The Metamorphosis Restyled: A Newly Single Man

So your wife left you, huh? You poor thing! Here, let’s dry those tears and get you started on the path to feeling better… and you know what that means: it’s makeover time.

Don’t worry, this won’t hurt. In fact, if you’re like most men, you’ll come out of this break-up relatively unscathed. And if you follow these steps, you’ll find an ersatz wifey to clean up after your messes in no time.*

  1. The makeover can’t begin until you finally reach the realization that she’s gone. To get to that point, you have to spend a weekend getting smashing drunk and telling everyone you encounter what a terrible, horrible, awful bitch you were married to. It’s not attractive, but: Camaraderie. It’ll come in handy.
  2. Use this camaraderie to ask all your friends if they know any nice girls. Realize everyone you know is still married. Download Tinder “just to see what’s out there.” Take a lot of selfies in poorly lit places and swipe right on every picture. Just in case.
  3. While you’re still not really “feeling it” — still sleeping on your friend’s couch because you trust that at any moment, she’ll let you back in — stop taking care of yourself. Spend all your free time either at work or browsing Tumblr to get ideas on what men should look like nowadays.
  4. Stop cutting your hair.
  5. Grow out your facial hair. Beards and man buns are in, you know, and all that money you’ll save on hair cuts you can invest elsewhere.
  6. Like in sneakers. Nike Frees. The brighter and more colorful, the better.
  7. And jeans. Dark wash. Just a smidgen too big.
  8. And white Hanes T-shirts and a couple of button-downs. If you’re the Oxford type at work, make these “casual” shirts the flannel variety.
  9. Join a rock climbing gym, where you will go and hang out on the weekends once you discover that alcohol isn’t all it’s cracked up to be now that you’re middle-aged.
  10. Realize that shit, you’re middle-aged. Dial down the age limit on Tinder. Swipe right but never ever contact anyone.
  11. Get a tattoo. A sleeve.
  12. Start rolling up the sleeves on your flannel to show off your tattoos.
  13. Let your beard grow as long as you can. Learn how to use hair gel and beard oil.
  14. Find ways to show off the abs and biceps you’ve got now that you’re climbing. Lift up the hem of your Hanes to wipe the sweat off your brow. Switch out your gym Tees for tank tops. Be confident in your belief that someone somewhere has got to be paying attention to you.
  15. Start drinking green juice and eating chia seeds and ordering the vegan option extra loudly in every restaurant you go to.
  16. Learn guitar. Or Tango. Or basket weaving. Whatever it is that attracts the ladies nowadays.
  17. Hit on all your female co-workers. And babysitters. Basically any woman who crosses your path. One of them will say yes.
  18. After she says yes, take her to her place. If you can, take pictures. On your phone. Make sure your ex can discover them, sit back and wait for the lawyer’s papers.
  19. Pack up all your flannels, say goodbye to your friend and his uber-annoyed wife, and move directly from their couch to your new girlfriend’s bed.
  20. Complain to everyone about how your ex keeps asking for alimony. Tell your new girl how terrible your ex was and how you had never ever done anything to deserve her insane bitchiness. Beg for sympathy without ever taking any responsibility. Bathe in it. Sympathetic righteousness gives a glow unlike any other.
  21. With all that money you’re saving by living off your new girlfriend, buy a bike. Not just any bike. A lightweight fixxie. White. With thin tires and no gears that costs about the same as a car.
  22. Delete Tinder. Neglect Tumblr.
  23. Shave.
  24. Get a hair cut.
  25. Throw away the flannels.
  26. Get a new pair of Nike Frees, this time black.
  27. Cancel the rock climbing gym. You never have time for that anymore anyway.
  28. Order a big, fat juicy steak. And a liter of beer. Now that you’re partnered up, realize your vanity really was taking up a lot of time and energy that you’d rather expend doing other things. Like planning exotic vacations with your new girl.
  29. Slip back into the old routine of being taken care of. Leave your laundry everywhere. Show up late for dinner. Remind your new girl how much you hated it when your ex nagged.

Congratulations, you’ve come full circle. You’re the same old asshole your ex left. This time, though, don’t fuck it up.

