A couple years ago, Diva came home from a visit to her dad, bragged to me that he’d let her eat Leberwurst for breakfast and then promptly puked all over the place. It’s a bad habit she has, this puking whenever she eats lunch meat or too many hot dogs and so I sent him a very unhappy text message asking him, a vegetarian, to get his girlfriend to refrain from feeding the kid Leberwurst unless she’d be around to clean the puke up. “She doesn’t need to be a vegetarian,” I told him. “But if she’s going to eat meat, at least make it something she can digest.”
His reply? “It’s not my fault she’s sick. You dress her too thinly. Her kidneys get cold.”
Her kidneys get cold?
Clearly, this was not my ex speaking, it was his girlfriend. A German. Because only Germans believe in the nonsensical notion that it is not viruses or bacteria or digestive issues that make people ill. Germans, an otherwise intelligent people (for the most part, anyway), believe that it is the kalte that makes people sick.
Kalte Fusse, kalte Kopf, Kalte Nieren. Cold feet, cold head, cold kidneys. The German trifecta of illness causes. Forget Ebola or flu or whatever. It’s the cold. That and the draft. The way many people here think, we should all be sick whenever it dips below 20 degrees Celsius and the wind blows. If we’re not, it must be all the precautions we take by dressing appropriately (you know the old saying, “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing” is HUGE here).
And by appropriately, I mean that we are wearing socks at all times. Height of summer, you bet we’ve got black socks beneath the Birkenstocks, no peeptoes allowed. Even in houses with in-floor heating, socks must remain on at all times (except when doing yoga, for whatever reason). Your underwear do not have to be clean (Germans have several times taken the prize for dirtiest skivvies in the annual “Which European country’s people shower the least frequently?” survey with a record-breaking average underwear change coming only every 3 days… alarming stuff, I tell you), but your socks cannot have holes in them and they must go above your ankle bones.
Also required: undershirts. I always thought that those Hanes white ribbed tank tops sewn by 6-year-olds in The Honduras and sold 3 for $10 were only used by suit-wearing dudes to wick away sweat whilst tucked underneath an Oxford or for dudes hanging outside on the porch in the summertime who want to look tough and since I don’t dress like a prep nor a gangster, I have never owned shirtsleeves in my life. Tank tops, yes. Camisoles, yes. Things without sleeves that are loose and made to be seen and not covered up? Yes, yes, yes. But undershirts? I guess this is a thing that German kids and adults alike are required to wear in order to keep their kidneys from getting cold. There’s even a very very popular women’s clothing brand called Kidney Karen whose entire line of products is dedicated to keeping your kidneys warm in an attractive way (see photo):
Never mind that my kidneys are on the inside of my body, which, last I checked, was a balmy 98.6 degrees. And never mind that whenever I do get a cold, it’s my head that hurts and my nose that runs, not my kidneys. I guess here in Germany, bodies are different.
I mean, I get the old wives’ tale that going outside in winter without a hat might make you sick (it doesn’t, but I get it). I also see now the relationship between cold feet and feeling ill (thanks to circulation, cold feet are a symptom of a fever since they don’t feel as hot as soon as the rest of the body does once a fever sets in. So not a cause but co-relation). But when was the last time you were like, woops, there’s that old flu again, hitting me right in the kidneys? I once put on a mini-skirt before going out with a friend for the night and when I asked her what she thought, she said, “I think my kidneys would be too cold in a skirt like that.” Not my legs would’ve been cold (they would’ve been because we all know tights are not *that* warm). And I wasn’t wearing a bauch-frei shirt, either. What in the ever-loving fuck is this belief in cold kidneys?
Anyway, to accommodate Diva’s dad’s girlfriend and her stupid belief in the perils of having cold kidneys, I bought Diva a couple of undershirts and asked her to start wearing them. She refused. She was only three at the time, but she has never been an idiot. “You don’t wear them,” she told me, after noting that her princess dresses didn’t look so pretty with shirt sleeves hanging out underneath. Now, however, two years on, she insists on wearing them every day. And not just wearing them. She has to tuck them into her tights, which she pulls up over her belly button because Papa’s girlfriend told her she’ll get sick otherwise.
So there go all of my efforts to raise a non-nerdy American little girl in the Vaterland. I now have a princess who wears ergonomically correct shoes instead of pink sparkly cowboy boots. A girl with undershirts to match every pair of underwear she owns (which she changes at least once a day because although she may be half-German, I will NOT let her be that Deutsch). But so help me she starts mumbling on about cold kidneys or wearing black socks with her Birkenstocks, I am sending her to the States for some style reformation. Some of these Germanisms I just cannot abide.