A single word can change your life.
When I was singing in a small opera company, I met many interesting and talented people. One man in particular, Peter, was an attractive and brilliant tenor from Germany who lived in Canada intermittently, singing in our productions whenever possible. He could not speak English so we rarely did more than nod and say ‘hello’ in passing.
Before he returned in 1997 to perform with us, he learned from a rather musical grapevine that I was newly separated and on my own. I was flattered to find out later that he quickly enrolled in an English course so he could talk to me.
He should demand his money back.
Talking with him was like a continual game of charades, but with his thick accent and shy, thoughtful manner, it was all very charming. I decided the concert hall where we rehearsed had far too many ears in the walls so I asked Peter to come over to my house for a coffee. I wondered if he was quiet and serious all the time, or just in crowds.
It was the afternoon that one word altered my world forever.
Denise: Would you like some more coffee?
Peter: Yes. Sank you.
Denise: So...as I was saying, I like reading the newspapers to keep up on world events. In fact, a U.S. politician is making headlines right now for wearing woman’s underwear. How funny is that?
Peter: I don’t know vy? Zer iz nussing wrong vis a man verring vomans underver.
Peter: Of course!
Denise: (incredulously; louder and more slowly) You don’t think there’s anything wrong with a man wearing woman’s underwear?
Peter : (sensing a problem developing; smile waning). No. I don’t sink zer is anysing wrong vis zis...
Denise: Would you wear woman’s underwear?
Peter: (looking uncomfortable; laughs weakly) Vell yes...vy not? Especially somesing pretty on Walentine’s Day or a birsday! Some men are too embarrassed for zis but I am not.
Denise: (eyebrows raised, ready to clear off the table) I can see why you’ve never married.
Peter: (looks around nervously like a trapped animal, then suddenly turning a violent red, places hands on both cheeks in horror) Iz zis zee right word ‘verring’? You go to ladies boutique and are ‘verring’ a nice present for her?
Denise: (hopeful) Did you mean ‘buying’? Men buying woman’s underwear is okay? For a gift?
Peter: Ya! Ya! Buying! Oh Got! Zis English iz so schtoopid!
Greatly relieved and laughing until our sides hurt, the ice was thoroughly broken and we had a few more cups of coffee. And we got married in the summer of 1999.