A Dating Fairytale: Hansel & Gretel in Berlin

photos: Felix Russell-Saw

Sometimes I wonder if our generation is more obsessed with fairy tales than previous ones. Faced with a reality of the gig-economy, serial dating and an all too uncertain future, who can really blame us? And honestly, nothing prepares you for life in Berlin quite like a steady diet of stories about abandonment, witches and cute animals. The revelation that fairy tales are not real (for better or worse) is one of the milder let-downs of adult life. As grown-ups, we just have to conjure up our own magic. The good thing about this is that we can be whoever we want to be. Siding with the witch, especially if she is beautiful and satisfyingly revengeful might be the best choice in the end.

I have met a lot of people in Berlin and despite an excellent memory I surely don’t remember all of them. Few people became part of my personal lore and some just vanished. And there is one that managed to do both: I call him Hansel.

Once up a time, in a bygone Berlin summer Hansel and I spend exactly 28 hours together. 28 mostly naked hours. It was way back when I had an online dating account. That day I was hungover, horny or stupid (or all of the above) and in a fit of absolute mania I agreed to just show up at his apartment. (Remember my dear reader: I do these things so you don’t have to.) Instead of the half-anticipated big-bad-wolf, he turned out to be handsome and very agreeable company. To this day I count him amongst the most attractive men I have ever slept with.

Stroke of fate, he was just about to leave Berlin, basically forever, the next day. I left his apartment two hours before he got on a plane. And this is where things turned cursed: from the moment, he left to roughly two weeks later we stayed in touch and dare I say I found myself crushing on him. When from one day to the next, texting stopped. It could have been a perfect story: two strangers sharing fleeting, passionate intimacy, a tale that we would both remember wistfully, forever.
I went on with my life. Or in Tolstoy’s fashion: I fell in love or imagined I had; went to parties and lost my head. Bought a horse which I didn’t need at all (an English “horse” that took a great liking to Ketamine and had to put out of its misery six months later).

When all of a sudden, months later, Hansel would start to occasionally pop his head (now featuring a Rapunzel-like-man-bun) into my life, mostly in the form of (semi-)nude snapchats or enquiries about my relationship status. We’d make each other aware of our presence in the other’s kingdoms, sorry, cities of residence by the tags in Instagram posts but somehow, we’d never meet up. I spend some time wondering why I indulged this behaviour, even partook in it. By now, I know that there is a simple word for what he and I were up to: Breadcrumbing.

By throwing the occasional digital morsel in each other’s direction we managed to stay relevant to each other without any actual effort. Vain behavior, mostly exhibited towards people you’re not really interested in, but interested in staying relevant to. It’s like a gingerbread house back in the woods of your memory. One that your peckish ego occasional revisits to nibble on. There’s nothing like the sweet, sticky flavor of being desired and lusted after without putting in any of the work. It’s the lowest form of human interaction in the food chain of post-coital communication.

The (admittedly artificial) feeling that you somehow turned into an immortally-adored creature of legend by simply reminding someone of your existence bimonthly was something I had gotten used to. Almost anticipating the validation-knock on my ivory tower that I found myself responding to, even when I really didn’t care about this certain Prince Charming anymore. Times had changed and so had Hansel. The former saccharin sweet kid had turned into a shaggy, puppy-dog-eyed wolf begging for crumbs. So, opposed to a fairy tale: There was no happily ever after to be had.

Hansel, if you’re reading this, thanks for the breadbasket full of nudes, but I think we’re both better off choosing the low-carb option from here on.

xoxo, Gretel


Text: Alix Berber, photos: Felix Russell-Saw

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Alix Berber is iHeartBerlin’s dating columnist. The Tattletale Heart tells stories of desire, infatuation and the ghosts of lovers past. They are the dating-chronicles of a hopeless romantic with serious trust issues in the capital of the notoriously unattached.

You can follow Alix on Twitter and Facebook.


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