Ask my friends, I am a sweet natured soul. I will bring you soup if you are feeling poorly, and I will smile sweetly even as you take my last cookie.
But some things make me ANGRY.
And by the time you reach my age, you will know, “we” (society) don’t like angry women. Be honest, society doesn’t even like “neutral face in repose” women. No, we have to be Pharell-friggin-Williams-happy just to be considered normal women.
Cheer up, luv, it might never happen! (This is the male equivalent of me on a normal day.)
The other day my friend was standing in line at the cash till at Kaisers (Germany’s equivalent of Sainsburys). Just for all you lucky non-Germans out there living in capitalism-gone-crazy-land where you get fired if you don’t zap 10 barcodes every 4 seconds, in Germany it is quite normal to wait 15 minutes in line for the privilege of paying for your groceries. Let’s just say it’s not my favourite part of the day after working, picking up the kids and picking out food for our dinner. I try to turn it into “meditation-time-of-the-day”, thinking, “Oh look wow, I have time to just BE for 15 minutes because I have absolutely no other option.” Works almost never but I am not giving up just yet.
So my friend must have been doing something similar and had her “resting face” face on. Ok and we ain’t 20 anymore. Gravity is having its dirty little way with us. But despite this, she is a happy soul. Good man, good kids, good genes, great skincare products and great coffee shop on the street corner. What more does a Berlin gal need? So she definitely wasn’t miserable.
And this TOURIST in front of her at the till starts SINGING about MISERABLE Germans….I mean, really??? Said tourist was a younger woman, English or American and not quite hitting the high notes. But the gist of it was, that Germans are miserable and should cheer the fuck up. Yeah, thanks for that. My friend isn’t even German. (Like 90% of the population in New-Prenzlauer Berg). She happens to be Polish. But she has been here long enough to bark out our Brötchen-order in a Berlin-appropriate fashion.
You try standing in a queue every day of the week flanked by visitors to the city having deep conversations about the pros and cons of cotton tote bags over plastic or how cheap the rent is here and where the best club to have darkroom sex is and why the fuck don’t they sell decent bagels. We try to be tolerant, we really do. We are well aware that we are also tourists almost everywhere in the world and also need to buy groceries there.
But where is the sign that says we can’t look miserable if we want to? We are not here for your entertainment! If my friend had been a guy, she could have looked like her wife just walked out with her best friend and her cat just got run over and no one would have raised an eyebrow. Men are always looking miserable. But their resting faces get called things like “enigmatic” “grave” or at the very worst “asshole resting face”. I’ll still take being an asshole over being miserable any old time.
But really, I would just like to actually exist without the whole world assuming they have a right to comment on my exterior. Luckily, usually it’s positive stuff…But sometimes I just want to put a paper bag over my face and not have anyone comment either way. It really doesn’t affect my ability to go buy milk and bread for my kids. It makes me start to understand the women who wear Yashmaks.
Last week I was standing on the pavement across from the selfsame supermarket having a natter with a mother from my older daughter’s class whilst holding my youngest’s hand. This guy, trying to push some newspaper or other, makes the journey all the way across the road and asks if we want a newspaper. Slightly startled at being so rudely interrupted in mid-flow, we both shake our heads, and by way of explanation the guy says “I couldn’t resist coming over, seeing three generations all together in one spot.” My friend and I exchanged looks and started giggling. We were both in the same glorious fifth decade of our lives and neither of us had plans to be a grandmother in the near future. The young dude (18 tops) beat a hasty embarrassed retreat realizing his mistake.
But afterwards, I actually felt kind of angry. a) because he interrupted my conversation and b) because, had we been men, (going as grey as we pleased, thank you) he would never have had the nerve to assume anything about our relative ages c) because he imposed his vision of us on us. There we were, contentedly discussing our latest romantic exploits, she with a New York curator, me with an Italian wide boy, and this overly self-assured guy felt the need to tell us what WE look like to him. Just go ahead and guess how many fucks I don’t give.