I was walking down the street yesterday when I was approached by a tall woman with striking features and the stern countenance of a Cold War-era bureaucrat. When she started speaking to me in German, I immediately suspected that she might be carrying microfilm in the pocket of her crisp trench coat.
(Before I begin my story, let me say that the main reason I hate the World Wide Internets is that it killed the microfilm business. What fun is it to be a spy anymore if you can’t risk your life sneaking past border patrol with a piece of microfilm containing an evil country’s secret plans to destroy the world? Now, all a spy has to do is Facebook friend North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to learn about his plot to blow up the moon and replace it with Dennis Rodman’s head.)
“I’m sorry, but I don’t speak German,” I said after she barked what sounded like important instructions at me for several minutes.
She looked truly stunned, and then said in English, “But German you are, yes?”
“Nope,” I said.
“But German you must be,” she demanded.
“But I’m not,” I said. We argued this point for a few more minutes until she finally walked away in a huff, never conceding that I am not German.
Weirdly, this is not the first time I’ve been accused of being German. It happens quite often. This has always stumped me since I look like a Sicilian peasant and I always put verbs where they belong and not at the end of a sentence as Germans do.
“It’s because you’re attracted to cold, heartless blondes,” said my best friend, who has never forgiven me for dragging her through two decades of countless failed relationships with chilly, humorless women who don’t laugh at her inane jokes.
“How does that make people think I’m German?” I asked.
She took this as an invitation to insult my taste in women and my general lack of sense and smarts. But none of the abuse she was spewing answered my question.
Now, I don’t want you to get your hopes up and think that I’m going to end this column with some big revelation about how I finally figured out why I’m constantly mistaken for German. That’s not going to happen because I still have no clue. And I’m not really interested in figuring it out.
And you know why? Because I’m middle-aged and I don’t give a damn!
Ah-ha! I bet you didn’t see that coming! This column really isn’t about mistaken identity. It’s about the fact that there are actual benefits to aging.
I was in my 20s the first time I was mistaken for German. And when it happened, I obsessed about it for weeks. Worst of all, I thought it made me interesting and I would discuss it at dinner parties. No one cared, because these parties were with other 20-somethings who were so equally obsessed with themselves that they paid no attention to my nonsense.
What I’ve found so incredibly lovely about my mid-40s is that I no longer care what people think of me—good, bad or German. It’s so freeing. If my boss gives me guff at work, I don’t agonize over whether it will affect my career. I simply merrily question the size of his penis and continue doing exactly as I please.
Also, I’m finally in a great relationship, because I no longer fret over whether she will discover my true self and be repulsed by it. If she’s repulsed, that’s her problem.
And if anyone has got a beef with this column, all I have to say is “Ich möchte ein kaltes Bier, bitte!” (Translation:” I’d like a cold beer, please,” which is the only German phrase I know.)