Things People Ask or Say to a Redhead in Summer

They do, they still do, and in all seasons. Disclaimer: by people I don’t mean friends and family.

So, to sum up my experiences…

Did you put on sunscreen?

Sad, but true. Maybe I should just answer No? Instead of nodding or saying nothing at all. Then I might get the following:

Anything starting or ending with the words “with your skin tone”, including, but not limited to:

You should take care of your complexion.

Did you know there’s lip balm with SPF?

I guess being in the sun is difficult for you.

Then there’s the classics:

Wow, you don’t tan at all, do you?

You don’t have a lot of freckles.

And the unexpected:

I put on sunscreen first thing this morning! – So??

Sometimes, same as many other people, we redheads get sunburn despite taking precautions. We might come to work looking a bit red in the face or with slightly fried shoulders. And then something happens in my local German experience which I still don’t understand. “Ha! You were out in the sun!” OR “Aha, someone was enjoying themselves yesterday!” OR, incredulously, “Did you forget to put on sunscreen?” All this with a knowing smile while scrutinizing you.

I only have this to add:

1. It’s rude to comment face-to-face on anything related to people’s appearance, no puns intended. Even if you know them well, it’s better to proceed with caution or at least phrase it in a tactful, kind way.

2. Sunburn sometimes hurts. Leave the person alone.

3. Do you seriously think the sunburnee doesn’t know they got crisped?

So I’ll just be on my merry way and find some delightful shade to sit in, while others busily compile beauty tips for me that I didn’t ask for.

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Mainz

If you’re considering a trip to the Rhine region in Germany, one of the stops I warmly recommend is the city of Mainz. It’s a state capital full of charm, history, and beauty. Also the weather over there is usually really good!

As the train from Hamburg makes its way further south, green hills and fields lush with spring replace our more modest spring landscapes. Everything is drenched in sunlight and it’s easy to see, as you near Frankfurt, why the Rhine river inspired so many poets. It’s also clear why the wine industry does so well around here, not only due to fantastic conditions, but because the scenery certainly adds to the enjoyment of consumption.

Mainz is lovely. The train station is busy and convenient and there are plenty of nice walks to be had on foot. Local attractions include various flowerbeds in a riot of colors, which burst with vibrance and that special springtime bloom.

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Right in the city center you will find the Gutenberg Museum, especially interesting for book lovers, but also in general for anyone curious not only about local history from Mainz, but Johannes Gutenberg’s mind-blowing impact on Europe’s printing industry for centuries to come. This is the man who invented the printing press in the 15th century. The museum also houses two original bibles printed by him and once you see them, you definitely feel the weight of how valuable they are.

Another beautiful walk worth taking is from the city center to the St. Stephan Church (St. Stephan zu Mainz). It’s a great opportunity to see more of the city’s architecture and explore various side streets with pretty views, plus see a cherry tree or two.

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The church, besides being a beautiful building, also holds an important historical place in Mainz, as well as housing some of the most famous European artwork of the 20th century. I’m talking about Marc Chagall’s unforgettable blue stained-glass windows. You try your best to do them justice with a few quick snapshots, so as not to disturb other admirers, but then you just join them and stare.

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Cap off the above with a stroll along the Rhine and Mainz will charm you for life.

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ME! By Taylor Swift (feat. Brendan Urie) – Top 5 Inspiring Moments

Much has been said, written and shared about this already, but the internet is forever and so is music, plus I prefer to let the storm die down a little (not that it really ever does in the case of the undeniable powerhouse that is Taylor Swift), and then pop out (no pun intended) my own musings after what might have been dozens of repeated perusals of whatever content is occupying my brain at the moment. And after all, to quote ME!…

I promise that nobody’s gonna love you like me

Yes, it’s poppy, catchy, colorful, possibly campy, easy to sing along to and does everything a successful pop song should, without sounding manufactured. It also echoes my support of spelling being fun. So among the many moments we can single out and scrutinize to our heart’s content, which 5 would I pick as especially inspiring? Well…

1. Taylor Swift is the mistress of transformation and she just goes for it, doing whatever she wants in expressing her creative ideas. Speak French in a totally unexpected acting scene at the beginning of the video? Mais oui! Insert some laugh-out-loud, disarmingly dorky comedy? Sure!

