In What the Fuck, Germany? news, I recently learned that:
• Many Northern Germans, when sitting down to the common winter meal of roasted potatoes, sausage, and stewed kale, use a spoon to sprinkle white table sugar on the kale before eating it.
• It is not uncommon for Germans living in Hamburg to express shock and outrage that I am 23 days from my due date and *gasp* still working. Reminder: my work involves sitting down, typing, and sometimes some talking. Three days per week. Often I do some ‘work’ while lying down. I was recently reminded that this isn’t just a bad idea, it is illegal: 6 weeks before and 8 weeks after delivery, work is prohibited under German law. Just to be clear, it is only illegal for the mother to work in the two months after the due date. Fathers do not have this restriction.
• The older the woman is, the more likely she is to appropriate my belly as her charge when I try to shoehorn myself into a bathroom. At a charming little café the other day, a charming little sophisticated-grandma type was washing her hands when I walked in. She caught the reflection of my huge belly in the mirror, started laughing, and turned around to get a better look. She then took the belly in her hands, opened the door to the toilet stall, and, using the belly like the handle of a shopping cart, turned me around, pushed me into the stall backwards, gave me a quarter turn to get the belly out of the way of the door, and closed it. (All of this without any verbal communication whatsoever.) When I came out of the stall and walked past her table she pointed me out to her friends, nodding with satisfaction. I have been using her backwards-landing approach to the tiny public toilet stalls ever since, and it works SO much better than the walk-in-and-pivot approach. Still, pretty weird to be grandma-handled without my consent.
• The only menorah I’ve seen in Hamburg was for sale for 380 Euros. There were no candles available to fit the odd-sized receptacles. The menorah was displayed in the ‘beautiful, heavy, expensive sculpture’ section of the store rather than the ‘season-appropriate religious object’ section (you know, the one with the blown glass tree ornaments and ridiculously over-engineered cookie cutters.)
• Rather than festive strings of multi-colored lights, the tradition in Herr R’s family is to light the tree with candles. It makes much more sense now that their trees are trimmed on Christmas Eve and removed from the house before the New Year. This seems like a lot of effort for such an abbreviated festive season (Christmas trees in my house have been known to remain in place until the last tinder-dry needle drops off,) but I guess pregnancy/delivery/parenting is kind of a lot of work for a measly 4-month maternity leave staycation, too.
We still haven’t decided on a name for the Smidgen yet, so please feel free to shout out any ideas you have. It should be easy to pronounce in English, German, Spanish, and (insert language of new global superpower.) Super bonus points if it is not currently on the list of approved names for girls in Germany but can be approved with some foot-stomping on my part. The idea of having to seek approval for a name is, for me, the perfect combination of ‘because I said so’ (German government) and ‘no, it’s because I said so’, (baby’s mother) and I think that the perfect time for this showdown is while breastfeeding. The basis of the German baby name restriction is that (1) it must reflect the sex of the child, and (2) it must not endanger the well-being of the child. I have some problems with issue #1’s use of ‘sex’ rather than ‘gender’, (and must her clothing reflect her sex as well? What about her choice of occupation? That, too?) and I honestly don’t think that a girl’s well-being is going to be endangered by calling her ‘Gert’ (a man’s name) or ‘Trout’ (not on the list; potentially embarrassing) that much more than the Standesamt-approved ‘Gertraut’.