*Though not based on my own personal experience, 6 of 6 new divorcees I have met in the last year have gone through exactly this process. I can tell you: it works. Unfortunately.

What Men Should Never Say to a Single Mom

A couple of weeks ago, a guy I knew announced he was splitting from his wife. It shouldn’t have surprised me. Dude had been flirty for months but since we hardly knew each other, I’d assumed that I was reading these situations incorrectly (not impossible, given that women only recognize flirtation 1/3 of the time) or that he was maybe a little unclear on the touchy-feely boundaries (also not impossible, given that I am American and people in Germany seem to think that means that I like to be touched. I don’t. You put your hand on my arm and I will burn a hole in it with my eyes until you remove it.) This guy really liked to put his hand on my arm. And the small of my back. And ask me if I was dating anyone. Clearly, he was expressing interest but I was too caught up in his being married to notice.

When I finally did notice it, I asked, “How long have you been talking about splitting up?” Because I have ethics and before I can even look at a guy to determine if he’s cute or not, I have to know that he is not attached to someone else. I’m told I’m unusual that way, but whatever. If you’re with someone else, you got no business trying to get in my business.

“Six months,” he said.

They say it takes three years to get over a divorce. Six months would still be a rebound. But rebounds can be fun, right?

“Why are you splitting up?” I asked him.

“It’s her decision. I have no idea.”

Ruh-roh. This could go both ways — she could have someone new in her life or he could be completely tone deaf during their arguments. So I asked her why they were splitting up and she very nicely but not without a lot of hurt in her voice explained that she wasn’t happy with him and that she knew she never could be and that the decision had been a long time coming. Fair enough.

Before I could get interested, though, I needed to know more about their situation so we sat down to chat. I was expecting something similar to what the ex had said, perhaps a confession that he’d found her with another guy. Instead, he proceeded to call his ex an asshole, claim that he had done absolutely nothing wrong in the marriage, and accuse her of being out for his money. Lots of anger. But that wasn’t what bugged me most. It was how familiar it all sounded.

You see, just the week before, I’d sat down with a couple of dads I knew who’d split from their baby mamas so that I could get their perspective on things. Because while in some ways, Diva’s dad is a nice fixture in her life, his presence in it brings me a lot of unnecessary headaches and I’m trying to iron out the wrinkles in the way least detrimental to diva. I thought maybe getting a man’s perspective would help me understand what needed to be done and since her dad and I can’t communicate, maybe these guys would give me some good advice.

After I asked them how they envisioned their roles in their kids’ lives and how best to attain those ideal roles, it became clear very quickly that a) these dads had zero idea of what their baby mamas were juggling at home in terms of responsibilities, that b) they thought the baby mamas were only out for their money, and c) that they personally had done nothing wrong to lead to the demise of the relationship because d) the baby mamas were batshit insane and completely illogical. Also, there was the big statement of entitlement on their parts: “I made this child with my sperm, therefore I am entitled to it.”

It shouldn’t have surprised me. Those are the exact sentiments Herr Lederhosen has. And while I agree wholeheartedly with all the psychologists who say that children need to have their fathers in their lives, I cannot abide men who lack the self-awareness to say “Here’s how I fucked up, this is my role in this situation and here’s what I’m doing to make it better.” I cannot abide any more men who diminish the difficulties that mothers, both single and married, face when raising a child or children while juggling a job. Nor can I ever tolerate hearing again that your child’s mother is “acting crazy for no reason.”

No, she is not acting crazy. You’re not listening.

That’s ultimately what I told that dude with the interest. No one is completely innocent when a marriage comes apart. It might be her request to divorce — and the last stat I read said 2/3 of divorces are initiated by the women because men are too lazy to move out — but that doesn’t mean you didn’t fuck up in some way. That way could be that you couldn’t love her the way she needed to be loved but calling her an asshole (or a Tussi or a bitch, insert your favorite degrading curse here) ain’t going to change that. Sorry, sweets, but it just makes you look bad.

Next time you’re trying to impress the divorcee single mom, admit your mistakes. Show how active you are in your kid’s life. For heaven’s sake do not disparage your ex wife to everyone. Save that for your best friend or your mom.

