Friday, 26 October 2012

6: Get up, stand up! Stand up for your piss!

When I settled in Berlin, I too opted for Kreuzberg. 

But even at the heart of the Turkish community, German efficiency had merely reinvented itself. The Germans I have met are compulsive list writers and lists form the basis of any domestic infrastructure in a home.

So when I moved in with my girlfriend and her German housemates, I found lists everywhere. A rota clearly outlined washing up duties, mopping, hoovering, window cleaning and surface polishing. Garbage removal was to be done on Sundays and Sundays only. 

As I sipped coffee with my new housemates in the kitchen, I caught my name scribbled on sheets of paper everywhere. I didn’t have toothpaste yet, but I was in the cleaning schedule for the next six months. I initially took this as a good omen,  a sign I had been integrated into an indigenous welcome ritual.

As I settled in however, I found further lists. The bathroom of course had its own cleaning diagram, replete with a key, instructions and an index, while the post was also to be filed according to intelligent design. Plastic would be recycled on Wednesdays, paper on Thursdays, glass on Fridays. For the next few weeks I was constantly penalised for throwing wrappers into the natural wastebasket and teabags into the paper container.

All incoming and outgoing non-nutrient products needed to be logged in the house registrar, which in turn would be monitored and updated on a fortnightly basis. Keen not to be the subject of its reports, I took due diligence in regards to my rota responsibilities. Responsibility is merely the ability to respond after all, I thought, and I was keen to make a good impression in my newly adopted Heimat. But inevitably I was repeatedly fined for letting wooden chopping boards drip-dry instead of drying them or for failing to arrange mugs in their owners’ slots.

But these were all minor details that I easily fell in line with. Relieved as I was to be coping with the general schematics of things, relieving myself became a political and ideological issue.

In Germany, men pee sitting down. Not just if they’re shitting and happen to release some urine as a timesaver: no, men sit to pee at all times in the home. 

About three weeks after settling into my new home, two of my male housemates made some banana and cherry juice mix, a Kiba as it is known locally, and sat me down in the kitchen. 

“Ex, vi no zyou are peeing from above,” began the Bod.

I confessed that I had indeed pissed since I’d left England over a month ago, and that my bladder and gravity had conspired to arrange the trajectory without me necessarily endorsing it.

“You must sit to pee,” said the second housemate getting impatient.

Sit to pee?

“Why?” I asked flabbergasted.

“Look, I show you,” said Bod before taking me to the bathroom, pulling down his pants and sitting on the toilet bowl.

“This way ze pee is only going in ze toilet,” began the Bod, as if narrating a nature documentary. “When zyou are standing, zyou are peeing out of ze bowl also and zis is not good.” Bod pulled up his pants and washed his hands. “Now zyou try,” he said and left me to experiment with his suggestion. I could hear him behind the door and I felt compelled to oblige.

I pulled down my trousers, sat on the bowl and waited. Was I supposed to sit a certain way? Should I hold my penis or let it dangle? These guys were reinventing the wheel as far as I was concerned. A force of urine splashed back from the bowl and wet me: this hadn't started well. 

I tried to explain that I’d been practicing peeing for years and that I was quite capable of hitting the bowl with at least 92 percent of my urine standing. “Ah, just pee sitting down stupid English guy.”

Surely not all Germans can pee sitting down at home? Finding an answer to the question became my foremost objective. For the first time in my life I was actively a member of a resistance movement.

I’d go on field missions and spy through windows from a distance. I asked strangers about their urinating habits, only to be looked at like a pervert. But it didn’t matter how they looked at me, I had to know. Feeling confused, I asked my girlfriend.

“Why, how do you pee?” she asked startled.

“In England, men pee standing up,” I told her, scratching my balls with a straight back and puffed-out chest.

“Standing up? Why?”

Because we don’t have a vagina - we’re urine-mobile.

“It’s just the way it is,” I said.

“Well, you have to pee sitting down here. Everybody does.”

There it was again. “Everybody does.”

A few weeks later the Bod introduced me to some of his friends at a house party. The next day he called me into the kitchen at home.

“Exla, did zyou pee at ze party yesterday?”

“At the party? No, I haven’t pee’d for…well, no, not at the party,” 

The Bod walked out with a knowing look.

Are the Germans just more hygienic? Can I not piss straight? Both are plausible and partly true. Years later I can understand that in a house with women, it is decent to occasionally sit down. But the truth is I won’t do it. I’ve tried, but I can’t. When I returned to London for a trip, I told my girlfriends about peeing sitting down, hoping they might empathize. “Grow some hair on your balls,” was all they could muster. 

Stand tall.
Why have men consented to sit down in Germany and not elsewhere? No idea. German feminism has always been strong and this could be one reason. I imagine a historical conversation took place at some point in the 1950s between a husband and wife, somewhere near Rostock in a half-lit kitchen full of smoke and carp, that went something like this:

“Little trezur, I het it ven zyou pee on ze floor.”

“But I pee’d in ze bowl.”

“Absolutely incorrect. I looking traces from 4.6 percent of your total liquid output in ze surrounding area of ze toilet “

“Ah, zyou are always with ze pee charter thinking.”

“You must pee sitting on ze seat from now on”

“Pee sitting? Zis is ridiculous. Zyou crazy, Frau. I mean, I am ze man.”

“Zyes, zyou have ze mobile-liquid unit, but zyou can also park it.”

“No, no. That I just von’t.”

“Hans, Who did ze Nazism?”

“Hitler”

“And?”

“Ahh!"

 "Hmm? Who?"

"Yes, okay, also me. I vos ze soldier in Siberia for four years, okay”

“Hmmm.”

“So I must pee sitting down?”

Women must have guilt-tripped men into doing it. Penance for a small crime would never have led men to surrender the most basic male attitude they are born with (masturbation comes later) and adopt a totally unfamiliar one years after. It’s as if snakes started walking in high heels.

Guilt must be the reason. German feminists must have held a secret meeting some time after the war and thought ‘Right, we’ve got them by the balls, all we need to do now is tug them slowly down towards the seat.’ Rosa Luxembourg would be proud.

I’ve been in Germany for several months now and I still don’t pee sitting down. Admittedly I’ve taken target-practice: only splash-free, precision pissing will keep you from sitting. Once in a while I leave the door open in the toilet and pretend I’m pissing sitting while reading Bild so that that my housemates think I’m towing the line. But for all the German men who still stand pissing and have refused to be cowed: I am with you. There is no easy walk to freedom, but we will only get there standing. Get up, stand up - Stand up for your piss!

4 comments:

  1. I guess you do sit down when taking a dump. Do you not mind sitting in the remains of your own (and your male housemates) pee when doing so?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Old habits die hard.

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  2. I remember when it started. Must been about 1976. Indeed it came with feminism. And flat share. Remember tough discussions with women.

    ReplyDelete