thought you were going to say you were jealous of my aerobic dance moves. I bet it's hard to admit that, though.

May 21, 2006

Oh you SO could have written Bridget Jones....perhaps you could try your own version of the Bell Jar - like a modern translation. It would be a lot more jolly.

Seems like you have a penchant for literature that captures 'modern woman'.....her take on life etc. I can see you writing something incredibly successful in the same genre.

And no I'm not going to stop pestering you to write a book. Until you actually do it.

Perhaps you could scribble down a few notes while travelling on the back of a Yak somewhere on your travels.....

May 22, 2006

Jes, you've got me drooling for a DDP. May have to take a road trip this weekend!

Pygmalion's Wife
May 22, 2006

Those bastards at Google shut me down on my old blog, too! The worst part was that I had, like, $46.77 or something--SO CLOSE to getting the stupid check. Good to know I'm not the only one blackballed...

May 22, 2006

I tried to watch "The Squid and the Whale". I really, really tried.

I gritted my teeth through the first ten or fifteen minutes, wanting with every breath for the father and the eldest son to die an unimaginably gruesome death because they were such unadulterated assholes.

But when I saw the youngest son (what was he, nine?) jack himself off against a library bookshelf, reach into his drawers and then smear the book bindings with white gooey stuff, that was about all I could watch of THAT movie.

There's nothing that might have come (no pun intended) later on in the movie to make that worth having seen.


I may never use the public library again.

- M

May 22, 2006

Ahh, Holly, are you still at your Grandmas' house? Can you send me some PG Tips? (No, just kidding, I don't want to take a cent away from the SE Asia trip fund) Cheers on Starting Your Journey. So... here's MY FAQ:

Since you and your family are a bit more spread out than the usual... When you get married, where do you think it will be (country, not venue)? I know it will be fabulous and feature lots of good-looking people (you, Sean, your families) tasty food (good biscuits, yummy food and also great wine) - but when I think about it, I get a headache FOR you. If that is just way to difficult, how about: What is your earliest memory?