The Arrogance of Enlightenment: Ugh, Yoga

Yogis can be such arrogant assholes.

This whole enlightenment bullshit, this holier-than-thou attitude of some dude just because he can stick his foot behind his ear is just sooooo aggravating. I mean, come on, I’ve got a ballerina’s hip flexors and could pick my nose with my pinky toe but you don’t see me charging everyone 20 Euros an hour and flashing my taint. Sorry, that’s gross. I shouldn’t say that.

But is it any grosser than being in a carpeted room filled with barely-dressed people sticking their asses in your faces while sweating profusely? The only thing grosser is going to a totally normal yoga class wanting to get your stretch on and having to deal with some balding, pot-bellied guy who hasn’t shaved in a week and ate onions for dinner last night putting his hands on your hips to “deepen your stretch.” I’ll deepen your stretch, bub, now get your filthy hands off me.

I’ve been into yoga for half my life. And by into, I mean I have done it on and off, treating it like the whim it should be and not the life-devotional practice a lot of people experiencing life crises treat it as. I am not by any means ready to join the cult that requires you sell your belongings and only wear white pants (literal, not metaphoric, blrrrgghhh) and chant to whatever goddess has a dozen hands. I am not going to accuse my kid of having done wrong in a past life to have been born to me, as one of my bat-shit acquaintances from yoga class has done. And I most certainly am not going to talk about chakras and healing with you because even if I do get a little esoteric at times, yoga is and will forever in my brain be affiliated not with religion but with fitness. An old-person’s tumbling class, if you will.

A couple years ago, long before diva was born, I somehow got it into my brain that I should bone up on my yoga speak and maybe try to earn a few bucks with my ability to do backbends and whatnot and so I tried to get active in the local yoga scene and  get certified to teach. At first I thought yoga teachers could only be people who know something about anatomy (like med school dropouts) but then my sister, the artist, got certified and I realized anybody can be a yogi if he or she just pays enough money. It’s a giant fucking scam, I tell you, but anyway…. a traveling yogi from San Francisco, in town for a yoga conference, popped into Cologne a few days early and ended up staying at our house for like a week. He and Herr Lederhosen got ludicrously stoned for two days straight and he regaled us with tales of wintering in Brazil, where, he admitted, he only taught because the women were beautiful and wore next to nothing while crouching down on all fours and they worshipped him because he could do a turtle pose and spoke in platitudes. A misogynist boner’s heaven.

And one that a number of dudes seem to have found in recent years. Because while the majority of the participants in my classes are women (like 99%), more than half the time, the teachers are now men. I think they’ve been clued in due to the success of one guy who grew up in India and moved to Germany and has garnered a reputation for his tantric undertakings.

At risk of sounding like a man-hater, I just have to say that this is something I can no longer tolerate. I can no longer tolerate these dudes who put on flute music and speak softly and then come over and stick their faces too close to my chest while I’m doing a wheel or who say that I look stronger than I think I am and need to puuuuush myself (I know I have nice, toned arms, asshole, but I’m not pushing this stress because my shoulder hurts and not because I’m a wussy girl but thanks for pigeonholing me, jerk… now shove off). And I certainly can not tolerate the insecure blonde at the front of the class who’s always trying to get the dudes’  attention and whose shorts are so tight, everyone else is betting at how many minutes into class before she has a lip slip. It’s almost making me contemplate going to the studio run by lesbians but they only have one shower there. Instead, I’m trading in my yoga mat for some boxing gloves. At least there, I know what I’m in for: I’m going to be surrounded by grunting men who like to take their shirts off. But they won’t touch me, and I appreciate that. The gym is not a pick-up joint.

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Learning German: Sexist Gender Articles

In an inspired burst, I signed up for a seminar this weekend on German articles. Because there’s no better way to spend a sunny November Saturday than by trying to discern the centuries-old logic that categorized German words into masculine, feminine, and neutral.

It’s appropriate timing for the course, I suppose, seeing as Germany just added the option to check “intersex” on birth certificates, so gender’s all over the news. And after eight years here, I may very well soon need to validate my love for the country by testing my linguistic abilities. It was one of my goals for the year — to stop speaking toddler German and start speaking like a real, live Deutscher, and one of the reasons I sound like a two-year-old is because I say Das Tisch instead of Der Tisch (who knew a table could be masculine? I certainly didn’t).

