A Carpenter Fellated by a Pre-Op

A Carpenter Fellated by a Pre-Op

My struggle for survival, my struggle to come to conditional agreement with the German mind, and to also agree terms with my own vanities, continues.

While I was living in Poland, my Englishness was an abstract fact, a circumstance of my living. I was simply an Englishman living in another country, an easily-identified TEFL-exile like any number of arts graduates. Here I am indefinable – neither comfortably German or English. My Englishness does not work as a base for my interaction with the Germans, rather it reacts against all my German instincts, all my intellectual and familial interest in the culture I have chosen.

Being half-German in Germany precludes me falling in love with Germany. The more I live here, the more I long for comforting English vowel sounds. This is not homesickness, but a need to escape the inevitability of being a German. My German blood, my empathy with the Germans, intensifies all my petty English prejudices about Germany. These are unpleasant thoughts – I am subjugated by stereotypes, but Germany is one country where national stereotypes play an unusual role. Young Germans, eccentric and confident as they are, are tempered by a national self-deprecation. The word “German” is used in Germany with an ironic smirk, a quick, fatalistic intake of air: “Because I am German, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humour,” is a thought that bubbles up a lot.

There are those adolescent Germans who do what they can to distance themselves from being German, as there were white children in a Manchester secondary school who preferred to think they were black. There are Germans that imagine greater kudos in spontaneous Mediterranean passions, or in Anglo-American nonchalance, but these crises eventually give way to a more mature state of acceptance. The far-right are proud of being German, centre-right Germans deny the relevance of “pride”, and the rest, the liberals and the left, deny the relevance of “Germany” as a cultural existence at all. Germans are strangely free of the pressures of nationalism – it is psychologically impossible for Germans to support the war in Iraq. The moral outrage expressed against Bush is genuine, but is also a projection of a healthy indifference to questions of cultural absolutes.

In fact, being German is a happy enlightenment to which I aspire, but my English frailties rail against my ambition. I can’t help laughing in uncertainty, in cowardice, at the strange methods by which the Germans revel.

T, our theatre’s carpenter, told me about the time he had been fellated by a pre-operation transsexual. It was Christopher Street Day in Berlin, and he had gone in chase of the girls to be found at gay festivals. Instead, apparently, he was himself hunted down and hooked by a travesty-club headline act. The travesty tradition is found in Britain only as a shadow in the occasional transvestite stand-up comedian, or in the sanitised Christmas pantomimes. In Germany travesty has found itself in the voice of karaoke, with all the improvised amateurism that this entertainment suggests. In Berlin, evenings are filled by fat transvestites miming the worst gay anthems accompanied by naked dancers. These are deliberately under-rehearsed shows that live by their vulgarity. The art of comedy, (so prized in the Boulevard-theater) is left at the door as a pedantic, middle-class intruder. Instead, the audience’s laughter (which comes in storms) is brought on by the sledgehammer of sex, expressed by a fifty-year-old gay man dressed as a housewife singing “I Will Survive”. His “stage presence” is measured by his ugliness.

But the audience is the revelation. Watching German TV you might imagine that the average low-income German finds gratification only in the most de-sensitised entertainment – characterless thrillers and humourless soaps overwhelm TV airwaves, all morbidly afraid of the slightest eccentricity, of the most humble transgression. Primetime hours are regularly colonised by unconscionable Bavarian folk bands. The music they produce is the same as the shit on Popstars, for everything on German TV is over-boiled into an easy-listening porridge.

But in these dark travesty venues (these gaudy tents pitched in car parks) the working classes gather and squeal at allusions to anal sex, at licked fingers pressed on underpants, at over-made-up comedians who snigger, drink vodka and spit before introducing the next juggler. And the people that enjoy themselves so much, that swallow the gallons of beer and champagne during sets that stretch till five on Sunday morning are the common, happy, God-less Germans. The artlessness of the entertainment attracts the masses, and the talent-less exhibitionist on stage is enthralled by his success. In Berlin, the gay scene and the proletariat have a common wavelength. And so I explain to my English self the openness of T the carpenter to weird sex.

Filed under: Fiction