And Gutenberg Lived Here: “Old Wives’ Thursday,” or Where Is Gloria Steinem When You Need Her?

Today is Old Wives Carnival here.

The day a lot of women wait all year for.

It starts with a group of women,

in costume,

usually female devils in very very short skirts,

putting up a ladder and “storming” the town hall.

(And being repelled by a confetti canon,

aimed in the other direction, ie into the crowd, of course.

This is followed by photographers taking pictures of them,


climbing over the built-in the sixteen hundreds large stone block sill,

followed by having to be pulled in by the town hall’s “defenders,”

and finally,

like there was a choice,

especially in an election year,

the mayor

press-op-ly handing over large fake town hall keys to a representative group of his,

female only,

(if there are any males, they are well hidden on this day)


This is followed by the symbolic cutting off of hizzoner de mare’s,

bought for this day only,

(by his female executive secretary?)

cheap and hideous necktie.

The only public power most women working for the government here

see in their lifetimes.

Which I personally find ridiculous.

Germany is,

and has always been,

in  my humble opinion,

a matriarchy.

All you have to do to join the fun is hang around the kitchen at a party,

and you hear the following:

“when mine’s gone, I’ll never let another one over the threshold.”


When I told my beloved Harold this, there was a “What?”

followed by

“and do YOU believe that”

Of course not, sweety.

At least two at a time.

No, seriously,

Harold, for me, is the love of my life.

Here in Gutenberg land though,

and this is what I find so sad about the way some,

or in my experience,

close to ninety percent of German women think,

men are the enemy.

Work outside the home is badly paid,

the official statistics are nearly a third less than men,

and often degrading.

I just took over a failing choir on Friday,

Hired because I have a masters in music and literature,

over twenty years of choir starting, building, and directing experience,

and a good reputation.

I was told by an elderly man

with no experience in the choir business,

who doesn’t understand the basics of singing

or vocal choir work,

that the only thing they wanted

was someone who would listen to his little ideas,

and play the piano loud while they yelled themselves hoarse.

That wasn’t how he phrased it.

More like-

“a choir with a big sound. We want a choir with a big sound.”

Then let me work, train them, and choose the music,

and let them carry the word of the joy of singing

to their town,

and others,

while you do a little p.r. for a growing

and soon to be larger choir

that treats its members,

and director,



I was offered that we could stop the rehearsal,

and all go drinking

so they could get to know me personally.

Egg nog and gossip-

the female role in German society.

And the only chance women have to have power here,

is in banding together to help each other manipulate

from behind the scenes.

Nearly always not against men,

but most often against other women-

those who don’t play the manipulation game.

Or they join the Inner Circle of the Lions’ club.

No one messes with those ladies.

Believe it or not, when I got married, my mother-in-law tried to give me lessons-

in how to throw away my husband’s clothes and dress him “properly.”

Apparently as a first step in establishing my role in his life.

And then, of course, I was expected to learn to cook cordon bleu school gourmet,

as students of mine told me was expected of them as IBM wives,

(I have a very fast vegetable grater, and make very good salads, soups, and stews,

thank you very much.)

And then you are supposed to host correct dinner parties,

where the wives greet guests formally,

and silently

from their position at the host’s side,

accept a bouquet of wild flowers

or carnations,

and then race back and forth to the kitchen,

keeping the plates and glasses filled.

(We have an open kitchen with pass-through.

Grated carrots and great discussions is what comes out of our home.)

And when I,

good midwestern pioneer “give me a lever and I can move the world” girl,

ignored my mother-in-law,

she got a girlfriend of mine aside and asked her to have a talk with me.

So I wouldn’t be an outsider.

Or embarrass her son.

But there IS one good side to all of this.

Once per year,

on “Altweiberfastnacht,”

“Old Ladies carnival” Thursday,

the women of the carnival capitols on the Rhine gather,

in a large, often massively over-filled hall,


dance, sing, drink, heckle entertainers….

and in general, tell anyone who will listen exactly what they think,

while being entertained by rock groups with sexy males,

male stand-up comedians doing jokes about the sexes

and how uncomfortable it is to wear panty hose,

or older men dressed as old maiden aunties,

cleaning ladies,

or, in one case, queen Elizabeth.

Who danced a bit like Mr. Bean.

And as midnight strikes,

and the female crowd of thousands disperses, singing, through the streets,

you somehow get a feeling that when they finally get home,

no man will dare to stand in the doorway with a rolling-pin

asking where they have been.


copyright 2018  All rights reserved. 

5 thoughts on “And Gutenberg Lived Here: “Old Wives’ Thursday,” or Where Is Gloria Steinem When You Need Her?

    1. I agree with you, WW. Abuse of either sex, or of those of the same sex because they are not abusers, is still sexism. I am wondering if we will ever reach a point, hopefully in my lifetime, when we stop putting tags on people and look for similarities.

      Liked by 1 person

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