The Berlin Diaries – Crippling Shyness and Accidental Flashing

Today’s entry actually took place on the same day as the previous article. After I sorted my shit out down at the Burgeramt, a celebration was in order – that is, a celebration in keeping with the amount of money currently in my bank account, which is minus several thousand pounds.

I’d not been to Berlin Spoken Word for a month or so – I attended for about four weeks in a row before Christmas and it all got a bit samey. The ‘wow-hush-we’re-all-secret-poets-this-is-like-being-in-a-cool-underground-gang’ vibe of my first few visits had dissipated somewhat. It’s not the night that’s changed as much as it is my attitude. A friend ruined it for me. I told him about the night and how much I enjoyed attending and listening to the stories and poetry, and he just shrugged and said that he personally finds the whole thing a bit self-indulgent. This idea snagged on my consciousness and every time I’ve been since I’ve not been able to get fully immersed in the language for fear that everyone who does spoken word is actually a big wanker and that I, therefore, am also a big wanker. Are we all just big wankers? I mean, we’re all basically definitely wankers, but are we big ones? Ugh, and lo, there I go again.

Part of the reason that I still feel distinctly un-Berlin while still loving every aspect of life here is that I feel as though I’m too self-aware. Other Berliners seem so comfortable in their own skin. They are all so beautiful and everything comes so easy; their abstract, articulate conversations floating down the carriage on the U Bahn, the early morning Sternies, black shoes and blue hair and a knowing smile. Everyone is their truest self here. It’s like we’re all characters in a fantasy novel; everyone has chosen to be a witch or wizard or elf or midget or panpipe playing gimp in a jaunty hat, and it’s all fine because whatever obscure persona they’ve chosen, they are beautiful. They are beautiful no matter what, simply because they have chosen; they’ve made their decision and fully committed. I, meanwhile, have tried to cherry pick the bits I like, a big floppy wizard’s hat, a pair of silky elfin tights, a dwarf’s crumpled leather jerkin and five different weapons, and I’ve collapsed under the weight and dropped it all and now I’m just stood there wearing nothing but a codpiece, shivering and pink.

The irony in this is that, even as I write this, I know that you as the reader are thinking ‘oh shut up Dan, you big precious snowflake, do you really believe you are the only one that feels this way?’, and I would like to take this moment to say no, I don’t, I’m aware that feeling as though you are a fraud and that everyone else seems more comfortable in their own skin than you is a trait found in probably every person on earth. I was just really enjoying crafting that metaphor, and also, FUCK OUTTA HERE with that ‘snowflake’ shit. In fact, IN FACT, this warrants an interlude.


If you have ever used the term ‘generation snowflake’, you are a moron. Yes, that’s right, there’s no dancing around it, you are a moron. No, shh, don’t argue back, it’s too late, I dub thee moronic. ‘Snowflake’, when used in reference to people in my age group, is used to insinuate two things: 1) that we all are entitled and think we are each special and individual, and 2) that we are lazy/soft/everything that every generation calls the one that succeeds it. I shall deal with point 1 first.

  • You’re damn right we are all special and individual. If you think self-worth is hilarious and something to be mocked, I pity you, for your life is a tragedy. If you genuinely believe that you (and, by extension, your family and children) are so worthless and mundane that you mock anyone who attempts to express a sense of entitlement to the myriad pleasures the world has to offer, or who desires to be considered an individual, you must truly despise yourself.
  • If we are lazy, soft and loathsome, it’s because you raised us wrong. We didn’t raise ourselves. My generation didn’t create social media. We didn’t spend decades building a world that is increasingly ready to implode. We didn’t elect Donald fucking Trump. You did. So get out of my face before I slap you with my limp millennial palm.
  • Bonus Point! The ‘special little snowflake’ metaphor actually extends to mean that, while each snowflake is individual and different and fragile, en masse they form an avalanche.

Congratulations! You commented about ‘generation snowflake’ on a Daily Mail news article about how the youth of today can’t afford to buy homes and it’s all their own fault, and now you’re a moron on three levels.

