Taking the first step in different dating cultures

While enjoying lunch with a new friend, Solo, I asked her if she had met any interesting men recently; she was looking for someone special. Surprised by my personal question, she looked at me and shyly answered, “Nein, noch nicht.” (No, not yet.) I wasn’t sure what to ask next. “Warum nicht?” (Why not?) seemed too accusatory, as if I were blaming her for something she should have done. Of course, that was exactly what I was thinking. From my perspective, she had everything most men seemed to want in a mate: long hair cascading a beautiful face, petite figure, intelligent eyes, easy smile, demure manner. Why was she not out on dates every night? In the the U.S., she would have had so many men approach her and ask her out. But here in Germany, it was an entirely different story.

As I was thinking about the eligible bachelors I knew, her eyes suddenly brightened and with a tinge of guilt in her eyes, she confessed “vielleicht gibt es ein Mann…” (maybe there is one guy…) Ah, so she’s holding out on me. Surprised and elated, I instinctively leaned forward and asked, “Ein Mann? Wer ist er?” (A man? Who is he?)

“He’s a genius, plays the piano beautifully, is always surrounded by fans who worship him…did I mention that he walks on water?”
“Oh Jesus!” I thought, she’s either in love with a God or my German has deteriorated miserably.

After I posed a few more clarifying questions, her glazed and dilated eyes returned to normal and I realized she was describing a colleague, a mere mortal, like you and me. “Thank goodness;” I thought “there is hope.”

“Has he asked you out?” I asked.
“Nein.” she regretfully replied. Again, I wanted to ask “Warum nicht?” but I didn’t.
“Have you asked him out?” I asked
She shot me a look that said, “Are you a crazy lunatic?” and replied, “Nein; Ich kann nicht. Ich habe keinen Mut.” (No, I can’t. I have no courage.)

I knew exactly how she was feeling; when I was younger, I NEVER had the courage to ask anyone out, let alone a man I was attracted to. Why is it that when our friends are in need, we feel compelled to offer them advice that we wouldn’t take ourselves if the situation were reserved? I knew that if I didn’t encourage her to do something, we would be having the same discussion this time next year.

Although I didn’t know this man, I felt confident that if Solo asked him out for coffee, he would say yes, unless he was gay, married or just not interested. But she didn’t need t know that. Honestly, who says no to coffee with a cute girl? Coffee isn’t like a date or something, is it? Anyway, as I was thinking how best to encourage her to see him as just a guy, my eyes fell on a sign hanging at the back of the cafe: Toiletten. That’s it, I thought.

I took a moment to recollect what few German words I had learned and forgotten and offered my opinion. For brevity’s sake, I will paraphrase in English what I butchered in German:

Look Solo, you describe this guy as if he is some super hero or god. I get that; I know where you’re coming from; I’ve been there. It’s easy to worship from afar and lament your unrequited love; it’s less painful and less scary. But even without having met “his highness,” I can tell you one thing about him that you haven’t considered. “What’s that?” Solo asked. Just like you, me and the rest of the people in this cafe, he has to use the toilet. Her eyes grew big and then her face softened and she burst out laughing. I smiled, hoping that she understood.

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