A Sad, Humiliating Tale

So. This will be a short and not-so-sweet but hopefully, relatable post. Here goes. I signed up for a 5k. Me, that weird, big black lady living in Germany. Because I wanted to take myself seriously, I wanted to reach new goals and feel good about myself. I wanted to exceed expectations, break the image of stereotypical fat people…. I wanted my daughter to be proud of me, my husband to see that I can do anything I set my mind to— but mostly, this was about me. And in every possible way, I failed and it fell apart. It’s ok to laugh about it, I’m honest enough to admit that I failed in fashion. Logo_-DP-LadiesRun-01 I got a bag full of goodies the day before the run. It included a XXL shirt (I ordered that size hoping it would fit), vitamins, tea… my number and my chip. The shirt didn’t fit. Now in American sizing, I wear about a 14/16 top size, maybe an occasional 18. The XXL was a Euro size 44, or size 12 American, and the lady told my husband that the shirts run a size smaller, which means that the biggest size you can get is a 10. So that was off-putting to begin with, but I didn’t let it get me down, I mean who wants to wear a bright yellow shirt anyway, right? So I wore my own thing.

The night of, the family upstairs decided to sleep-train their child (the same age as O) with the cry-it-out method. Needless to say, everyone in our building and perhaps beyond was up from 2:15- 4:30, and then again at 6:30-7:30. Obviously, I felt bad for the parents, but was rather miffed about my own lack of sleep. Whatever. I spent the first half of the day thinking about the run to come. An hour before, I ate a half a sandwich, drank some vitamin water and ate a banana. I was ready to go. I stepped outside into the sweltering heat and was like, yeah, this isn’t ideal but I can still do it. When I got to the area filled with runners and family members, I noticed the stares. The looks of pity. I went to an attendant and asked if there was a locker for my stuff. She smiled politely and told me she didn’t understand the question. Well, ok. No problem, I could carry my stuff. Turns out, one of the moms for Mother’s Group was there and told me to drop my stuff with her husband. Task completed. The time was winding down and there had to be maybe a 100 ladies, but I really have no idea. It was packed. And almost everyone was in good shape; only three (including myself) were not wearing the t-shirt. One of them was a lady in a sports bra, mohawked with wireless headphones, so she was legit. And of course as soon as the run started, she took off like a cheetah through a herd of gazelles. header_nuernberg2-Kopie-626x482 I was the only walker. Yes, there were nordic-walkers all around me, and yes they hit me with their sticks. Also they too laughed at me (I’m not even kidding), so I let them pass. I was alone at the end. I held my head up high and tried to jog a bit, but I got too distracted by the jeers and laughter by a group of teen boys. People were watching me, a lot of them looked at me with a look I’ve experienced my entire life: the knowledge that I don’t belong there. Now, this is where you are probably thinking that I’m overly sensitive and maybe prone to social anxiety. Perhaps you are right on both counts. But I’m also extremely honest, and I know when I’m the brunt of a joke, every person who has ever been on the outside does too btw.  I made it a third of the way through before the stares, the laughter, this guy calling me a pig, and the anxiety of putting myself in the spotlight caught up to me.

Now, at the beginning of the race, I stashed my phone in my sports bra because, well that’s a safe place for it. I pulled it out much to the surprise of a few elderly onlookers and called my husband.

“I can’t do this. They are all staring at me. I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.”

Tears were threatening to splash the cobblestones underneath my staggeringly fast walking. My mouth was dry from the heat and embarrassment. Don’t let people see you cry, you hold your head up.

I zipped up my sweater— yes I was wearing a sweater because I’m really shy about my big flabby arms, even in the heat— to block out of my running number so maybe that would stop people from noticing me. That’s what my life has come to. Would I do it in the US? Probably not. But here I’m usually one of the biggest people around. And in Germany, you have to accept that people are going to stare at you if you are only a little bit different. And  I am a whole lotta different (say it like Foxy Cleopatra!). I met my husband and daughter, and I nearly collapsed into them. I dry sobbed. I wanted, at the moment, to get into a portal with them, and live a life of solitude on a lonely, tropical island in a beautiful beach shack never to see or be heard from again. The Island Life. running-a-race-clipart-black-and-white-cuzins-on-the-run-md We walked the long way home, so that by the end, I really did do a 5k and didn’t feel like such a failure. The Husband was a supportive beacon of light as always. These last few weeks I’ve been rather depressed, and to say that this was not the outcome that any of us wanted is an understatement. I had resolved that when I got home, I would give myself time to sob about it; to come to terms with one of my personal nightmares becoming a reality. But instead, here I am writing about it. Because I know I’m not the only one who has done something like this. I know people can relate. I know some of you will get it.

