Cammy: Yes! While I know I should probably hesitate more about this, I can’t help it. I would completely risk looking like a moron to sit down and have a cup of coffee with the “Iron Mädchen.” Just as long as I had easy access to a German-English dictionary and time to brush up on my verb conjugations because the last thing in the world I’d want to do is go in and “Du-tz” the Chancellor of Germany (familiar rather than formal “you”).
I’ve got a boatload of topics I want to cover with this woman, starting with the quote I’ve heard attributed to her that “Anyone with something to say needs no makeup” (“Jeder, der wirklich etwas zu sagen hat, braucht kein Make-up”). There’s a lot of clues to this woman’s personality wrapped up in that one, especially knowing how vastly she had to be “transformed” style-wise before winning her spot as Chancellor. And the transition from physicist to politician–there’s got to be a goldmine of interesting talk to be had there. I’ve got my theories about women in political power with science backgrounds, and a conversation with Merkel would go a long way toward testing those theories. And, of course, I couldn’t talk with this woman without going into the East German thing. Not just the recent little amusing story about how she was at the sauna when the wall came down, but about the impressive fact that she’s an East German in the top job in a unified German. Symbolic, if nothing else.
I’m anticipating that the woman has at least a little bit of a sense of humor (anyone making a crack about the German sense of humor is invited to attend one of my family reunions for a counter-argument), which, hopefully, would keep her from getting pissed at me firing off questions like a fan-girl at at Con Q & A. Hmmmm, maybe this should be over a beer instead of coffee….
Kristy: Um… probably not. To be clear, this is not about not wanting to have coffee with Chancellor Merkel. I’m just fairly certain she wouldn’t want to have coffee with me. There’s that whole thing about the make-up. Personally, I’m a huge fan of make-up (what? I have fair skin and had horrible acne as a teen, I’m covered with acne stains and no one wants to see them). I know some feminists will roll their eyes and tell me I’m just allowing myself to be exploited and I’m trying to fit myself to the expectations of men and yadda yadda. But I disagree. I don’t wear make-up for men–they don’t notice it. I’ve had conversations with my male friends about how they don’t like women with lots of make-up; inevitably they praise me for not wearing much, oblivious to the fact I’m speaking from underneath a pound of concealer and powder. I wear make-up for myself. Partially because the powder absorbs the grease my skin produces and keeps it from clogging my pores, but mostly because I feel better about myself with it on. And when I feel better, I’m more confident, more likely to speak my mind, more likely to get things done. But somehow I think the “Iron Maedchen” might just see me as superficial and vain. Also, I’ll be totally lost when she and Cammy start talking about science and physics. And I don’t know a word of German. So I will eagerly take notes about everything she says when Cammy comes back with a full report, but I don’t think I’ll be attending that little coffee klatch.
Cammy: I think there’s more to the cultural aspect of the make-up thing here. It’s not just about the make-up itself–it’s how it ties to her being an East German. As I understand it, cosmetics were an incredible luxury item before Communism collapsed. An Epic!Win hostess gift when visiting the East was some CoverGirl eyeshadow. It’s one of those things that set “Ossis” apart from the West. There was, and still remains a view of those from the East as being backward in comparison to the West (at least in Germany). So, needing make-up for confidence was as much a luxury as the make-up itself, especially immediately after unification when the East Germans definitely had something to say. Merkel’s line is more of a defense against those in the West who were too busy laughing at their dowdy Eastern neighbors. I’ll grant you that I like that quote because I’m the lazy girl who doesn’t like to put on make up and would love to level the cultural playing field enough to remove the pressure for me to put it on, but the reality of the quote is something different altogether and it probably doesn’t do either of us much credit to reduce it to mere physical appearance.
All that said, I’ll give you an out on this one, Kristy, though part of me would really like to drag you in. I have a feeling you’d find a way to hit it off with the Iron Mädchen better than I would. If nothing else, you two could sit around and practice your Russian together and leave me out. And don’t forget, no matter how you interpret the make-up comment, they DID hire a stylist for the woman to get her into office, and last election she was workin’ the cleavage, so…..