There’s this young mother from Russia that walks back and forth on our street. She’s doing everything she can because “he never sleeps!” My wife and I have been noticing her of late, partly because watching her fills us with both trauma and delight. Dread because it takes us back to the endless walking around the neighborhood she and I did carrying our colicky first child, and amusement because there’s definitely a touch of schadenfreude you’re allowed to admit to when you witness someone else go through a rite of passage you traversed.
The other day we approached this young mom for the first time. She seemed eager to chat with someone. After sharing our mutual experiences with high maintenance babies, we somehow got into a conversation about Koreatown in Toronto, a place in which she once lived and a place I am quite familiar with myself as a Korean-Canadian.
Me: “So I guess you must’ve learned to love Korean food while you were there.” [Joking.]
Her: “No. Not at all. I’m not a fan of it. I don’t like the taste.”
In response, the only thing I could do was laugh with equal parts discomfort and complete ease.
In Canada, we couch our language to soften those kinds of perceived blows. We say “thank you for…” when we mean “can you please…” and it’s not very cool to admit to a complete stranger that you’ve made up your mind about an entire culture’s cuisine. In other words, we are very aware of keeping our inside voice inside.
Maybe that’s why I find bluntness refreshing.