My husband kept repeating that he was proud of me for doing something that is totally outside of my comfort zone. Sure, I didn’t succeed but I tried. It wasn’t the exercise, it was the exposure. I could have done that 5k. I know that with my heart. I’ve been training for it; I’ve been really trying to meet my goals even and especially through the depression. Then he, The German, said something that made me stop. “In the US, you would have had other people walking next to you, cheering you on. The same level as you. You would not have been alone.  But they don’t do that here. They are afraid, wouldn’t have the courage to do it. They wouldn’t even try.” Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s the same as when you ask a German to speak English and they say no, no I’m terrible. And then eventually they speak and it’s perfect. Maybe it is the same. But I won’t be trying a 5k again. It’s not who I am. I can achieve goals in my own comfortable way. Whether it’s more challenging work in pilates/yoga or jogging, or if possible, tennis (I love tennis!). I failed, and I’m embarrassed. And I’m disappointed in myself. But I will get through this. It’s just another part of life, right? Thanks for reading….


20 thoughts on “A Sad, Humiliating Tale

  1. Trust me when I say that you did not fail. Not at all. You may not have completed that 5k but the mere fact that you were willing to try something completely different than what you normally would, in a country that for the most part, has been cold and unwelcoming to you, is the biggest ball of win ever! I don’t think I’d have even been brave enough for that.

    Say what you want about America and Americans – an many of the negatives hold legitimate weight – but we try to encourage others to succeed, even if we don’t know you. That is something rather North American of us I guess. BUT like The German and The Little One, I am so remarkably, unabashedly, and ridiculously proud of you!! ❤❤❤

    1. Thank you so much for everything, Alyssa! That’s one very thing I really miss about my fellow Americans; this desire to persevere and support.

  2. You should not be ashamed! You should be proud for taking part and giving it a go as you have done! The people who should be ashamed are those who were being rude and mean and spiteful. Screw them! You set a goal and you went for it! Good on you!

    I am actually pretty peeved at the people you mention in here who were not being helpful… what has [it] got to do with them anyway!? Sadly, there will always be those out there who try to pull others down, and I feel sorry for them. You keep doing your thing girl, be proud, be a role model for your daughter, thank your man for his support and love. You have stepped outside your comfort zone and I found your blog entry inspirational. Hold your head up high and keep doing your thing xox

  3. I am so sorry about the experience you had but I agree with Aly D… you did not fail… the only failure is in not trying. I like to say I never lose, I either win or I learn. I love Germany, but I am so ashamed of the way you were treated.

  4. Good going, girl! Having lived in Germany and having many positive things to say about those people, I think your husband assessed the situation perfectly. In spite of their supposed indifference to each other, Germans care passionately about how they look to each other. There were probably people there who would have secretly liked to cheer you on, but couldn’t face being ridiculed by those who were heckling you. Your husband – what a rock! I respect you both: you for undertaking such an heroic effort to try something outside your comfort zone, and him for being so there for you and offering such an insightful explanation of his people’s behavior. After forty-one years of marriage, I am facing divorce, and it makes me want to urgently encourage you two to continue to build upon on what you apparently have for each other.

  5. Well done you! Firstly, for trying something outside your comfort zone and secondly, for choosing a partner who has your back!

    It’s really hard to understand all the cultural stuff: I hate when Germans stare (in general!) but also when I’m eating! My husb says it’s “futterneid”&has nothing to do with me, my style of shoving a döner in my mouth or the fact that I may not look my best while doing this. ;-)) It’s curiosity based on what I’m eating. Writing this is easy but practising it is hard – but I have to keep doing it, otherwise my insecurities win… And that’s exactly what you did; you pushed your boundaries, it was scary, it didn’t go so well but in the end (although this mightn’t seem apparent now) you’re the winner. Keep doing this stuff. It’s hard&horrible&frustrating but you will learn&grow every step of the way.

    I am drücking my daumen for you and your family!

    1. It is really hard to understand that they are curious and not just staring at you to make you feel uncomfortable. Although sometimes they are doing just that. Thank you so much for your support and kind words, I am very fortunate to have a good husband and I’ve learned that I will never do a 5k over here again. Lol that’s probably not the takeaway but when I feel more comfortable, I’ll try it over in the US.

  6. I am so sorry you were treated so horribly, it sounds just awful. So wrong. You are awesome and these people need to take a great look at themselves.

  7. Wow, I am really impressed! I am always too nervous/anxious to really go out on a limb on my own here in Germany. I certainly could never imagine signing up for a 5k by myself. You should definitely be proud of yourself for going for it!

    And when things do get you down, it is nice that you have a cheerleader by your side 🙂

  8. Germans like to stare. Even the German dogs are staring:

    But it is also a culture-difference – you think people stare very long at you, but mostly it is just for a second or shorter but long enough that people from other countries think they stare at you. So dont worry. All is ok!
    Habe ein Selbstwergefühlt! Sei Du selbst und sei stark! Germans feel when you are not sure inside yourself. They feel it that you dont feel comfortable at the moment then they stare. Be strong to the outside and be proud of what you are doing and how you do it, you get all respect what you need from the Germans!

    Greetings from Nature- and Nationalpark Bavarian Forest

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Michael! You are right, I’ve got to get stronger in my self confidence and to be myself. I’m working on it!