2. All that psychedelic, glittering dance glamour, bring it on.

3. Over-the-top theatrical romance that concludes with gifting a kitten (of course).

4. Strutting along in a pretty gown on your way to an epic musical flash mob in the street is always a good idea.

5. And of course staging the color-soaked twilight ending of your mini-musical extravaganza with huge splatters of paint raining down from the sky as you and another lovely gown become works of art.

As of right now the music video for ME! has over 164 million views, having broken the VEVO record for speediest leap to 100 million. The thoughtfully composed lyric video (for us written word and stationery geeks) is worth a look as well, currently standing at an also impressive 4.5 million views.

 

Kate and William Wedding Nostalgia

Yeah, yeah, I’m one of those people. Deal with it.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently celebrated 8 years since they got married and seeing all the predictable photo galleries being pulled up online sent me on my own small trip down memory lane.

At the time I was I was doing an internship at an online women’s magazine which proved to be educational in many ways, and also provided valuable interactions with supervisors that I still remember clearly, and fondly. It was a special, formative time for me, and while I knew that when it ended, I would be facing most likely several months of looking for my first post-graduation job, I enjoyed my internship to the fullest.

April rolled around and everyone was excited about “the big day”. While I was definitely not a lazy intern, I won’t lie that I was more than pleased when I was told I was allowed to watch the Royal Wedding right there in the office. Basically all day long. My supervisors and colleagues had to work – tweeting, writing, editing photos, you name it. Meanwhile, I sat back and watched Kate Middleton arrive at Westminster Abbey, hoping all the while that our internet connection wouldn’t break.

When she exited the car and turned around, smiling, to wave in that first amazing moment, the whole office collectively sighed. I was sitting right opposite my boss and as I emitted my own “Ohhh”, searching for words, she quietly said, “Yes, she’s beautiful.”

Besides the excitement of watching an event I knew was being followed internationally, I suppose it also offered some natural respite from whatever sad things were going on in the world at that time, and of those there are always more than plenty. Aside from the pomp, the glamour, the jewels, the staggering media coverage all over the world, I think the refreshing part was that there were plenty of moments watching the bride in particular (and as a woman, I guess I looked  more at her than at anyone else at that wedding) that were relatable. I had been to several lovely weddings and seen my own sisters become brides, looked at various wedding pictures from my family – regardless of circumstances, that special bridal glow was the same everywhere.

I can’t not quote something about the Duchess of Cambridge’s unforgettable wedding gown, and Megan Hess said it especially well in her beautiful book The Dress. 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion: “Kate’s wedding dress was always going to have an impact on style history – seared into our minds and inspiring thousands of knock-offs. Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen designed the chosen gown, which, with its full skirt and long sleeves, was inevitably traditional.” Additionally, one commentator from this clip of the BBC coverage of Kate Middleton’s arrival expresses it accurately too: “I am beside myself, this is such a fashion moment, I can’t tell you <…> It’s exquisite. She…” Trailing off, she stops for a while, leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves, and then she simply concludes with “That is a fabulous dress.” True!

 

 

 

You’ve Got The Power, Agathe Bauer

“There are whole websites devoted to what people heard wrongly in a song,” was what I started to say during a routine German workday lunch, when one of my buddies interjected, “Yes! Do you know Agathe Bauer?”

I was confused at first, because what I thought she said, in a mix of German and English, was “I got a Bauer”, which translates as “I got a farmer”.  The irony is that “Agathe Bauer” is apparently what scores of Germans heard instead of “I got the power” in the 1989 hit The Power by Snap! The cycle continues! Predictably, the gif inserted at this point of my post is…

After  I learned this piece of information, I couldn’t stop imagining what the fictitious Agathe Bauer would look like and making up what she did in life. I think she’s a sturdy German woman who lives on a farm with her three grown sons, and she wants them all to get married. But most likely none of the candidates the sons brought home would be good enough for her, my friend added firmly, and I felt like agreeing. I think that besides investing her thoughts and emotions in her sons’ future, Agathe would be great at making jam and would be very hands-on at the farm.