And here’s the last part, which I can’t emphasize enough: instead of hammering on and on about what sucks in your relationship with your ex and how that impacts your visits with your child, ask her what you can do to make life easier on her. Because nothing is sexier than a guy who, despite all the hurt, actually acknowledges the difficulties of the mom raising his kid mostly alone and does something to lighten that load.

#DailyDeutsch Diatribes

Trying something new on the blog: a post a week to help you learn German with me. Since we’re all advanced speakers, you should know these are only going to be words for, ahem, advanced people. Advanced of age. Of maturity. People who have no qualms about snickering over silly gaffes and ridiculous slang. Who don’t mind me using words like schnitzel or schnauzer (Jesus, that image is just, ugh, get out of my mind! And also, be thankful I don’t have Photoshop to provide you with the image in my mind and I can instead just give you this little cuddle love).

schnauzerIf you follow me via Facebook, you’d already know today’s #Dailydeutsch would come from this ridiculous thread on the troll-filled Toytown forum titled, “Why are German girls so rude and impolite?” It’s a fun read if you’ve got tolerance for the kind of conversation among dullards that goes something like “I’m trying to date online and no one’s responding to me so it’s clearly not something I’m doing wrong and I can blame it on a whole people so….” followed by “that’s not true at all because this one person I met once proved that wrong and OP you sound like an ass.”

While it’s true that the OP does sound like an ass who’s really having difficulty meeting chicks, the tips he gets for meeting “girls” after his assy-ness has been verified, are positively hysterical. Tip one: go to a yoga class at the VHS. Tip two: socialize with people you do not want to date.

And the best tip, from which today’s new German word comes: “…get hammered and go dancing, go crazy and simply take the next best chick regardless her looks and have fun. … ‘Resteficken’ is a valid method…”

Resteficken. I guess that’s what When You Live In Cologne says the Venus Celler on a Saturday a.m. is good for? Consider yourselves informed.

On Not Asking Guys Out

Ages ago, I posted a call for confidence boosters on my personal Facebook page. I was thinking of it as a more general, give me your best mantra to get through the tough times kind of call for proposals, but what I got in response was all dating-relevant. Tips like “You’re cute. Go for it” and “Everybody’s afraid of rejection but that gets them nowhere” were followed by “Try online dating. It worked for me.”

Of course, my friends are much more eloquent than that, but you get the gist. What could have been a Facebook wall full of platitudes that could help me power through a shitty run turned into a crowd-sourced push toward asking a guy out. Which initially pissed me off, because why was everyone just assuming I was after a date and not after a running mantra or some sort of Viagra for my impotent self-confidence? But I took the ball and rolled with it, shortly thereafter posting this blog about how I was having difficulty (to put it mildly) with the whole notion that it may be true that in Germany women do all the work leading up to a possible date.

After a whole lot of nonsense and back-and-forths with friends much more confident than myself about how to actually wrangle a date, I finally decided to attempt to be a German woman and ask a guy out.

I won’t go into the details here but I will just note that the whole “being rendered mute in dude’s presence” thing I wrote about in the other blog post did not ever change. It still hasn’t changed and it’s been forfuckingever since this happened. And it certainly didn’t suddenly change while I was attempting to ask him out.

Here’s what’s weird, though. Something in me changed (albeit briefly). Because immediately after I did the asking (like seriously hours later), I hopped a train for Copenhagen (nothing says I’m interested like asking a guy on a date and then saying oh, yeah, by the way, it’ll have to be in a week or so since I’m leaving town). And suddenly, strangely, men were interested in me. I must’ve been giving off serious pheromones because literally, on the train ride north, the guy sitting next to me was interested in getting to know me better (I wasn’t). And then some random guy I was interviewing was very interested in getting to know me better (I wasn’t). And the streak continued for like a week straight, where everywhere I went, some dude was asking for my phone number. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Everywhere I went when the Diva was not with me, some dude was asking for my phone number (nothing serves as an invisible cloaking device as well as a stroller).

And that’s when I was like, woah, wait a minute! I thought the ladies had to do all the work here?!? Where did all these men come from? And why are they asking me for my phone number?

