I shave my legs more often, dice green vegetables back into my diet, and find myself looking into the mirror in search of a favorable impression more often.

I let the v-lines of my shirt drop seductively low, unhindered by scarf or sweater.

I just used my boyfriend’s shaving cream to shave my legs and now they smell like a man.  On the one hand, I’m still shaving my legs, which I consider a coup in the war against the loss of my beauty regime.  On the other hand, my legs smell like a man’s face.  Sometimes that’s okay, but it’s better when you’re lying in bed with oxytocin rushing through your veins and the sheets rumpled beneath you rather than fresh from the shower.

I used to have my own shaving cream, fancy bath oils to make me smell pretty, creams to make my skin glow, creams to slow the aging process, top of the line make up to cover the aging process, expensive hair products and monthly mani-pedi excursions.  Truth be told, none of it was for anyone other than myself or maybe, as fellow TBN’r Kimberly Wetherell suggests in her short documentary, for other women.  Regardless, I loved it.

Thanks to the bankrupting war on Iraq, Bernie Madoff, those parasites at AIG and a global recession, I am cutting back with the rest of the world.  I’m grateful to have a job, a roof over my head, food on the table and Maybelline in my bathroom cupboard.  “Maybe she’s born with it?”  Maybe she’s broke!

Berlin seems to house an above-average percentage of folk who look like life has been pretty damn hard.  Perhaps it’s the horrible weather, perhaps it’s the harsh, mineral-filled water, perhaps it’s the marathon chain smoking or the beer. I’m often surprised to find out the 50-year-old woman next to me is actually 35.  It’s not helped by the trend toward androgynous fashion, either.  Of course we have our beautiful people in Berlin, but it’s not as important or prevalent in the culture as it is in places like New York, Miami and L.A.

The truth is, life probably is pretty damn hard.  Berlin has always been a poor city.  It’s where you come to live cheap, protest and create weird art.  Everyone here seems to be starting over and barely making it.  La Boheme is alive and well all around this city and, while there is some fantastic art in all its forms produced here, even moderately famous people are squatting or trying to squeak by on unemployment and an occasional commission.

What to do?  On the one hand, it’s an absolute release to escape the daily pressures and expectations of image that was part of my life in New York City.  On the other hand, there were parts of that I truly enjoyed.  Come on, I’m an opera singer.  I’m genetically coded to play dress up.  It’s nice not to feel like the fat girl in a sea of anorexic waifs, but at the same time, being a “girl” in some ways is something I really enjoy.  There has to be some middle ground.

For now I’m doing what I can not to lose myself entirely in the tightening of the purse strings.  I’m learning how to use TRUblend and remembering how to paint my own toes.  I guess if my legs smell like my boyfriend’s face, I’ll count that as a win over not having a razor to shave them with at all.  The creams will have to go.  I will try to embrace the grey when it comes and remember to love the creases around my eyes.  I have enough to get by–more than some–and I guess it won’t kill me to finally look my age.  Oh God.

There were fifteen people in the room representing eight nations. A Filipino couple was onstage performing like a pair of high school music teachers. A plump Indian man and his partner meshed ballroom dancing and sweet third grade swaying to a castrated rendition of “She’s a Little Runaway.” An Austrian and an Italian were, for god knows what reason, doing lines of salt into a rolled up hundred Yuan note and squirting lemons into each others eyes prior to taking one of what must have been many tequila shots.

The bar room was big and dimly lit except for the neon lights illumintating the synthetic fog around the stage as if it were our own very little Vegas. With just us fifteen it should have felt empty, but united by a common boredom which had brought us to demand the most of out limited chances for camaraderie and by a general fish-out-of-water existence that accompanied a desperation pregnant with all the magic potential of life in someone else’s borders, we could revel in the bars emptiness. We could fill out nostrils with salt and our eyes with lemon if that’s what we so chose. Of course, we could also choose not to.

Randy, a Laotian man whose constant head nodding affirmations led one to believe he knew much more English than he truly did, stepped, rather uninvited, up to the stage and began to play the bongos along with the band. He fit the scene with the same casual awkwardness as the middle aged Bangladeshi fellow that tends to grace Wes Anderson pics. A few nights before I had been walking with Randy when he pointed at a bar.

“Three years ago, I get in fight there.”

“Yikes,” I said, putting on a fighting-is-icky face. “Did you win?”

Randy nodded leading me to believe that he had understood. “Not yet.”

Our international dance extravaganza fizzled to a halt despite some hoofers’ sodium based efforts to feed the party’s faltering energy. I found myself riverside, moralizing to the salt and lemon Austrian and Randy about the evil tax swindling wealthy who hide their funds offshore only to find that the Austrian was just such a one. I drunkenly laid into him about his secret stash.

“The money needs people to make it hospitals,” I explained.

“Why should I feed people hospitals?” I was pretty sure he meant ‘give’ in place of ‘feed.’

“Because people shouldn’t have to eat…” I paused for far to long having forgotten what was supposed to come next “…whatever you give them.”

Randy nodded. I sensed I had gained the victory, but then I was the only real speaker of the argument’s language.

The Austrian then let out the age old argument: “I am making jobs. My factory puts food inside of 30 Chinese families.”

Just what kind of factory is involved in the task of filling Chinese people with food? Was this some kind of still crueler fois gras? Which thought led me to another, more disturbing still, of a sea of young Americans who’d been fattened up for the slaughter… I’ll abandon that image for now.

