Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Why and Wherefore

Imagine growing up with your wiggly six-year-old butt plastered firmly to a red velvet-covered chair in the box of a German opera house the Kaiser used to visit. Imagine scurrying through gilded ceilings and marble staircases, weaving through about two thousand adults desperate for alcohol, until you finally locate one of about twenty backstage entrances. Imagine bounding down concrete stairs and discolored but clearly labeled hallways until, finally, after about seven wrong turns, you scamper into the canteen for the cast and crew.

The air smells like old wood, resin, thickly-cut French fries, Bratwürste, beer, wine, makeup, and a whole lot of cigarette smoke. The light is dim and yellow. Men in tails contrast fabulously with women in glittering tulle ballet costumes and the most fabulously huge gowns a soprano was ever corseted into. You join your father in the non-smoking section, happily clutching your Coca-Cola in a glass (no ice, of course; it's winter-time and this is Europe!).

The coasters are all gold and beige advertisements for Warsteiner beer. You watch, fascinated, as your father introduces you to the Queen of the Night (one of the opera's three!), the prima ballerina in Carmen: Bolero or to Hansel, who seems to inexplicably be a young woman! You meet the crazy-cool conductor, who is small, Japanese, and guaranteed to up the fun of every operatic production by jumping around like a flea on steroids whenever the music gets terrifically exciting. Imagine all of this being an everyday evening.

Then imagine moving to America.

Dude. America is seriously disconcerting to a nine-year-old German girl. It's fascinating and really, really, really strange. Everything is enormous (pickup trucks! What the fuck?), fifteen-year-olds can drive (dude, awesome!), you have to ask people (especially Southerners) to repeat everything about five times before you give up in embarrassment (hey, perfect stage American English is spoken by practically nobody), and you can refill your own drinks at any fast food restaurant, instead of being really excited about once-a-month post-swimming-pool trips to the one KFC we lived near. A nerdy little German girl dropped into America can learn a lot of terrifically interesting things by just staying a little bit detached, watching, observing, and thinking a whole lot.

Now, terrifyingly, she's a woman. And she loves to write to and for women.

Seriously, girls? I have watched so many of my friends and acquaintances struggle: with food, diet, ethics, men, boyfriends, loneliness, beauty, fashion, personal style, class, etiquette, accomplishments, reputation, massive deluges of too much information--that I'm completely sick of it. I quit standing on the sidelines. I want you to know everything that I've gathered from three different countries, multiple eating styles, a degree in costume design, a passion for acting, countless books, countless friends, and countless frustrations. It's a hell of a lot of fun. ;)