“Did you have boyfriends before LSB?” asked Frau Bienkowski.
“I did,” I said. “But I can count them on one hand. Did you have any relationships before you met your husband?”
“When I was a girl, I had a crush on a lad who went to the boys’ school nearby. He was quite good-looking and certainly the best-dressed among his peers.”
I nodded understandingly. (Who am I to question the selection criteria of a lady with 70 years more dating experience and a vastly superior fashion sense?)
“We were friends for a while,” said Frau B. “But then he went away to do an apprenticeship with Siemens.”
“Did you keep in touch?”
“We wrote each other letters but agreed not to be exclusive.”
“What happened when he came back?”
“Well, one night, we all went to a ball. My mother made me a red silk dress; it really was exquisite; a perfect fit.
Months later, the boy told me that he’d always remember how well I looked that night.
Then suddenly,” said Frau B, pausing for effect, “out of nowhere, my bubble burst and he no longer paid me a scrap of attention.”
“Oh no!” I said. “Why not?”
“At first, I had no idea,” said Frau B. “Then finally, one of his friends admitted that he’d told my crush a bizarre story about me hating his guts!”
“What? Why did he do that?”
“I don’t know. Jealously probably. Anyway, we didn’t talk for months but eventually re-established contact. We wrote each other letters for years and years after that – even after we’d both married other people!”
“How did your husband feel about that?” I asked.
“He didn’t really like it,” said Frau B. “I had to reassure him sometimes. Once, when I was out walking with my husband we saw the man again. He didn’t look that great any more. I told my husband that now, were I to meet the man for the first time, I wouldn’t give him a second glance.”
“Did that reassure him?”
“It did,” said Frau B. “You’ve got to reassure men sometimes, don’t you?”
“You do,” I said, and told her all about my dating history in exchange.