I am sitting in one of those backroom bank offices with two male bankers in their late 30s. I’m feeling really positive about getting all my questions answered and also grateful for their fluency in English! These bankers seem very generous with their time and generally quite pleasant. We speak of my German classes and they advise me on which greeting I should use; instead of “Hallo,” “Servus” is a classic Bavarian greeting used for both “hello” and “goodbye.” Somehow it’s apparently better…
This continues as the topic changes to Oktoberfest, but I’m a bit taken aback when one suggests, “You should get a Dirndl, you’d look good in a Dirndl.” For those of you unfamiliar with what a Dirndl is, it is a traditional Bavarian boob dress (for lack of a better term!). Although it is a rather charming style, and I admit I considered it, I am certain it was designed with male interests in mind. Apparently the tailors make sure women get it several sizes smaller than they would choose themselves. This is important for the success of the design: to squeeze your bosom into present company’s eager gaze! So yes, my dear banker, of course you’ll enjoy my Dirndl. Now if you’ll kindly excuse me, I must go and find this Dirndl you speak of for next year! Until this point I’m just mildly amused by his oblivious inappropriateness.
But a feel a little anger bubbling up when he asks, “what do you do with your free time? A lot of shopping?” I smile and laugh and say, “well actually no, I don’t really like shopping and haven’t done much.” In defense I outline my days for him: German class, studying, meeting friends and doing some coaching. He must not have heard me. He later returns to this topic to joke, “it’s best the money is taken from your partner’s account so you have more for shopping!”
What would you have said here? Is it my place to say something? As a foreigner trying to learn German culture, have fun, and make friends, do we try on the traditional dress for size? (Pun intended!) Take the anthropological participant observer approach? Or the bulldozer approach, where I tell him how many assumptions he has made in the last five minutes?
Or does it not matter? Anger helps us to feel bigger and more powerful. It protects us from the “I’m not good enough” feeling. It protects me from ruminating about my unemployment and from feeling small and vulnerable to these judgments and jokes about women. I am very much involved in my emotional reaction. We have a choice. When we root ourselves more firmly in our purpose and confidence in our passions, we often feel less vulnerable, and thus, may experience less anger.
And that’s were coaching comes in…
…and weight lifting! More on that next week.