Because I learned German in a roundabout way, I missed the first, very important vocabulary-building lessons and have acquired all my nouns haphazardly, so I was really hoping this weekend would be a great way to gain that knowledge back. You know, learn tricks like “when it ends in -e, it’s likely going to be die”, i.e., die Lampe. And I did learn that. The teacher was very nice and passed around photocopies from a Duden grammar book and we learned all the endings that have definite rules about gender.

And then he said, “But that’s only like 10 percent of German nouns. The rest you just have to try and figure out on your own. I suggest pasting notecards up around the house.”

Oh fuck that noise. Taping postcards up in my house? What am I, a teenager?

I’ll admit, I’m a horrible student. Most teachers are. I very nearly got up and walked out after that first 15 minute introduction. But I held my breath and made a mental note to oversleep for class on Sunday (I did and skipped five of the seminar’s eight hours, and getting a blessedly long night of rest).

Needless to say, I didn’t learn much, but I did gain some insight into German ways of thinking. Because, as the teacher explained, assigning gender to an object comes from the centuries-old conception of what’s masculine and what’s feminine. That’s why, he says, the sun is feminine in German. “Here in the north, we welcome the sun because it makes us warm. In Spain, though, where the sun can be deadly with its heat, it’s masculine.” Um, ok? So anything not cuddly or sweet is masculine?

By this logic, he explained, people refer to cats consistently in the feminine form. Back in the day, he said, cats were domestic and useful, just like women. That’s also why dogs are referred to in their masculine form: because they’re volatile and aggressive, just like men.

Right.

That’s why schnapps and whiskey and vodka and everything is masculine? But what about beer? Why is beer neutral? Because it’s neither deadly nor cuddly?

Fuck this language and its nonsense. Imma gonna keep talking like a toddler, slurring my way past the articles. Because it’s just too much to think, “Hmmm, would a 16th century sexist think this chair is sturdy like a woman or since it can hold a lot of weight more like a man,” every damn time I open my mouth.

@Everydaysexism at the PentaHotel

I really enjoyed my stay at the Penta Hotel in Leipzig. Cliff recommended it and it was within walking distance to where I was doing interviews so I snatched up a very reasonably priced room without knowing much more about the place. It was a bit off the beaten path, just on the other side of the square from the Old Town, but that made it ideally quiet despite being in the center of everything.

I could write loads on how ridiculously awesome it was to stay in a hotel with a *gasp* comfortable king-sized bed all to myself — one that was actually one complete bed and not two mattresses shoved together. One with bright windows and a ridiculous terrace to enjoy the sun on. One that had pickles in a can in the vending machine. One I actually wanted to come back to after being videotaped for 12 hours straight, even if all the businessmen getting drunk in the lobby were Americans who talked too loudly about all the bullshit they thought they were experts on, like how to make a proper gin and tonic.

I’m not much of a business traveler, so maybe I’ve been living in the dark on the brothel that these hotels become at night, but getting through that lobby after a certain hour was a bit like working my way through a nightclub during a Ueber-30, aka Gammelfleisch, aka Resteficke party. And forget the swimming pool. I only had to set one toe in the pool, dreaming of a lapped swim, before some jackass started hollering at me from the whirlpool to come join him where the water was warm. Talk about schmierpapier.

Anyway, as lovely as this hotel was, it was full of platitudes that were aimed at making the place seem more inviting. The notes on the shampoo were cute and quaint and distracted from the fact that they were holding your typical soap-in-a-bottle hotel shampoo that messes up your hair. The shower curtain reminded me to take care of myself well after a long sweaty run. But then I went downstairs and saw these signs, first, by the “office” kiosk where I printed out my train ticket back home.

workWork is the path to enjoyment.

Uh, nope, not really. Also, is anyone else reminded of the sign “Arbeit macht frei” or is it just me being too sensitive?

Then, there was this everyday sexism on the signs to the toilets:

footballOMG, I have a penis so I must love soccer.

shoppingOMG I have a circle crotch so I must love shopping.

Now, I’m as used to the everyday sexism in Germany as the next girl, but this is a ridiculous blight on an otherwise nice hotel.

By the way, I don’t have a penis but I do write about both football and shopping. Amazing and gender-breaking, I know.

**Clearly, this is not a sponsored post. I wish.