  9. I read your blog for a while now. I’m a brazilian that lived for 5 years in the USA while doing my phd and after that, married a german. Just moved to Germany. I used to consider myself pretty good with other countries cause, come on, I lived 5 years abroad. But Germany is nothing like the USA. The language barrier is…extremely hard. I totally agree that they say they don’t speak but all of a sudden say something perfect in english. The stares are also weird, but I am used to that from Brazil. Now the name calling…that’s what I hate the most. My husband is obese and I haven’t seen anyone saying anything about him so i can’t comment about that. But I am a foreigner with green eyes and nevertheless I’ve already heard a 3 liter joke. Maybe cause my name is Jewish? I don’t know… it’s weird and I feel lonely and I hate it. It might be safe and awesome and clean…but it is really really hard. It’s cold. There’s no family or people connection. People laugh at you and then they laugh because you are hurt cause of they said. I definitely don’t want to raise my kids in such an environment no matter how good it is. I guess I just don’t want to be in this environment.
    But, despite my rant about Germany, if I was in the 5k (of course watching or walking) I would totally walk by your side. And probably growl at those people!

    1. Germany is really tough, but it does get better. I know I may say some unflattering things about it, and the challenges I face, but Germany has gone from a place I hate to a place I respect in a way— does that make sense? I miss home and the friendliness of Americans, and don’t even get me started on shopping experiences…. but you somehow have to do some soul searching and figure out if this is worth it for you. Know what I mean? How can you change the situation from foreign and difficult to positive and healthy? It’s easy to say but really hard to do, and it’s something I have not yet mastered either. You have to find where you belong, meet people, treat it like an adventure at first. I hope it gets better for you— and please feel free to shoot me an email if you ever want to talk about it. aliedow@gmail.com
      PS thanks, could’ve used a friendly face walking beside me 🙂

  10. The only people who should feel any shame are those who have at you.

    I live over the ‘border’ in BW. They like to stare here too. Especially my neighbours. I seriously wonder if they have no life of their own sometimes.

    1. I’ll admit, it really got to me, but with time— it’s better. I wonder that too, but just think about how interesting they might find you and your life. Lol

  11. Just accidentally I stumbled over your Blog and read about your Experience with Germany.

    And i would like to leave a few Thoughts here if you don’t mind.

    It is somewhat true, in Germany you have to be a strong Person, inside and outside.

    On the other Side, what Americans feel as staring is just Interest or Curiosity. By the Way before there was the Internet I had no Clue that Americans feel like Germans stare at them.

    I met quite a few Americans back in Germany back in the Day and no one of them told me they feel like that. Maybe their social Standard forbids them to tell others what they don’t like openly.

    When in Germany and you feel like that you can say that to the next German who stares at you and he will honestly explain to you why he stares at you. (if it was at all intended of Course) Then you will see that in most Situations it is not any ill Will.

    And yes, People are testing you and you need to prove that you can stay strong, then they leave you alone, respecting you.

    It is a little bit like “Survival of the Fittest”.

    Also they just do what they feel is a little Fun and it hurts People very much who are not used to this rough Form of Humor. You feel beaten but you need to laugh it away ! They will be impressed by you and they will have very much Sympathy for you. Not always easy to do that, I know.

    And when you get to know them better, you will see that they will be true Friends. Germans are not making Friends lightly and do not give them up easily when they got them.

    Worst Thing you can do is giving up after a first rough Contact.

    As a German I had a lot to do with Americans lately and the first Impressions were : “Oh they are all so super nice !”

    But then i recognized that being so nice does not really mean they like you, it is just their standard social Behaviour. Behind the Curtain they are backstabbing and plotting even more than the unfriendly Germans 😉

    If a German tells you something positive, they mean it Word by Word and if they pick on you it is their Way to test you. When they don’t like you they will let you know for Sure. So in the End they are not the nicest People on this Planet but honest.

    Americans on the other Side say a lot of positive Things and do not really mean what they say. They just say it as it is their usual Way of social Interaction. That is very irritating to Germans. Germans usually don’t say something nice to you just to make you feel better, that is true. In their Minds it is your Job to make you feel good yourself (sounds egoistic but is just a completely different Take and works in a different Way than the american Way)

    But when they tell you they like you or if they say something positive about you, then you can be 100% sure they mean it and will not forget about it anytime soon.

    So just to explain – Germans get the Feeling that Americans are not honest when they say something, because what they say seems to be meaningless (They say that to everybody). Not that this is really the Case but that is what Germans feel when they deal with Americans for a while. Therein you will find the cultural Difference and maybe the Core of your Problem.

    Both Sides (Germans and Americans) make the Fault of comparing the others by their own Standards. And because of the Language Barrier and cultural Difference so much gets lost in Translation that it leaves not very much to build upon.

    What both Sides would need to do is to invest more Time to understand each other better. That Way both Sides could benefit from the cultural Exchange.

    I could go into Depth why it is like that in Germany or in the US, but that would be too much for a Comment here, wrote too much already – just let me say everything that is happening on this Planet has a Reason and we are all Products of Events that started very long ago, Way back in History. It is not something the Individuum has much Power over.

    I understand that Germany must feel rough for American Visitors at first, but if you do not give up and go on, you will be rewarded even more in the End.

    I know my Comment is really late but maybe it still reaches you. Wishing you a good Day 🙂

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