So, it’s that time of year again. I really hate birthdays. With a passion. Especially in Germany. I swear this must be the only country on earth where YOU are expected to spend all day brewing coffee for an endless stream of relatives and friends. The flat is trashed, you are exhausted, and the only mitigating factor is the pile of new bathroom condiments on the side table. Yes, enough shampoo and shower gel to keep the whole cast of Orange is the New Black happy for a week.
So after years of being mobbed by various well-meaning members of my German family and circle of friends, attempts to fend them off explaining I wanted some “me time” on my birthday, I gave up the fight, and decided I might as well throw a decent party with fun music where, instead of making coffee I could get the barman to rustle up 50-odd Pimm’s on ice (aspirational British that’s me down).
But throwing a big party is just as much hard work as making coffee, well, at least at my age, where I have this misguided idea that I am responsible for networking people and ensuring their comfort. No longer can I rely on the tried and tested “Ey, is that a beer? Where did you get that?” ice-breaker conversation that used to do just fine upon entering a stranger’s kitchen. Many parties would pass without me ever having to leave the side of the fridge door again, snogs included.
But things change. Now people try and break the ice with phrases like “So what do YOU do?” and “How do you know BritBitch?”
Anyways, party was ok. I realised that I have lots of friends who have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, but luckily the language of music kicked in at everyone’s third Pimm’s and everyone stopped trying to talk and shook their dance leg*, as we say here in Germany.
Luckily a good girlfriend from London was in town, and the next night she dragged me out to the down and dirty western side of town where she had spent a good part of her misspent youth.
When I suggested a few bars of repute she asked me, in her iconic way:
“So do you want to have fun, or do you want to stand around looking at men looking at you, looking at them, looking at you?”
“Fun, please,” I answered meekly.
As she works in the rarified world of fashion, she tended to gravitate towards and be surrounded by a constant stream of beautiful, charming and very funny men. Who are more often than not gay. (Well, apart from her young Venezuelan lover, but more of that another time…) So, we headed to “insert-obscure-German-bar-name-here” which had walls of glass with lots of bodies squeezed up against them, and they were all men. All of them. So I thought, hmm, won’t they resent a couple of fag hags breaking in on the party? Oh, how wrong I could be. “Hi darlin’! Where you from?” “You’re Irish!” “Yes I am,” went the conversations… Squeezed into a hot bar with about 100 rather handsome young men, whilst knowing they weren’t in the least bit interested in me as a potential “dance partner”, was at once liberating and disconcerting. They were all so friendly, and happy to interrupt their own conversations to talk to you. In the course of 2 hours I met 5 complete strangers, had been hugged and cuddled, complimented, laughed with and at, and all round had a great time. I am thinking of suggesting it as a therapy approach: “Gay Care” provisions for women lacking in self-esteem or just in need of a cuddle.
Welcome to Gay Care, the new kind of Day Care for women in need of a cuddle…
The next night we headed to a normal bar. Ok so I did choose the one Saturday of the year where Fresher’s Week was just kicking off, so my normal local bar which usually covers an age range of 20 to 50 had morphed into club-21 wonderland, complete with DJ playing “get lucky”. My friend and I grabbed our (crappy) gin tonics and fled, glasses and all. Headed to a bar more conducive to our age group. But German hetero men really do not seem to want to have fun.
They are too busy pretending not to look at you. You know, heaven forbid, you might accuse them of coming on to you or something. We spent the evening standing next to the coat rack talking to each other (not that that isn’t wonderful, but we could’ve done that just as well on my sofa). And the only convo I had with a guy was when he came to get his coat and I instinctively went to help him because my coat was hanging on top of his, and he snapped “Don’t worry, I would’ve put it back!” like I was accusing him of stealing my bloody ASOS coat. Crikey.
So men, get a grip. Women also go out to have a good time. So let’s take a leaf out of the gay party people’s user manual and smile at each other once in a while.
*Das Tanzbein schwingen