02 April 2008

Old Women and Young Men: TV vs. Real Life

I was sitting in my favorite cafe this afternoon (no surprise there), when a thirty-something year-old man came in and sat at the table next to mine. I glanced at him when I noticed that the waitress put on a big smile when she took him the menu. Yes, he was handsome, well dressed, and seemed nice enough. He ordered and I went back to concentrating on the manuscript I'm currently editing. About thirty minutes later, a woman in her mid to late fifties came in and joined the man at his table. The waitress stopped smiling.

The woman, who wasn't German but perhaps eastern European, was very attractive and also well dressed. The only problem was her hair, which was [dyed] jet black, a bit too long, and seemed to be teased. No, really. I thought women stopped teasing their hair a long time ago. But what do I know, right?

In any case, she seemed happy to see him, and he seemed bored. To make a long story short, everything about that encounter--from the body language to the conversation--screamed that she was the weak partner in the power struggle otherwise known as a "romantic relationship." There was even an extremely painful moment (for me, at least) when she leaned over his food so that he would have to look her in the eye. Ouch. I actually gave her the quizzical eye, which was meant to communicate: "Okay, he's cute, but he ain't all that. Pull yourself together!" After which they moved to a more private corner at the other side of the cafe. She even said as they were going to the other table: "So we don't disturb you anymore." Tja, was kann man machen?

Well this got me thinking about a melodrama I saw on TV Monday night. [Yeah, I know what you're thinking: no TV watching in the US, but melodramas on German TV?? It's a transnational media studies thing. Seriously...] In this particular film, a beautiful, but somewhat shy fifty-year-old woman goes to spend the summer in Paris teaching literature at La Sorbonne.

The Woman

She stays in what must be the most beautiful pension in the world (thus, clearly beyond the budget of any adjunct lecturer I know), and is drawn into a relationship with the Russian author in the adjacent room, who happens to be about twenty years younger than she is.

The Man

When the two of them first meet, he has a girlfriend who lives with him in the pension and is a hair stylist.

The Girlfriend

They invite the woman to dinner and the man insists that his girlfriend cuts the woman's hair; the plan of course is to update her rather dowdy look.

Well, after a while the girlfriend goes back to Russia and the man and the woman begin an affair. Of course she is torn because: she can't give him kids; she thinks that he'll dump her for a younger woman; he's always making decisions for her; the girlfriend comes back from Russia and calls her old; and so on and so forth. Unlike the guy in the cafe this afternoon, however, this man is clearly into his old babe and goes to superhuman efforts to convince her that his love is for real and that he deserves a chance.

The Couple

Making all of this easier, of course, is the fact that both of them are really beautiful, she gets a contract to stay in Paris and teach, his book is a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and she has the support of her family, who thinks that the man is really good for her. Beyond all of that, of course, they are in the City of Love.

The City of Berlin, however, seems a bit hard on lovers, though I am perhaps reading too much into the experience of the couple in the cafe. We'll see...

Gotta go. A Tatort rerun is on...

Note: The pics are my shots of the TV screen.

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