Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Burden

When I was in graduate school I had a boyfriend from Berlin. We lived together in an apartment near the university.

Götz had habits that took getting used to. He made a sharp intake of breath, for instance, when answering a question in the affirmative. I took this for a personal tic, until years later when I met other northern Germans.

Whenever there was some major handiwork to do, like renovating or painting a room, Götz wore zip-up coveralls rather like a mechanic. I found the outfit overdone. He also considered it normal to put on his swimsuit on the beach, discreetly or under a towel, while I found this embarrassing if not illegal. Disrobing was something to be done privately before arriving, or in a toilet stall.

Most awkward of all, home at night Götz walked about half-dressed or naked with the shades up and the lights on. Though I thought he ought to practice more caution and modesty, Götz didn’t feel that burden. He said it was up to the people outside not to look in.

Photo by Gary Heller


Vrinda said...

I always find living together such a scary business; doesn't matter whether one is married or unmarried.

Ivy said...

The Irish do the affirmative indrawn breath, too. :-)

Ken said...

Affirmative indrawn breath? Is this a sound you use instead of saying (of all things) "Yes"?

How odd.

SarahJane said...

It is clumsy, but sometimes it seems "yes" was not said, just the breath and the acquiescent look.

Another thing that strikes me today is Germans' long, meaningful blink when they want to convey something positive, whether agreement or amusement or simply 'hello there across the room.'

Anonymous said...

lovely photo- did you take it?

i was married into a german immigrant family for some years, your post would have been helpful then, but is still helpful now.

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