When the woman on the cargo bike comes to a stop in front of me, I have to stop too.
At the beginning of January, a bike path on a busy main street in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg: A driver pushed the nose of his car across our lane, the woman simply couldn't get past with her wide vehicle.
Just a few inches backwards and the cargo bike would steer around the hood.
Instead, the driver accelerates, cuts off the woman's path and dashes away.
We look at each other, I have to laugh.
"Typically male way of solving a problem," I say.
The woman smiles back and says, "Nice scarf."
Editor in the "Life" department of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.
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In a good mood, I continue cycling and think about when all the compliments from women actually started – regardless of whether they were friends, colleagues or strangers.
Recently, during a video conference with a large group, a colleague wrote to me in the chat, my red sweater with the yellow scarf, that was pretty.
When I try out my new super powder before a party, my sister-in-law says I hardly need any make-up anyway.
A few months after my fiftieth birthday I was in a bar with two friends;
actually it was a special evening, maybe we all shone a bit.
Anyway, when the women at the next table got up, all about half our age, one of them touched my shoulder.
She just wanted to tell me that I look incredibly beautiful.
At the same time she called me.
I was like I was on clouds for days.
We used to appraise each other in bikinis at the outdoor pool
I also tell female colleagues after the holiday how rested they look, greet female friends with "Hello, beautiful lady" and celebrate either their charisma or their well-fitting jeans.
Is this a new phenomenon?
I do not think so.
“Nice pullover”, “cool hairstyle” – girls get used to complimenting each other at the latest when they are teenagers, maybe even in kindergarten when one friend admires the other’s glittering T-shirt.
One may find this superficial and criticize it as the beginning of an eternal evaluation and comparison that makes even young women dependent on external appearances and confirmation.
In the social media age, that can be even more destructive than it was back then, when we appraised each other in bikinis at the outdoor pool.
I still like compliments, and they mean a lot more to me since I've noticed that I get them almost exclusively from women.
That has actually changed.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm getting older.
But certainly not only.
I am part of a generation of women who considered themselves emancipated without developing a sense of sexism, abuse of power and the structural disadvantages of women.
Compliments from colleagues in the office were somehow part of it
Until the hashtags #Aufschrei and #MeToo, I thought it was normal for colleagues to at least nod approvingly when I appeared in the office in a dress.
Not always, never all.
But it was part of it.
And I really liked it.
It was only the public discussion about men, first like Rainer Brüderle, and later about the Harvey Weinsteins and Dieter Wedels of this world, that opened my eyes to the gray levels of abusive behavior that degrades women to sexual objects and shames them in their professionalism.
Looking back, I realized that I had uncritically used the unfortunate combination of attractiveness and competence to my own advantage when in doubt.