I had bought into a myth perpetuated, I believe, to allow the women to feel some modicum of control. But it’s a scam, I tell you, this whole “woman on top” fantasy here in the Fatherland. It’s part of the Germany-specific fairy tale version of feminism that makes women believe they have some sort of equal-opportunity say in their dating lives. And it’s this exact scam that has kept many lovely Teutonic ladies single way past their prime. Not because they’re as terrified as I am of asking. But because the guys they ask are too soft to be the right guys for such strong women and the women figure this out right-quick and drop those dudes in search of a more equal partner (whom they never find because they are too busy asking the wrong assholes out and their equal is actually doing the asking himself).

I decided shortly after I tried to ask the dude out that I was having none of this fairy tale anymore. If someone wants me, he can let me know. Though I’m sure there are respectful gentlemen being asked out, if even at the beginning of the relationship, a man cannot be bothered to muster the courage to chat a lady up, the likelihood that guy’s going to see his future wifey as a replacement for his mom is pretty high. At least in my random sampling of the one relationship I’ve been in during my entire 30+ year existence, that was the case. And I’m too old to take care of another person who’s not pulling his own weight anymore. I don’t want the power imbalance that comes with someone thinking I wear the non-gender-specific pants in the family when really I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing most of the time. I would very much prefer a partner who contributes equally to the relationship and I think for me, at least at this point, that’s going to have to be shown through a little wooing on his part.

Then again, since I have turned down every single man who’s come within ten feet of me in the last year, I may not be the best expert on the whole gender dynamic aspect of dating. What say you, readers? Who should do the asking?

Flirten, auf Deutsch

Since @Riayn and I have had several twittersations about this, I thought I’d just try and formulate some sort of go-to guide on how to flirt in German(y).

I’ll caveat this by saying I am not qualified at all to speak on the subject. I am The World’s Worst Flirter (TM) as anyone who’s had to endure a night out with me knows firsthand and has expressed shock and disbelief at. “But you’re so pretty and self-confident, you can just walk up to anyone and make him melt,” my friends say. Bullshit. Then again, I am neither pretty nor self-confident enough to ever just walk up to a guy. Also: I am the pickiest person in the universe and it is a seriously rare occasion when a man catches my fancy and I refuse to flirt if I don’t mean it so I literally have no practice at flirting.

The closest I came to flirting recently was when a friend-of-a-friend had me in tears of laughter over the summer but that was a pretty one-sided flirtation on his part. I didn’t have to do anything but laugh. And while the ability to make me laugh is hot hot hot, it’s not the only pre-requisite for doing the no-pants dance and I was for sure not interested enough to move the conversation beyond a good, long chuckle. If I were another, less-picky, person, this guy could’ve had me just for trying, because while I may have some serious biceps after all this time I’ve been spending at the gym, I still believe men have to do the heavy lifting (how not very feminist of me). And after learning that in Germany women do the work upfront, I have been seriously questioning my decision to spend my single days in this particular land.

I thought maybe my friend was leading me on when she said this, but every single female I know who’s dated in Germany has confirmed that women here do have the upper-hand when it comes to instigation. (They also confirmed that alcohol is not required in these situations, so I guess the Guardian wasn’t all wrong and I actually don’t have to perfect the “duck-and-cover” skills my English friends have honed after years of being lunged at by drunk Brits; let’s be honest, though: alcohol could really help in this scenario).

Anyway, this summer I half-assedly attempted this whole German technique of asking a guy out. I failed. And I don’t think I failed because he wasn’t/isn’t interested, but because I could.not.do.it. Literally I could not get a single flipping word to escape my lips. I still can’t and it’s been months now. Ridiculous, I know. But rule one in Germany is that the women start (and continue) the conversation and when words fail, so do I.

Although I’m told that here it may not actually have to be a conversation; it can just be a look … because eye contact is imperative while flirting. Significant amounts and just the right kind, too. In the US, this would be something akin to sneaking a glance, making brief contact then looking away, smiling shyly. That shit doesn’t work in Germany, where the icy stare of death is a common form of greeting and anything less signals that you are either a shifty-eyed foreigner not to be trusted or a totally disinterested bitch. I have been here for seven arduous years and I still cannot get a grip on the eye contact rules and am therefore known by many as that totally disinterested American bitch. And that’s just at the playground, nowhere where flirting is the task at hand.

