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Singleton-ed Out



P., of course, wears those shirts that confuse me. His wife calls them singletons. But then P. has great guns and is from Australia. Besides, I don’t think he wears them professionally. But my colleague S. does that in our office, and it’s confusing. Confusing because those types of shirts, that basically show all skin, belong to a very different type of person at home, a frightening person. For weeks, the singleton-situation is my main impression of Tel Aviv. “Passion is a sign of seriousness”, an Israeli friend once told me. In Europe, seriousness is a sign of passion. The more quiet and composed I become, the more passionate I am about something – it’s demonstrating that you are serious and have understood the responsibility and solemnity of a professional task. Complaining about some trivial details is another sign of that. “Nice is the little sister of shitty”, is an important German saying, “Life is not a pony farm”, is another one. Nobody would have ever given an assignment to someone who shouts, has nothing to complain about, or shows too much emotion at my old employer, which was after all a media and communications company and considered hip. Covering yourself up was such an essential part of that composure that they gave us lessons in our cadet class on how to dress for the newsroom. No singletons there, for sure. In addition, social class is not defined by money in Germany, it is defined by education. A stupid millionaire is considered much lower class than a poor professor. And no educated person would ever be caught dead wearing a singleton. Who does wear singletons, however, are people that live in parts of town where someone like me could never safely walk the streets, even at daytime. So for the first few weeks, I walk through Tel Aviv and feel the singleton culture shock so much that I constantly pull my shoulders to my ears. It’s not like I have never been around the block, have never seen a singleton, or have not been to parts of the world where people wear different clothes. But here, literally everyone wears them. All – The – Time. People also never seem to wear any other colours than black or white, something that I noticed on my trip in January already. Nobody ever wears bright red or pink, not even children or teenagers. For someone like me, who loves blue and other bright colours that’s a downer. But given how intimidated I am about the singleton situation and the mass of hipsters everywhere, I leave my colourful clothes in the drawer with a deep sigh in an attempt to not stand out more than necessary in my first few weeks. (I will wear my much-loved flowers though, despite everyone staring at me! Take this, TLV!) After all, there is no greater disdain and social disgrace than the famous contempt of the Berlin hipster for someone wearing the wrong clothes. I know countless stories of friends who are much cooler than me and have not been served in Berlin hipster cafes, because they “didn’t fit the general ambience of our design and gastro-concept, so we kindly ask you to leave”. But black and white hipsters aside, I am especially confused professionally: Together with my colleague S.’s rather raw masculinity in the office, I notice that I find it really hard to gauge him: is he a serious colleague who is passionate about what we are doing? Is he only interested in flirting with me and showing off his hot abs? Both? Is this the “beseder way of life” and I am just too Teutonic and stuck up for it? All my life-long instincts are at fault with this guy. It’s super fun and interesting, but I am starting to understand what G. means when he says that all Israelis fight everyday for anything. After week four, I am a bit over-singeltoned to be honest. So over-singletoned that I keep away from the hipster coffee shops that feature a 99% singleton population, and I refrain from buying a large, VERY colorful floating unicorn that I would just looooove to take to the beach. My Israeli friends laugh at me. Finally I ask a German friend, S., who lives here with her little daughter and husband, and who tells me that she is still struggling even after one year with the singleton situation. So in a cocktail-infused mood, we come up with a “hipster pact” and start working through a list of cafes that are far too cool for the two of us in an attempt to study of the heart of the TLV hipster. At the end of my TLV time, S. actually gets a radio feature about the differences of the TLV hipster to the Berlin hipster out of it. I get quite a few dates. Turns out, life can be a pony farm after all, even if it’s all in black and white.

I collect great beginnings. Beginnings of songs, of movies, of great articles and books.

This quote by Buzz Bissinger is the most beautiful beginning in my collection. It also captures perfectly what it feels like for me to research and write newspaper articles about Israelis and Israel. The short notes below describe the experiences behind my published texts. They are the fun, silly, absurd, baffled or sad real beginnings of those stories. They sketch what happens before or after I write the actual piece and send it off to the editor, and they are taken from my diary entries about rummaging up and down that little country and its people for no other reason but pure curiosity. 

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