My wife and I have attended a few weddings here in Hannover, Germany — like 3 or 4 — so you’d think by now I would have my wardrobe all figured out, but I absolutely do not. I wore my dad’s old, gray, 1970s suit (with suspenders) for every formal occasion from 2001 until, oh, 2014. I just hate shopping for clothes, man. I’ve got a weird build: broad shoulders, a short torso, long legs and Bill Clinton’s godawful bitch hips. I don’t need the reminder, especially while having my scrotum tickled by some dude measuring my inseam. God dammit, I’m getting mad just thinking about this again.
Anyway, my wife and I were getting dressed for a wedding not too long ago, and she insisted we wear matching outfits. At first she wanted me to wear a red tie to match her red dress, but I didn’t have any black dress pants; only blue jeans, black shoes and a white button-down shirt. A red tie would have meant wearing 4 different colors, so I talked her into letting me wear a blue tie. (Only 3 colors. That’s awesome, right?) So once we’d settled the issue of which tie I should wear, my wife took a good, hard look at all of my ties. I had one in each color, including black. This was apparently a good thing, because she nodded her head, shut the closet door and said:
“Perfect. You have every color you need, and black is always good for funerals.”
My German wife and I have only been married since 2012, so I’m not an expert or anything, but being a good listener seems to be a pretty important part of marriage. That is, if you want to stay married, I mean. If you’d rather catapult yourself through a sudden divorce, go ahead and let your eyes glaze over whenever your spouse starts talking to you. Hold your thumb down on the TV remote, steadily increasing the volume until the sound of her voice is drowned out entirely. You’ll be on your own in no time.
But being a good listener doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually do anything. In fact, the less you do while your spouse is talking, the better. When it comes to daily communication — like when you tell one another about your respective workdays — listening is really all about being present. Face your spouse. Keep your eyes open. Nod every once in a while. Maybe throw a grunt or two in there. It’s so easy! By merely being present (in body, if not in mind), what you’re actually doing is allowing your partner to vent. You’re refraining from doing or saying things which might hinder the verbal diarrhea your partner so desperately needs to spray you with. Just square up to that fire hose and take it in the eardrums.
Obviously there are times when you need to actively comprehend what you’re hearing and then offer up some kind of response, like, “Yes, honey, it sounds like that woman on the train was being a bitch. That bitch.” — but those times are pretty rare. On a daily basis, most people just need to unload their emotions onto something slightly more animated than a freshly painted wall. This is why, when my wife comes home and tells me in vivid detail all about her day at work, I just shut my dirty hole and watch her talk. And for this small amount of effort — 9 times out of 10 — my German wife will reward me by wrapping things up with a sigh and saying:
“Thank you for your open ear.”*
*Translated directly from the German saying, “Danke für dein offenes Ohr.”
The term latte macchiato translates disturbingly to stained milk. It is a coffee beverage prepared by adding espresso to foamed milk, and true coffee nerds like to pour the espresso in gently, so it floats between the liquid milk below and the frothed milk above. When done correctly, the layers stay separate, like an adorable little metaphor for racial segregation. You can buy these cups of Apartheid for $5.00+ at Starbucks, or you can just make them yourself at home. (Or you can be like me, and not drink them at all because you don’t give one piece of flying monkey shit about coffee anyway.)
My wife takes great pride in preparing her own latte macchiatos. (And then telling me how much money she’s saving every… single… time.) She uses this little reverse espresso thingie, which sits directly on the stove and bubbles the water up through the grounds. Check it out:
But the problem has always been how to properly froth the milk. My wife started out using an absolute piece of garbage milk foamer, which looked like this:
…but the foaming process took so long our breakfast would get cold and then I’d get all hungry and pissed off, like a little bitch. So thankfully, my wife graduated to a real milk foamer, which looks like this:
Aww yeah! This thing can foam the shit out of some milk. It’s from a chain of German coffee retailers called Tchibo, which, inexplicably, sells completely unrelated products as well. One week you can roll into Tchibo for some coffee and a complete set of running gear, and the next you’ll get your coffee while enjoying a sale on electronic gadgets. Makes no sense to me. All I know is the logo — which is supposed to be a steaming coffee bean — looks more like a smoking vagina after a particularly exhausting porno shoot.
