Yesterday was my thirty-ninth birthday, and I gave myself a Mercedes.
Not really. I mean, I did get a Mercedes yesterday, but the fact that it arrived on my birthday was pure coincidence, as is the fact that the license plate bears both my initials and those for body odor. A company car is a perq of the job and while I would have been happy to take the cash allowance (seeing as I live a ten-minute walk from the office and Berlin has some of the best public transport in the world), a large German automotive experience on which to traverse the autobahns was part of the Faustian bargain I made with husband in order to persuade him to move to Berlin. And thus a large, charcoal grey, slightly menacing-looking station wagon is now parked on the cobbled street in front of our apartment.
But my relationship with Mercedes Benz begins way before yesterday. It goes back as far as I can remember to the almost mythical status it held in my childhood household thanks to my mother’s coveting of a two-seater, red Mercedes convertible. It was an impossibly glamorous object of desire, made even more so against the backdrop of our staid suburban track-house neighborhood. She and my father upgraded out of that neighborhood to one with, well, bigger track houses shortly after my sister and I left home, but it took her until just a few years ago to finally get that little red convertible. Perplexingly, she chose a Lexus. It reminded me of how growing up I wanted more than anything to pierce my ears. My parents’ rule, though, was that I was not allowed until I was sixteen. Then when I finally did turn sixteen, I decided not to pierce them. I guess it was my way of pretending I had been in control all along. To this day, they’re still not pierced.
My second run in with a Mercedes came when I was first living in Los Angeles. I had lent money to my then boyfriend, who was having trouble paying me back. He offered to give me his 1960s Mercedes convertible to pay off the loan. It was Grace Kelly incarnate in a car: navy blue with tan leather interior and round headlights. The catch was that it didn’t start. And I was so mad at him for being irresponsible with money that at the time it just seemed like he was trying to pawn me off with a broke-down car. I insisted he pay me back in cash. Penny wise and pound foolish is a phrase that comes to mind.
It only took me about fifteen more years to finally get my own Mercedes. If my mother ever comes to visit in Berlin I’ll have to let her drive it. Maybe she can take me to get my ears pierced.