The night left behind a delicate dusting of powdered snow to decorate the rooftops and window trimmings of the tidy row of pastel 19th century buildings across the street from where I'm staying. I'm leaving Copenhagen today, a place where everything is in it's right place, where everything is cute and orderly and proper.
For me, having grown accustomed to raucous, unwieldy New York City, and most recently, to the passionate disorganization of Barcelona, Spain, Copenhagen has been like an alternate universe where some soft, delicate parts of me feel safe to come out of hiding.
Everything about this city feels safe and structured. With this city acting as a safe container to hold space for me, I'm able to relax the constant evaluating and measuring that's required of me when my surroundings aren't so predictable. No one jaywalks here, so I don't even consider evaluating whether or not it's safe or worth-it to cross the street. I just do what I'm told like everyone else. I don't have to make up my mind about this because it's already been decided for me. There's something about having things decided for me that allows my cortex to stop working so hard at figuring everything out. And when my cortex relaxes, I'm much more in my body, much more present, and much more relaxed.
It's like the difference between preparing for a date when you don't know where he's taking you and you have no idea what to wear or what to expect, and preparing for a date when he's sent you a dress and heels in exactly your size and a black car to pick you up. I'm not saying I want life to be a controlling sugar daddy, but if you've ever had the latter experience then you know what it means to be able to relax that part of you that always feels like it needs to handle shit. It was nice to spend some time in a city that handles all the details for me so I can fully relax into the experience.
And then there are the people...
The men here are incredibly polite. I sense a restrained warmth from them, as though they have been storing up warmth for years in this nordic climate, and would just love to unleash it on anyone who could handle it if only they knew (beyond any measure of a doubt, mind you) that it would not be any imposition at all. This is different than what I'm used to. Where I'm from, women are taught that it's their job to act as gatekeepers and keep men at bay and men are taught that it's their job to make it through the gates. Because of this dynamic, I've developed a certain vigilance when it comes to male attention, especially when it's unsolicited. In New York City we women get so much unsolicited and often aggressive, male attention that to sort through it and evaluate it all would cost us as much energy as taking on a second job, so many of us learn to deflect it, to repel it, and in some cases, to aggressively combat it. This takes a lot of energy too, but having been to Copenhagen and having had the experience of being able to drop the vigilance, I'm convinced I had just no idea how much energy it was taking.
I think the last time I felt so relaxed and able to let my guard down in public was while walking through the Castro district of San Francisco where 95% of the male population is gay.
So here I am in this tidy, polite, proper place and the badass bitch inside me doesn't know what to do with herself. She really has no reason to come out here.
This experience has me understand the Danish women a bit better, too. There is a wholesomeness about them, an effortless beauty. It's royal but not quite regal. In the U.S. I have to be a queen in order to avoid some of the bizarre interactions I get from men. These women could be queens if they chose to, or they could simply be princesses and still no one would bother them. I think about some of the things U.S. guys have said to me on Tinder and I can't even imagine these noble creatures putting up with any of that shit. The friend I'm staying with confirms my hypothesis when a man visiting from the U.S. messages her on Tinder about whether she lives alone and whether she likes fun, and after her reply that, yes, she does like fun, he follows up to let her know he's got some "BIG fun" for her tonight if she wants it. She muses that if he's using that line on Danish women, he's going to get reported to the police.
So that is how it is in Copenhagen. And the result for me? I have been able to let the badass bitch in me take a break. I have been able to let my center of vigilance take a break. I've been able to be sweet and light and girly here. There's an innocent, more trusting part of me coming out who doesn't need to modulate her femininity or balance it with just the right dose of hostility.
This soft woman, this sweet girl that I rarely bring out even in the safest, most intimate, of encounters is roaming, carefree, on the streets here.
Tomorrow I return to Barcelona where I'm learning to be a woman who sleeps in late and drinks red wine at lunch... but more about that another time.