Monday, May 26, 2008

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Indubitably in the throes of culture shock, I mentioned jokingly in an earlier post that the sheer amount of stupidity, or Dummheit, in my life had reached critical mass, a statement which, like an eternal returning, keeps coming back to haunt me. Now these lame brains who conspire to make my life a living hell may come in all stripes, but es ist egal , because I'm an equal opportunity misanthrope. But there is a particularly insidious form of American obtuseness which really roasts my bratwurst, and it comes in the comely shape of the blonde California airhead. I had been privvy to the Airhead diaspora, being an erstwhile resident of the West Coast, and having seen firsthand the kind of havoc these apathetic, self-involved nattering nabobs can wreak, yammering away about their gym memberships or the fruits of their nail salon sallies, their yoga dalliances and their ersatz bronzing sessions. Not to mention the hotchpotch spirituality ("Did you know you could send Reiki healing long distance?"), spreading shallowness over everything like Nutella clinging to a crepe.

Having crossed the Atlantic to avoid such phenomena, you would think I would be reasonably safe in the island of icy Euro-hauteur that is Berlin. Unfortunately, one of these gold-tinted turds washed Deutschkurs, yet, flattening her vowels in a nasal LA whine, and lazily making no attempt whatsoever at a Deutsch accent . Even my good friend Yumiko, always the dipomat, couldn't resist making a dig, doing a spot-on impersonation which had them rolling in the aisles. Which is funny because, what with Yumiko's stark Japananese accent (although she is way advanced for the erste stufel) I can barely understand her at the best of times.

So one day this monstrosity in flip-flops comes into class, chunky sunglasses fused to her head like Chanel antennae. Alex, a student who comes aus den Schweiz, is proudly announcing to the class that he has smoked his first joint in a gay bar the night before. Then for some reason this girl, we'll call her "J", looks at me and expostulates: "I really want Brian to take me to a gay bar!" I have no idea why she would focus on me, I mean don't think I had told anyone in the class I was gay, but certainly wouldn't deny it. It's not that have any hang-ups about gay, in fact I have never been in the closet, but I was just riding that German wave of not talking about anything private. In Berlin, for the most part, it's a non-issue, and frankly, I was enjoying the anonymity. Some Americans, once they learn you're a bona-fide fudge-packer, try to control you, and I wasn't having any of that. For some reason her gaydar homed in on me, though frankly I am no more or less effeminate than most red-blooded, foulard-sporting European men, gay or straight (danke Gott). Then she starts blathering on about gay pride parades, as if this is going to somehow curry favor, but it only aroused disgust in me. As if gay life is some kind of cake walk as her life as a California spoonie had been, an excuse to party. Frankly, I am not some fucking porthole into a gay universe for some dumb-as-a-box-of-bricks debutante, and at this point I would have loved to have taken her to a gay bar -- for instance a heavy leather/fisting night at a gay S and M club, and see if she ever wants to go to a "gay bar" after that. Talk about throwing fresh meat in with the piranhas.

Now don't get me wrong here, leute, I'm no separatist -- some of my best friends are "straight" (although, truth be told, I know no one who is 100 percent so). In fact I have taken some of them to leather bars. No problem, when you're cool and you're not shouting about it (not that you have to be "cool" to attend one -- oh, no. Just not simultaneously kicking us in the teeth and wanting to take part in the fun). I definitely think a mixed environment is healthy, but if society is moving past the point of labelling people (as I believe Berlin has for the most part), then why the need for shouting "Gay gay gay!" all the time? One day, these silly pride parades will fade out, everyone will be outed as the polymorphous peverts they are, and Clueless gal won't see us through her microscope as these exotic fauna who really know how to party. Snooze.

Anyway, Miriam, our Lehrerin -- who I believe is one of Sappho's Sluggers, if only because she once referred to her other half as "lieblingspartner" (although I guess this habit is spreading, as in America, to the heterosexual "community") -- clearly took umbrage at J's aggressively patronizing ignorance and transparent culture-vulture-ism in this area, but took pains to patiently explain that "in Deutschland, sind die gay Bars ein Treffpunkt fur die Schwules leute..nicht fur die anderen zu beobachten." In other words, if you want to watch the wildlife, go to the fucking zoo!

Cut to my farewell luncheon a couple of weeks later. Leider, somehow J piggybacked on the einladung. We're sat there at a corner Mexican restaurant in deepest Kreuzberg (which, oddly, doesn't have margaritas) and J, during an unrelated conversation, for no apparent reason fairly leaps out of her chair:

"HEY! When are we going to ein GayBar?"

Yumiko, god bless her, remembering our dialogue with Miriam, with near-disdain and one eyeball on me, slipping into the role of firm diplomat, points an explicative finger at the offender: "Das ist unhoflich. Die Gay bars sind Treffpunkt. Nicht fur anderen."

"Aber, in die USA, konnen alles zu die Gay Bars gehen. Viel spass!"

"Nein. Das ist nur ein Treffpunkt fur die schwules Leute."

Lurching into full-on Trickster mode:

"Why would you ask me and not someone else to take you to a gay bar anyway? Why would you assume that I'm gay?"

Awkward pause. Then lamely: "Varum nicht?" (auf Englisch, why not?)

Yumiko again asks why she would want to go to a gay bar.

Switching gears a little, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

"Vielleicht mochtet sie die lesbichen Lebensstil probierien" (Perhaps she would like to sample the lesbian lifestyle) I opine.

Everyone laughs out loud. J is demonstrably horrifed, reddening visibly -- as if I'd accused her of a Crimie. "Varum? Varum sagst du das?" she asks, reviving the issue of homophobia with the raising of eyebrows.

"Varum nicht?"

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