So anyway, my wife has been making these stupid coffee drinks for herself every weekend since we moved into our new house. She’s the only one who drinks them; I just take pictures of her efforts so I can mock them. What follows is a list of my German wife’s top 10 attempts to make the perfect latte macchiato:
Oh come on, honey! That looks like a glass full of toilet water! There’s hardly even any foam on top, and that gradient from milk to espresso… for shame. I cannot award this attempt with anything higher than 1 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:
Dear God, this one’s about to spill over! And I bet I’ll be the one to clean it up! What is that coming out of the top anyway? A stool sample from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? 1 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds for you!
Alright, now this one is lookin’ better. I don’t see any spillage, and the foam has a nice, non-fecal shape. But dude, there’s more espresso in there than milk! The ideal proportions should be 1:1, or so say the rules I just totally made up. This one scores 2 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
Now we’re gettin’ somewhere. Nice rounded foam top. Visible gradient lines between milk and espresso. The ratio is still off, however, and I know you’re better than that. Again, 2 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
Wow! Excellent foam, better ratio. Your technique has really improved, my dear. But what is that brown streak running down the side? Looks like a skid mark. Filthy, but much improved. You’ve earned 3 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds with this one.
Solid foam top, distinct layering and a decent milk-to-espresso ratio — although a bit heavy on the espresso. But my main concern is THAT GIANT FESTERING TUMOR ON THE SIDE. Are you really gonna drink that, honey? Better lance it first and then cauterize the wound. Jesus Christ. 3 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
I like where your head is at: good ratios, graceful foam formation and no malignant tumors. But what’s with the turbo skid mark? Looks like my undies after an hour on the stationary bike. “Honey, I sure hope today is laundry day!”
Again, I’m not a big fan of the skid marks down the side, but I must applaud your attention to detail. The foam comes to a pleasing apex, and the espresso is clearly separate from the milk. (Though you’re still using enough milk to drown a dairy cow.) 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
Oooo! Now that looks professional! I hate to see that little brown star on the side, and the milk could be in better balance with the espresso, but still, great work! The ratio is still too heavy on the milk, however, and the German I married would never settle for second best. That’s why you get 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds, mein Schatz.
Ahhhh, perfection. Look at that generous heap of milk foam. It’s like a pile of baby dreams. And the milk-to-espresso ratio? Perfect. Why, you can even see two distinct layers in the coffee. It’s a two-tone work of art! Congratulations, my little German wife, you’ve finally achieved 5 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
But what do you think, Dear Reader? Which of these 10 latte macchiatos is the best one? The comment section is open, and we’ve even got a survey in which to make your preference known!
After my wife finished her time as a Referendariat teacher-in-training — AKA: 18 months of stress-induced psychosis — she was faced with the grueling task of applying for jobs in various German cities. We were already living here in Hannover, but weren’t sure if we wanted to try someplace new, like Hamburg or Bremen. One thing we knew for sure, however, was that we did not want to move any further south.
I find the social dynamics between northern and southern Germans completely hilarious; they make fun of each others’ accents, food, weather, soccer teams — even their attitudes toward life in general. Northerners think of southerners as overly conservative, self-entitled brats with too much money and one great big boner for Jesus Christ. Southerners look at northerners as depressing, humorless robots with lumps of coal where their hearts should be. I love it. (Especially because the rest of the world is pretty sure all Germans are humorless robots.)
