Every year in July, America runs out of men. For me, at least. Either I scare them off, divorce them, introduce them to one of my better-looking friends, talk them to death, exhaust them physically and emotionally to the point where they have to move back in with their parents, turn them into hippies or recluses, or accidentally poison them with termites. Well, that last one was actually an episode of House,M.D. but I wouldn’t put it past me.
Thus my only option this time of year is to spend a few months across the ocean, affecting the accent of whatever country I happen to be visiting and pretending to read The Man Without Qualities in the original German. That nobody has actually ever read Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften is irrelevant, because I only use it for arm curls, as a stepping stool to reach smaller books, and to pick up broody intellectual men on the train. Which, by virtue of me being a boorish, stumpy American galumphing through a continent of wispy cosmopolitan beauties, never, ever works unless I happen to catch a guy directly off the plane, before he has had a chance to absorb his leggy, cheekboned surroundings and ditch me for Katja/Jana/Elke and her seven sexually adventurous cousins. It helps if the guy has never seen any Europeans on television, or had any European exchange students in high school. Basically unless a guy is home-schooled and suffers from some sort of learning disability that prevents him from understanding supermodels when they say “American passport? I love sex,” I have no chance in Europe, with my fellow travelers or anyone else. This leaves me no choice but to sublimate my rage and frustration into scathing judgment of my fellow man. (Just like Dr. House — sweet, sweet House.)
Decoding the mating habits of Central Europeans, for example, requires the sort of eye for subtlety and endless hermeneutic patience normally reserved for trying to figure out how the fuck soccer works. As far as I can tell, Czechs, Germans and Austrians walk into bars surrounded by their ostensible “friends,” and then spend all night standing around in silence not looking anyone directly in the eye except when they toast before drinking. Approximately every three hours, the ghost of Khrushchev sneaks in through one of the beer taps and arbitrarily pairs a bunch of people off — they then leave together without a word, move in together, raise children without getting married and cohabit for 50 years without taking part in a single conversation with each other. Eventually the man dies and the little old lady spends the rest of her days following people around and whacking them with umbrellas.
Slightly more understandable are the sexual practices of vacationing American college students, many of whom spent their freshman years drinking nothing but Everclear and thus confuse Europe with Las Vegas. “Nobody here knows me or understands my language,” they seem to think, “so I can do whatever I want on my parents’ nickel with no accountability or consequences.” American sorority girls, for example, find it acceptable to have youth-hostel sex with other Americans within seven minutes of meeting them, and then to pee in the trash cans of those youth-hostel bedrooms while I look on in mingled horror and fascination and my traveling companions stop making fun of me for taking antibacterial gel wherever I go.
It is a good thing there is no room for me in this paradigm, as I am impervious to the matchmaking efforts of Khrushchev’s ghost and enjoy peeing in toilets and getting to know people sober. Besides, it is probably good for me to be alone for a while, give the men of the world a break. Oh, who am I trying to fool? Despite details of the space-time continuum, I am saving myself for Dr. House — and once he sees my nose in this copy of Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, he’ll be mine.