Nationally songs where people heard something wrong are affectionately referred to as Agathe Bauer songs and the interpretations are endless.  I would still like to add, though, that while I still have plenty to contribute myself, I never joined the Starbucks lovers team. One thing in life I can be certain of.

 

Sunday’s Little Moments

There is something special about Sundays in the springtime. Maybe because here in Hamburg we usually have to wait for ours – nature takes its time and blooming happens slowly, thoughtfully. But when the season is finally here, it’s glorious. It also feels earned!

It rained this morning first, but in the afternoon the sun came out and I seized my chance to take a short walk. I had one quick errand on my list and as I sped along underneath some lovely old trees the height of a four-storey building, a generous dollop of bird poo landed next to me with a plop, narrowly missing me. Or so I thought! A few minutes later I discovered part of it on my jeans. Yay, because I was worried – it’s considered a sign of good luck around these here parts.

Every café in sight has tables standing outside and people are clearly enjoying the conclusion of a (mostly) sunny weekend, stretching out the Sunday evening before next week begins. I get some ice cream and sit down on a bench to enjoy it. Within a minute there’s a long line out the door while I leisurely eat my dessert, so thanks to that bird.

Two small children, brother and sister, dart out, a cone with two scoops (like me) for each. Their mother instructs them in focused German on how to eat the thing: “Turn the cone and just lick all around the bottom.” Well! Now I finally know how it’s done! By this point it’s too late to test the technique, because I’ve already eaten my ice cream, but I’m certainly savouring (no pun intended) the moment.

In fact, I’d gotten my two scoops in a cone, and I’m actually wary of cones, even though I love them, because I worry about dripping or dropping, since the top scoop (if you get two) is usually  sitting above the rim of the cone and is therefore in more danger of toppling over if you don’t eat it carefully or lick away too much of the bottom scoop. This is an important topic! But it’s 2019, and my cone trust has grown a lot. May this year signal the arrival of a new era in ice cream consumption outside as well as more little Sunday moments.

Aunt of Two

Becoming an aunt for the first time both touched my heart and opened up the place where the new family member took up residence. It confirmed and strengthened a large part of my long-standing feelings about family as a whole, as well as giving me a new understanding of myself as an adult.

Like all relationships, being an aunt is a continuing process. I learn, I cry (not with the kid, I hold it in and let loose later), I laugh, I smile before I even know I’m doing so, I visit, I play, I run and I stop to look at flowers in the grass outside. I make up nicknames with lightning speed and my voice changes pitch when I praise.

Conversations with family have expanded to include this experience and I know for sure that they will feel the same way I do when we talk, with our individual perspectives chipping in. I am, in short, invested, and I care. You see your sibling, now a parent, in a new light, and as you observe them with respect and a full heart, you may get a glimpse of what it was like for your parents, now the newly minted grandparents, to care for you and your siblings before your memory began to form.

I have now become an aunt for a second time and as we say in the family, I’m immediately aware. Everything I knew my heart to do before has happened again, and it still feels new, infinite. There is room for everyone.

The most humbling part about this experience is that I keep thinking the children didn’t ask for an aunt who still cries during (well-acted) sad scenes in movies, to name just one example, who is obsessed with using gifs in all forms of chatting and texting, and loves to grab almost any kind of freebies just because they are free (take now, sort later!). In fact, they didn’t know one single thing about me until we met, just as I couldn’t know what they would be like until I saw them. But during that first-time meeting I knew that this was how it was supposed to be, then and there.

Acceptance as an aunt is not to be taken for granted. I feel strongly that everything that makes up my life, especially the parts connected to my ever-developing self-awareness, values, thoughts on what kind of person I want to be and how I treat family and friends – all this, so crucial already, takes on an added, life-affirming importance because of two growing people who will know what I’m up to, since we are included in each other’s lives.

I do want to be an example to myself, and if by doing so I will also contribute in a positive way to someone else watching me (in addition to going to their parents first) from their smaller height as their world gets bigger every day, that will be the best mutual gift that aunthood could give.