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Ultimately, if it weren't for Berndt (I hope I'm spelling his name correctly), I never would have met Lothar or Rafael. 

Back in November, I was hanging out in Mutschmann's, when I met a handsome young German who turned out to be named Berndt.  We chatted briefly, but then he went home to bed, wishing me a pleasant stay in Berlin.  The next day, I was standing alone in Prinzknecht, admiring the men and feeling foreign, when who should I see but Berndt.  He said hello to me on his way to the bathroom, and then on his way back, he stopped to chat a bit, and when he realized that I was alone, he invited me to join his group of friends.  As regular readers will know, I did so, and I have written a little about the outcome of that little three metre journey from my lonely wall to the animated table.

I exchanged a few emails with Berndt after I returned to Paris, but I didn't make any specific plans to see him when I went to Berlin.  However, I ran into him, once again, on Friday night in Mutschmann's and we renewed our acquaintance.  He was even more handsome than I remembered, and I'm glad to say that he seemed to be as happy to see me as I was to see him.  Once again, though, he didn't stay very late, but before he left he carefully introduced me to several people.  I'm not sure whether he is just naturally gregarious, or whether he was going out of his way to make a non-German-speaking tourist feel comfortable in Berlin, but I certainly appreciated the way he tried to include me in the social life of the bar, and I was pleased to meet his friends Gunther and Joerg.

I ran into him again on Sunday afternoon, in the Tiergarten, where he was sunbathing with a couple of friends as well.  I don't want to be indiscrete here, so I'll just say that while I was in Berlin, Lothar was having some "boyfriend troubles", and Berndt, it turns out, is good friends with both Lothar and the boyfriend in question (who was one of the guys he was sunbathing with.)  I have to say that I was extremely impressed by the delicacy and sensitivity -- and integrity -- with which Berndt handled the potentially awkward encounter in the park.  If I hadn't already liked him, that would have been enough to win me over.

On Sunday night, still smarting from his romantic setback, Lothar proposed that we go out and "get wasted."  I was game, even though I had a train to catch the next morning, partly because I didn't believe that he really wanted to get drunk.  (As it turned out, we were both rather well behaved; he went home before me, but neither of us, I'm sure, had even a hint of a hangover the next day.)  On our way to Prinzknecht -- via a short detour to see if Mr X was eating at Bread of Mercy -- we ran into Berndt and a woman friend of his, whose name, unfortunately, I never quite caught.

This chance meeting led to much hilarity, as the four of us settled into an outdoor table in front of Prinzknecht, and talked at great length -- and in great detail -- about several interesting subjects.  It turns out that this woman -- I'll call her Barbara, although that wasn't really her name -- is active in an organization that works against female genital mutilation.  She mentioned that her group has contacts with a group in the USA that is working against male circumcision, and so we started to talk about why she -- and I -- feel so strongly that routine circumcision of infant boys is a grotesque violation of their bodies and their rights.  It was obvious that Lothar and Berndt were fascinated by this, and that they had never really thought much at all about the practice, not having been brutally and unjustifiably mutilated at birth the way I, like millions of other innocent victims, was.  Barbara was extremely eloquent on the subject, and I think she was pleased to have such an outspoken ally in me.

The talk of circumcision, though, segued into her account of a Canadian fireman who spoke at a conference she attended.   From her description of this man, all three of us homos were totally turned on.  But I soon found myself laughing almost uncontrollably, because Barbara started to talk about how hairy the fireman was:  she looked across at Lothar, whose hairy arms were resting in his lap, and said, in her not-perfect English, "He had even more than you."  I could tell from his expression that Lothar had missed part of the conversation, and that he thought Barbara had been looking at his crotch and comparing his bulge to that of the hunky fireman.  He looked totally disconcerted, and a few minutes later he asked Barbara whether she thought that "size matters" for women, and whether she had ever heard the expression "I'm a grower, not a show-er."  [For the record, Barbara claims that, yes, size matters, and no, she didn't understand this weird English expression.  Also, based on sunbathing in the park, I have to add that Lothar has no need to feel self-conscious in that regard.]  Probably you had to be there to fully appreciate how funny it was, but I want to say that I took great pleasure in explaining to Lothar that Barbara had been talking about the amount of hair on his arms, not the size of his penis.

Berndt, meanwhile, with great finesse and refinement, adroitly paid for all of our drinks and then he and Barbara went off, home I guess.  My impression of Berndt just gets better and better every time I see him.  While sitting in the warm evening breeze at Prinzknecht, it occurred to me that the only word I could think of to describe him was "sunny."  No doubt he has his moments of gloom and misery; he may even be a holy terror when you really get to know him (though I doubt it.)  But he has a ready smile and an seemingly natural sense of ease that makes him delightful to spend time with.  He seems to be one of the lucky few who is, as they say in Quebec, bien dans sa peau.  I'm very grateful that I got to meet him.

Lothar and I finished out beers, and then he went home to bed.  One beer.  So much for getting wasted.  I went off to Tom's Bar, where I ran into Arjay, and then to Scheune, and then back to Lothar's, so my evening consisted of three beers.  Not exactly wasted either.

Date: 2005-07-15 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My feelings about circumcism are the same as yours, Paul. When I became pregnant with my first child, I gave the briefest thought to the subject, and decided pretty quickly that, should I have a son, I did not want him circumcised. My husband, who is circumcised, agreed. I knew all the arguments pro and con, but my decision was not based on any logical argument, but on a primal gut reaction to the thought of taking my brand new son, innocent and perfect and beautiful, and immediately cutting off part of his body. My god, what a vile, needless, stupid thing to do.

It always amazes me the things people do because some authority tells them that they should. I think that one of the things we teachers and education in general gets most wrong is that we do not adequately teach or model questioning so-called authority.

Date: 2005-07-20 04:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As you know, Paul, there is a very large anti-circumcision movement in the United States that many of its opponents would like to dismiss as a "cult." One of the most comprehensive websites to address the issues surrounding circumcision in both males and females that I have found in the US is which you or others reading your blog might want to check out. Interestingly to me, when I visited Australia in 2003, I discovered that there is an extremely vocal and well-organized anti-circumcision movement there as well, one that is especially concerned with the controversies surrounding male circumcision. For more information on the Australian movement, check out


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Paul Leonard

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