It’s moments like these, almost as divisive as someone trumping fossils with saviors, that I realize I’m involved in an extension of the same conversation I’ve been involved in since I started having conversations, but that somehow life has advanced to the point when, rather than some naive defense of the Russian Revolution laced with too much caffeine, I’ve moved to drunken attacks of an economic system that I scarcely understand, essentially putting my faith in the pundits who have stolen my smile most of the last 2, 500 mornings. How had the midwestern high school classmate who once insisted to me that her father earned every last dollar of the twelve-million he inherited by also inheriting a last name, magically transformed into the Austrian owner of a Chinese underwear factory.

In the midst of all this I came to three realisations: A) time is really quite strange and only aided in its being so by intoxicants, B) I really should avoid conversations about economics as if they were conversations about religion, and C) I will always be right-er than people who put finger quotes around the word ‘ethics’ (sorry Nietszche) when talking about the working conditions of their employees.

Back to A) for a moment. What happened to all the time? When did it start to be measured in hangovers, break ups and years gone by without a savings account? Which brings me to B):(by the way that is not a frowny face in either direction, just an unintentional puncuational pun followed by a slightly more intentional one) I shouldn’t talk about economics. Despite this self-applied advice, I’ll probably continue to do so, because as much as I wish it was not the case, economics matter. They are the instruments through which the finger quoters from point C) are busy baffling us, stealing our taxes and often even our wages themselves and helping our planet to devour itself. Most offensively of all, they do it with the help of guns and god soaked lobby money which situates all of the wrong politics in all the wrong places so that the greasy machine will move faster and faster. But we all know this by now…

Let’s go back to the start. There we were. Fifteen representatives of our various nations at a bar in a small industrial center of a country that may or may not be emerging as the world’s leading economy. Fifteen over-educated and variously employed representatives. Fifteen representatives who fear for the future, who look  with the same distant weariness at the tips of their cigarettes at the mention of words and phrases like global warming, and marriage, because these words and phrases bookend their justified anxieties and beleagured intentions; justified anxieties that all too recently seemed paranoid, and beleaguered intentions that were through most of their lives reasonable expectations.

I don’t know… maybe they would have been snorting salt and squirting lemon in each other’s eyes anyway, but for the moment, just briefly, I wondered if there wasn’t some tinge of insanity, insanity based on hopelessness, feeding on these well equipped members of this well equipped generation. I wondered if they had been knocked out of contention before even arriving to fight. I wondered how we could continue to allow ourselves for so long to be duped, and how we could more often than not go to the bar for our revenge, which was really a sort of non-revenge. I wondered how we could accept allowing our friends, ourselves even, to sink into the machine, to feed it even, or perhaps worse still to be fed by it, to be fed well by it. To be fattened.

And I wondered when we would realize that eventually what is fattened is eaten.

I looked up at Randy, calmly hovering over his Bongo.

“Not yet.”

Mitochondrial DNA is a profound, primeval truth.  As far back as all the creatures we can see with our naked eye, ourselves included, it’s meant that the blueprints for the energy of our lives are passed only through the lines of mothers.  Poetry is all about such profound truths.  Sometimes those truths possess lives in cruel ways.  Sylvia Plath is known as a writer and a woman who killed herself.  Her daughter became a writer.  Her son has just killed himself.  A tragic purification of the mitochondrial line.  It so happens that Sylvia’s imagined rival, mistress of her husband Ted Hughes, and Sylvia’s rival to the dramatic (but not poetically) minded, also killed herself, and her daughter with Hughes.  But that is soap opera, not poetry.

Dear Generic Online Dating Site,

While ruminating on my single status, I tempted fate and examined one of your websites. I perused the gallery of eligible men. I even went so far as to fill out a questionnaire and wait with bated breath while your “Romance Experts” (and yes, the air quotes are definitely implied there) tallied my results and told me my most likely matches were a man who lives in his mother’s basement but is “seriously working on moving up to the second floor” and a goat farmer who misspelled the word “goat” in his profile narrative.

(Seriously, it’s a four letter word. How does one misspell a four letter word? How?!) 

Amongst all of this dating excitement, I have discovered that your website is, quite possibly, the most useless invention this side of a melon baller. Now, thanks to the advent of technology, I can be rejected through various online means by the very men whom you claimed were “destined to be my soul mate”.

This is, perhaps, the greatest irony of all…seeing as how in your delightful little questionnaire I indicated that I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE CONCEPT OF SOUL MATES.

Haha…hoho…funny little online dating site, oh how you amuse me.

It’s amazing, really, how you have created a subcategory of desperation. I know that before your arrival on the scene I wasn’t exactly sure how to define my own desperation. I feel much better about it now. It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that your television commercials and magazine advertisements have convinced women over the age of 15 that the most horrible thing in the world would be to live their lives without a wedding ring surgically attached to their ring finger.

“What do you mean you’re 22 and not married?! Inconceivable!”

“You do realize that if you’re not married by the age of 30, you’ll never get married. You’ll die alone, eaten by cats, and your neighbors will find you wearing a housecoat and granny panties instead of a silk kimono and a tasteful thong.”

And so on, and so forth. 

Being single has been reduced to a disease, an illness that should have a cure and proper course of treatment. Perhaps your “Romance Experts” could write an article for the New England Journal of Medicine on the Great Plague of Singledom. They could suggest pina coladas and getting caught in the rain as two excellent medications for this horrible sickness.

Single women all over the globe are slowly but surely convincing themselves that joining a leper colony would be preferable to being unmarried at the age of 35. We never worried about these things until your quaint commercials began popping up and telling us that being worried isn’t enough, that we should be absolutely terrified.

Shame on you, Generic Online Dating Site. Shame on you for making us so concerned about a future spent without a husband. Shame on you for telling us that it’s not okay to date just to date, but that we should, instead, be seeking out a long-term commitment. Shame on you for suggesting that I cannot hang my own shelves or unclog my own drain or kill my own mutant spiders.

I could probably even milk my own goats…


Meghan E. Hunt