So as my German wife was applying for jobs back in 2013, she explained her search criteria to me thus: She would only be applying to cities in the north because we are not “Southies.” She went further to clarify why she would be choosing between certain job offers, saying…
“Right now, I want to pick out the raisins where I have a good stomach feeling.”
My wife works hard. Like, hard as balls. She gets up around 5:00 am, commutes to the Gymnasium high school where she teaches classes all day long, then comes home so she can plan lessons and grade tests for the next day. (Unlike me, who sits in front of the computer all day long making logos and shit.) I’d say my wife averages about 4.5 hours of sleep per night — which is nowhere near enough — but she handles it with grace and humor.
One drawback to all of this hard work, however, is my wife’s total inability to stay awake in front of the TV for longer than an hour. Halfway through a movie, I will hear a marked change in her breathing; it slows and deepens, until finally I look down to find an unconscious German on my shoulder.
I don’t fault her for this — she works her ass off — but I cannot resist the urge to tease her about it, especially because I’m the one who has to put away the food and dishes, turn off all the lights and turn the bed down. (You know, real backbreaking labor.) After all this is done, I gently wake my wife so she can brush her teeth before bed, and that’s when I like to make some shitty remark about having to watch the movie all over again tomorrow night. She would be justified in flipping me off or calling me names, but instead she just shrugs, saying:
“Please don’t smear this on my bread.”*
*From the German saying, “Schmier mir das nicht aufs Brot,” which figuratively means, “Quit bringing that up again.”
Have you seen the movie Life of Pi? It was based on the allegorical novel by Yann Martel, and tells the story of a 16-year-old Indian boy stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days with a Bengal tiger. You might be thinking that’s an awfully long time to survive in a confined space with a bloodthirsty animal, but then you would be forgetting Bengal tigers are totally incapable of climbing onto stretched canvas. Seriously. The kid cowers on top of a canvas tarp and the tiger is unable to climb up onto it and get him. His little tiger claws just can’t get any purchase! He’s the worst tiger ever! Can you use your hind legs and jump, you little bitch? God dammit!
So this movie won four Oscars, including Best Director, and grossed about $125 million dollars in the US alone. Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t fun to watch — hell, I could even hang with all the symbolism, religious messages and the notion of truth as a relative term — I guess I just wasn’t terribly moved by it. But my wife and I both agreed it was more fun than watching paint dry! That’s generous of us, right?
I believe my wife summarized our attitude best, after Pi’s miniature raft was lost, forcing him to return to the lifeboat with the tiger:
“I think his little boaty-floaty went away… with all the life wests.”*
*That would be life ‘vests,’ pronounced with my wife’s adorable German accent.
Holy monkey! It’s been 2 years since I packed up all my crap and flew to Germany. Honestly, I thought I’d been here for 3 years, but my German wife reminded me it only feels that way. Anyway, to celebrate last night, we made a pizza, uncorked a bottle of wine and watched a movie. (Which actually means we tossed some extra onions on a frozen pizza, unscrewed a €2 euro bottle of Merlot while the movie started playing and then passed right the fuck out.)
Early the next morning, my wife interrupted my precious Earl Grey time by attempting to show me how I would be cleaning the house after she starts teaching again next week. She pushed a broom around the living room, explaining how I would actually need to lift the furniture in order to sweep beneath it. That’s when she knocked the broom handle into one of our empty wine glasses from the night before. *DONG, smash!* The sound it made as it shattered was like music to my ears.
“HAW HAW!” I laughed, pointing. “Do you realize if I had done that, you would be all super pissed right now? But look at me! I don’t even care! Please learn from my example.” That earned a grudging smile and a quiet chuckle from my wife as she continued sweeping, albeit without the verbal instruction. (Gentlemen readers, I ask you to examine the picture above. Notice how perfectly the glass shattered, yet retained its overall shape? This is the most beautiful example of household justice you will ever see.)
Thank you for reading and for always being so supportive. You’re just the best audience ever, and I look forward to (attempting) to make you laugh for years to come.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
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