This shifty-eyed tendency actually comes in handy at bars, where I promise you, I am not out looking for dates but am instead swilling whiskey and singing Vanilla Ice with my friends only because doing this by myself at home is frowned upon. Because of my complete inability to make eye contact with strangers who approach me, my friends have resorted to calling me the heartbreaker. While young men are asking my friends, “zu mir oder zu dir?” (No shit. Write that down. I’m told it’s a highly successful pick-up line though I actually haven’t seen its rate of success personally.) or “I promise to let you dominate me” (Who are these strapping young gents?), I have earned my nickname because of the sheer number of times guys have walked up to me and almost immediately walked away when I don’t look at them.

This is okay at pubs because I know I will never find Dream Dude in a bar, but seriously, I wish I could get over this for that rare occasion when someone catches my fancy and I can’t stop looking over his shoulder or at his hands. Maybe you can try it and let me know how it goes? You know, like is it a staring contest, trying to not be the one to look away first? How long does this no-blinking thing have to go on before one of you just jumps the other one?

If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! For me, chatting up a guy + making eye contact with him means only one thing: zero interest. This is actually kind of a dream come true for like a nano-second but then I feel guilty for shamelessly holding a conversation with a dude knowing that it will go all of nowhere. But basically, if you make it this far and there is sexual tension, this is the part of “flirting” where you get to be yourself and tell funny stories and giggle a little bit. Not all that different in Teutonia. Actually, being Anglo-Saxon here is a definite plus because all that politeness training you get as a kid goes a really long way toward getting someone to like you. Nodding and um-hming while someone else speaks might normally be bad form in Germany, but in flirt mode, it’s a sign of complete and total interest. Also, you have the added advantage of everyone knowing instantaneously that you aren’t from around there and so the flirtee has fodder to keep the conversation going (“Your accent? It’s sooo cute….”)

Unfortunately, being Anglo-Saxon is also a huge disadvantage if you aren’t interested at all and can lead to some pretty dicey situations, which I experienced a few months back when I, while working, asked a guy a seemingly innocent question (I’m a journalist. I ask questions for a living. I am NOT hitting on you if I’m asking you a question. In fact, if I WERE hitting on you, you would know this only because I am too dumbstruck to speak). This question turned into an interview, turned into a nice, friendly chat, which turned into him telling me how hard it was being a divorced middle-aged man and dreaming out loud of our future together, which turned into him trying to talk his way into my private space. Sorry, dude, that was just my being American. My bad. I’ll be bitchier next time. Which brings me to my final flirting advice, which is:

While flirting, choose your words wisely. This is especially important if German is not your first language. It could mean the difference between telling someone you’re dressing up like a Smurf for Halloween or dressing like a slut (I will never ever get those two straight).

Also, if you aren’t interested in a person, do not ever say “I’m not really looking for a relationship. Just really loving being single right now.” It just eggs on the belief that you’d be a perfect one-night stand.

I’m afraid, folks, that’s all I’ve got for you for now, but I do hope it helps, especially now that fall is here and biologists say we should all be holing up indoors together. But really, this blog is all about the dialogue, so tell me, oh wise ones: how does one flirt in German?

Those Kinky Germans

You know that Olympic sex article I referenced just a few days ago? Can I just ask: why does it always have to be the Germans who are kinky?

At the Lillehammer Games in 1994, two German bobsledders tried using their medals as currency. “They made it clear that they’d trade me their gold for all kinds of other favors,” Sheinberg says. “I said jokingly, ‘Thanks, but Tommy Moe has a medal. I’ll play with his.'” The Germans were hoping for some group fun, which is not uncommon in the village. One skier tells a story from the Vancouver Games in 2010, when six athletes — “some Germans, Canadians and Austrians” — got together at a home outside the Whistler village. “It was a late-night whirlpool party. It turned into a whirlpool orgy.”

Of course it was the Germans. It had to be the Germans. But as a very nice, very prim, very vanilla kind of girl, the more I read about Germans and their kinks, the more afraid I am of what the dating scene will reveal to me here.