When I am sometimes tired of meeting people, it is because I feel being interviewed by many of them. If you and me ever meet, please tell me stories about yourself instead of going through my CV as if I had applied to be your husband. I haven’t, I won’t, and I really only wanted to drink a hot chocolate and have a cake together.
“Where are you from?”
“Europe.” Lucky Africans who can get away with such a general answer and aren’t quizzed with the follow-up question “which country?”, either because people believe Africa is a country or because they wouldn’t know the difference between Gambia and Gabon anyway. Maybe I should just say “Transwallonistan” from now on.
“What do you do?”
“I travel around the world. I read. I think. I write.”
“What a weirdo,” I can see in more than half the girls’ eyes, but on the way from brain to mouth it translates into “don’t you work?”
As innocently surprised as I can possibly sound, I reply “oh, of course I have to work, too.”
Next comes the unrelenting question to which all preceding ones were just a warm-up: “And what do you work?”
Ok, if you insist on defining me by what I do in order to pay rent instead of what I do to make me happy, to pursue my dreams and to express my personality, although I had graciously offered you several chances to avoid going down that road, I might as well deliver the blow you have been asking for. “I am a lawyer, translator, writer, journalist and philosopher. I am thinking of studying economics, history, sociology or geography next.”
A blank stare. Maybe she is calculating if five professions mean that I earn five times as much as all the other guys with one job.
“And you?” I ask, not because I am interested, but to finish teaching the lesson.
“I work in sales.”
After one year in South America, I already know what the next question will be. “And do you have children?”
“Nooo!” I exclaim as if this was the craziest question I ever heard. It certainly is the most annoying one, but I have gotten used to everyone asking. Not only on dates or among friends. Also from taxi drivers during a 5-minute journey, bakers while selling a bread, train conductors while punching your ticket, and when you go to the barber again after six weeks, he asks “and, do you have children by now?”
Because of my emphatic response, the girl has stopped eating and drinking. She pushes her chair back by 20 cm. In Latin America, not wanting children is worse than sexually molesting children (which is totally accepted behavior, at least among Catholic priests). Feeling the need to explain my response, I apodictically say “that would be the end of freedom”.
“Oh, you are a fish!”
As weird as this statement is, I show no reaction, which makes her slightly uncertain about the proper faunatic classification. “Or a brontosauraus,” she adds meekly. (Maybe she said sagittosaurus, I don’t remember.)
Me, in earnest: “I am an atheist.”
Now you see if someone has a sense of humor. No, I don’t mean myself, that is beyond any doubt. I mean the reaction.
This girl tries to explain (ergo: no humor). “It has nothing to do with religion. I am asking about your zodiac sign.”
“I am such an atheist, I even refuse to have a zodiac sign.”
She, exasperated: “But everyone has a zodiac sign.”
Me, philosophically: “I don’t think I do. I don’t believe in this – ehm – stuff, so it doesn’t apply to me.” I could explain that people are individuals, that not everyone born in the same month shares the same characteristics, that moons, stars and spaceships don’t have any impact on who will be a good boyfriend and that in any case it’s silly to make such decisions based on whether you were born 10 minutes before midnight on July 22nd (cancer) or 10 minutes after midnight (leo). This doesn’t even take into account that there are different time zones, so if the person from the previous example is born in the Sakha Republic, the zodiac sign depends on whether the delivering mother is taken to the hospital in Deputatsky, in Verkhoyansky or in Srednekolymsky. What if the birth process starts before midnight but stretches into the next day? Or begins in one time zone and ends in another one? Or while crossing a time zone border with the ambulance going in such a way that you travel back in time? Does daylight saving apply? It shouldn’t, right? Because why would it affect the moon?
“So you see, honey, this whole zodiac business is bullshit.” No, I don’t say that. After all, she works in sales, not in science.
“When is your birthday?” she asks, trying to sound nonchalant. Some of the saddest moments in human interaction are when a less gifted person thinks they are more intelligent while talking to an intelligent person.
“Ah, gemini. I knew it!” No, you didn’t. But it won’t stop you from babbling more bullshit.
“It is very typical for gemini to want freedom and independence. They are afraid of commitment, but once they find the person whom they love…” bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla.
Me, interrupting her after two and a half minutes: “When did I say my birthday was?”
“Oh, I am sorry. I got that wrong. It’s actually on January 15th.”
It is very rare that women want to meet me a second time.