Dear Amy: My family and I came to America from the Soviet Union when I was a teenager. We became citizens. I got educated here and own a successful business. I write well and speak correctly, with almost no accent. I feel like I am an American.
I love America, and try to learn new things every day, but I feel like something is missing in me.
Since I was born and spent my formative years in a Communist country (truly like another planet, compared to the USA), my "autopilot" reactions are not like those of American-born people. For instance, my manners, topics of conversation, humor, dress, attitude toward money and even body language sometime seem "foreign."
I feel like it is hurting me to be "culturally different." I don't think I say or do anything straight-up offensive — it's more like a lot of subtle little things. How can I fix this "handicap"?
Amy says: As we approach the celebration of another Independence Day, I appreciate this provocative question, which, honestly, has no "correct" answer.
First, I urge you not to see your own cultural background and habits as a "handicap," but as an asset.
Yes, America is a country. But America is also really a series of concepts, experiments and experiences.
But here is a beautiful "American" ideal (so different from the culture you were raised in): All have the right to be uniquely themselves, and that definitely includes you.
However, reinvention is baked into the American experience, so if you want to affect "American" mannerisms, become a student of American culture. Take a history course or a class on cinema and popular culture. Read Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Sherman Alexie and Jericho Brown. Listen to Dolly Parton. Watch "Singing in the Rain," "Goodfellas," "Barbershop" and "Ramy."
Teach English as a second language to other newer citizens — it might show you how much you actually know. Work at your local polling station during the next election.
When you say or do something you believe is "off," ask a friend to break it down for you. They may tell you what I'm trying to tell you now — which is that your effort makes you the most "American" person they know.
Dear Amy: I've been married for two years. My husband has a difficult time taking my feelings into consideration. He often ignores my calls and texts. He makes plans with his friends when my family has an event they have invited us to.
I am tired of this. Everyone else sees him as this "great guy," but behind closed doors, he's not so great. I don't know what to do.
Amy says: Your marriage is still young. You and your husband both entered the marriage with the knowledge you gleaned from your own parents. He might be re-creating his own father's style, and you might carry your own mother's experiences and expectations about marriage.
Being a good spouse is a learned experience. It's really a question of being on the same team. Teammates have each other's back. They also grant each other occasional "outs."
Should you put one another first? Absolutely. But must he attend all of your family's events? I hope not. There is room for negotiation and compromise.
You both might learn from reading "What Makes a Marriage Last: 40 Celebrated Couples Share With Us the Secrets to a Happy Life," by married power couple Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue (2020, HarperOne).
Send questions to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.