Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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April 1996

Auf Wiedersehen, Mr. Goodbar: Looking for Romance in Munich

Looking for the right man in Munich

He calls you, and you say yes. But when he picks you up, it turns out his friend couldn't come, he's wearing a swank cologne, and he keeps opening the door for you. In the restaurant, you exchange clumsy glances across the table and try to figure out if this is a date. Because there's no word in German for what you're doing. When the bill comes, you wonder if he'll pay. And if not, does that mean the rendezvous is terminé, that he's cheap, or that going Dutch is German? For an American in Munich, dating is difficult. You know that women are from Venus and men aren't. But on top of being from different planets, now you really don't speak the same language- in this case, you don't speak German and you don't speak Germany. Meanwhile, the stereotypes are colliding like a nighttime stampede of American buffalo and Bavarian Wolpertinger. He wants the innocence of Sandra Bullock but gets the brass of Jodie Foster. You want the wild and reckless heart of Goethe; but you get a good-looking and well-mannered workhorse who schedules spontaneity in his Filofax. He's romantic as long as he won't miss the commercials before his third viewing of The Lion King. Over the next week, he organizes your CD rack, fixes everything broken in your apartment, and buys you three maps of Munich because you keep losing yours. He crosses the street with the green, and has a chamois sponge in his uncluttered glove compartment to wipe down the windshield. Maybe there's something radical about his conventionality, you're thinking, as you weigh the value of solitude against the solace of a steady date. But the truth is, you tell him, you like everything messy and broken and hard to find. It's a metaphor for life, you explain, getting philosophical and knowing it will confuse him. He thinks you're cute when you're angry and is sure you're helpless without him. Loser, you're thinking. In the States, sex happens on the third date, though you pretend it's unexpected. But Germans think American women are easy, so you try to prove you're not. You Continentally kiss him on both cheeks. They think Americans are prudish, so you unbutton your blouse a little more, take liberties with your lipliner and develop a pout. After a couple weeks of not-dating, there's that awkward moment in his car. He's driven you back to your apartment. The car smells like stale smoke, new upholstery and some kind of foreign fragrance tree, and you wait. Then you're making out in his car and you are American, so you're thinking, sex, why not? You ask if he'll come up and he looks -surprised. You just feel like it, but it's too late; he's already convinced you're in love with him. After a few weeks, things fall apart. He says women are emotional and men are rational. You think he's a jerk. You say Article Three of Germany's Basic Law guarantees equal rights for men and women, but this helps as much as the law did. He says women should stay home with their children, and you say it's moot because you would never bear his children. He says what's moot mean? You think about this briefly, and thank him for the Schweinshaxn. You go home early and alone on a Friday night and burn his phone number in the sink. You should be at a party somewhere flirting with someone cool, someone interesting. His quirks were annoying anyway, you're thinking-, like the way he laughed at Mordillo cartoons on the U-Bahn info screen. Or that he sounded like a deaf person when he sang along with Mariah Carey on the radio. The fact that you couldn't talk to him about the subtleties of Three's Company or Beavus and Butthead. There are alternatives to dating, you think. You can watch Melrose Place. You can go to the gym every night. You can rediscover your friends. But you start missing the American men you came to Europe to avoid. Guys you had to ward off with garlic at the end of a date, which you always kind of liked. You want someone impractical and impetuous who'll confess his love for you when you spill cappuccino on his khakis in a fake European café in some large American city. So you run up huge phone bills and limp along in a series of transatlantic relationships that bear little resemblance to any real relationship, but it's all you have, so you do it anyway. You substitute late-night phone calls and breathy exchanges of affection for sleep. It's passionate; it's unrequited. It's so romantic. Like Malory's Tristan, one of them crosses an ocean to visit you, and you're impressed. But you discover you don't want him anymore and never really did. You feel guilty. Your mother says you just haven't met The Right One yet and you're thinking, right, after two divorces she should know. You're at the gym sweating next to this guy you've been checking out for weeks, and you're mentally measuring him against your list. Because you've got this list now - -has job, can read, no Birkenstocks --but you say nothing. Because at that very moment you realize that dating in Munich sucks. It's exactly like dating was at home.

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