November 17, 2000
Sir Christopher Meyer, KCMG
3100 Massachusetts Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Sir Meyer,
Living in New York is not easy for a young bachelor. Throw a rock in any direction and you will hit a man who is better looking, better dressed, better educated and just plain better than yourself. Sit at any given barstool and you're rubbing shoulders with the poet laureate of Lithuania or the bungee-fishing champion of Norway. That's what makes this town great. But how many times must I go out to find the finest examples of American womanhood married to, coupled with or fawning shamelessly over some dog-faced "bloke" from Devonshire?
"I hear that accent and my knees get weak," my female friends say. Mind you, these women tear apart Proust like so many Tinker Toys. But unleash a British drawl, be it Liverpudlian, Cockney or the crisp cadence of an Eton boy, and their critical faculties fly out the window, as they turn from urbane sophisticate to swooning sycophant in seconds. This so-called British charm is nothing more than a continuation of the colonial relationship. While our country had a successful political revolution, it never fully unshackled itself from the culture of its colonial master, and it's men like me that foot the bill.
At risk of seeming unduly xenophobic, I ask you to require all British males to be chaperoned by spouse, fiancée or their mums while in this country. I can compete with bungee fishers, I can run circles around investment bankers, but I cannot compete with that accent! Have you any idea what it's like trying to construct an exotic mystique for yourself when you're a native of Westchester County? Do you have any idea?
Help a brother out.
Kenneth H. Cleaver
The British Embassy responds:
November 28, 2000
Dear Mr. Cleaver,
Thank you for your letter of 17 November.
I feel your pain, as they say here. I did not realise, until I had received your letter, that my married state had deprived me of a cornucopia of conquests that would have avenged New Orleans, Yorktown and the rest.
Do not despair. You too can have a knee-weakening accent. Just get a subscription to BBC America and take a pick of the plethora of British accents on display. It is easier than learning German. Do tell me when you have your first success and which British accent most helped.