Well now, here we find ourselves some 800 words in with nary a mention of the poetry night. My apologies, it seems that once I start typing I don’t really have much control over where the sentence is pineapple. The poetry night was better after a few weeks’ hiatus, and I managed to quell any creeping concerns over whether I am, in fact, a big wanker. Dave, Vic and I had ringside seats for the evening, squatting on a wooden bench on stage left.

All the regulars performed; a clunky-yet-romantic Canadian in a flannel shirt, a small, dark Norwegian girl that speaks in a whisper that never fails to enchant the room, an excitable Englishman with a high pitched voice, and a tapestry of new eccentric poets and writers dressed in berets and billowing shirts and basketball jerseys and sagging cardigans. Some poetry was beautiful, some was hilarious, some was mundane. I prefer poems that actually evoke a feeling. Anyone can use a thesaurus.

At the interlude, as is the norm, it was time to play a game in order to win a free drink. Upon entering the bar, every audience member is handed a playing card. The night’s host yells a couple of cards out, and the winner is meant to come up to the front to win a prize. FOUR OF CLUBS! EIGHT OF HEARTS! ACE OF DIAMONDS! I checked my card on the sly. Ace of diamonds. Fuck off, no way. I’d rather be shot dead in the street than mildly embarrassed in front of a small room full of strangers.

Vic held up her card. ‘I’ve got the ace of diamonds!’ What the hell? I double checked my own. Somehow, we’d ended up with the exact same card. I made the fatal mistake of telling Vic of this odd coincidence. ‘Dan’s got the ace of diamonds too!’ TITS. I was dragged onstage, doing that awkward reluctant walk where someone is tugging your sleeve and you really want to just yank yourself free and send the person clattering to the floor while you make a hasty exit but you can’t because of ‘social etiquette’ and ‘manners’.

The host laid out the rules of the game, Jeopardy. Apparently it’s a US game show, I dunno. You have to say all your answers in the form of a question, for some inexplicable reason. You pick a category like ‘Iconic musicians’ and then get given a lyric like ‘Stop, collaborate and listen’, and then you would answer by saying ‘Who is Vanilla Ice?’. Nah, I don’t understand it either. God I hate game shows. At this point, the host actually paused her telling of the rules to tell me to face the audience. It seems, in my crippling shyness, I had slowly rotated without realising until I was facing the wall. I’m one of those people who are at first endearingly shy, then continue to be shy and awkward until everyone gets frustrated and turns on me and everyone starts tutting and talking amongst themselves while I blush and wither into oblivion.

We were told to pick a team name, and I suggested ‘Hat’, because Victoria was wearing one. I thought it was funny. No one else did. A hundred stony faced poets sat stoic watching me, quietly musing over what a dick I was. At this point I remembered the fly on my jeans was snapped. This had never proved a big issue when chilling in my room or raving in clubs, but now, standing with my cock at eye level with a room full of people, my bust-open fly was appallingly obvious. I whispered to Vic as the game commenced, and she handed me her scarf. I held it in front of my groin to hide my shame, lest my cock accidentally spring from my gaping pants like the chest-bursting thing from Alien, only with less screaming from me and more from everyone else.

We won the game, in the end. The aim was to guess books based on their first line. I recognised The Catcher in the Rye, Slaughterhouse 5 and A Tale of Two Cities. I felt smart. I felt good. Briefly. We were tied with the other team, and it was the last round. The hint was that the book was from a British author. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13’. Easy. I dinged the buzzer and mumbled ‘1984’.

‘Please give your answer in the Jeopardy format,’ smiled the host.

Cocks. I’d forgotten it. Oh god, all those eyes staring at me, waiting. What was it? Turn the answer into a question or something, right? ‘Erm,’ I stumbled, ‘Is The Answer 1984?’ No that’s not it. ‘My Name Is 1984.’ Oh bollocks. ‘I am 1984’. Silence. Perhaps everyone would find my confusion endearing? No. I laughed nervously and heard the echo. I was dying. Dying. Slipping away into the void, humiliated to death, exposed dick in hand. Eventually the host put me out of my misery and just gave us the point. Reluctant applause. We won a free bottle of beer each and a mini crocodile-shaped litter picker thing. Wicked.


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