Growing up Foreign – Thoughts about Language & Culture

My ongoing efforts to streamline and consolidate my various writing and publishing activities have inspired me to to think of 2019 as the Year of Authenticity. It occurs to me that a lot of people who read my work have very little idea of who I really am, except for whatever I share in my bio. That’s about to change.

So, here goes. The first in what I envision to become a series of posts about random thoughts and situations that make me, “me”. As a perpetual foreigner, I think about national identity quite a bit, so this first post is about that.

I’m German. I don’t mean that in the “I did 23 and me, and guess what, it says I’m German!” sort of way. I *actually* am, and have the passport to prove it. But, I’ve never lived in Germany, which is kind of weird, I guess. Still, I’m more German than anything else, so I don’t really have a choice. The “Lorelei” part of my pen name is a nod towards my German heritage.

Born in the Netherlands (colloquially: “Holland”) during the 80s, to a German mother (and a Dutch father, who sadly did not live long enough to see me grow up), I’ve always been aware of my roots. She made sure of that.

I’ve also always been aware of how Germans are viewed by a lot of people in other countries across Europe. The kids who would call me a “Nazi” while growing up made sure of that. And that made me a bit prickly when it comes to how a lot of people deal with “foreigners”.

It’s a weird situation to grow up in. An in-between child. Stuck between the culture, traditions (and language) at home and the wider world we lived in. On the outside, you might think our white, Protestant Christian household, would be much the same as the white, Protestant Christian households of the native Dutch populace. Still, the difference – though subtle – were very obvious to me.

This feeling of “in-betweenness” of course wasn’t helped by the fact that my mom sent me to a private German school for the first few years of my education, because she was considering moving back “home”. We didn’t move though, and I switched to a regular Dutch school at age 11, which brought with it its own host of challenges (as well as more kids calling me a “Nazi”).

When people talk about migrants, multiculturalism and integration, it’s often aimed at people who *look* different. People with a different skin colour and religion compared to what is the norm in any given country. When I pipe up with my own thoughts, it’s often waved away. “No, not you. You’re different.” But I don’t bloody feel different. (I mean, I *do* feel different, which is kind of the point I’m trying to make).

Of course, growing up bilingually had its benefits, so I don’t regret any of it. Generally, growing up in Holland had its benefits too. Had we ended up back in Germany, I probably would have been writing this blog in German, not English. I wouldn’t have been able to express myself quite in the same way. I wouldn’t have had the experiences that formed my persionality and my thoughts as an adult. Life might have turned out very differently indeed.

I don’t want to get into politics, but I do feel people are often quite harsh about “foreigners”, “coming over here” and “wearing their weird clothes” or “speaking their funny language out in public”. The justification is often something like this: When you’re in xyz country, it’s your responsibility to speak in xyz language and do stuff however the locals do. Speak whatever you want at home, behind closed doors, if you must. Etc.

These are all things I’ve heard over and over again, often in the same breath as some statement about how that somehow makes our “multicultural society” better.

I call bullshit.

Sure, I was a weird little kid and I knew it. Initially, I spoke Dutch with a German accent, because that’s what I’d learnt from my mom. That was until I started interacting with more of my peers on the playground and in school, and then the accent went away. I obviously faced some prejudice, because *clearly* the holocaust was entirely my fault, even at age 6. Still, I’m fully aware that whatever shit came my way was nothing compared to what people who *look* different have to go through on a daily basis. White privilege is a thing regardless of nationality.

But just because I *looked* local, didn’t mean I was just going to agree to the cultural homogenisation many people like to advocate for. It didn’t matter to my mom and I that in the Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December just like in the UK or US. For us, Christmas Eve (the 24th) will always be the bigger holiday. That’s when the gifts are given in my house even to this day.

Obviously you have to learn the local language, no matter where you live. You can’t function properly otherwise. But to expect that people communicate 100% of the time in a foreign-to-them language, even when interacting with their own family is utter madness. The idea that they have to cast off their traditions, embrace only the local holidays, ideally convert to a new religion, just to fit in, is insane.

Sure, some people take things too far and favour their own traditions over the local laws. That’s clearly wrong. But I think the way that this topic is dealt with by many people is so black & white that it just pitches the two groups against each other harder.

Think about it. Have you learned a foreign language? It’s hard, isn’t it? Fumbling over your words, messing up the pronunciation, trying your best to speak one broken sentence, but forgetting that one crucial word and thus not being able to get your point across at all. Practice makes perfect, as they say, but it’s still super tiring.

Now imagine you’re with your family, after a day of doing all that. How much of a relief it will be to slip into your native tongue and express yourself freely.

Language is what makes us human. It allows us to communicate and exchange thoughts and ideas. And most importantly: it allows us to express our feelings; our love for one another.. Expression is a bit pointless if nobody acknowledges it. Why anyone would advocate to take the most important form of communication away from people, just because they decided to move to another country is beyond me. It should be up to that person to decide what they’re comfortable with. Is there really a downside if their kids learn the local language in school, and a second or third language at home? I think not.

I still speak to my mom in German, though we try to switch to another, more suitable language in case someone else is present. Since she’s the only one I get to speak German with nowadays, I’m not getting much practice. Still better than my Dutch, because although I can still pass as native during short visits, I’m super rusty and often the right words evade me. It’s because I don’t speak it much anymore, or at all.

My husband and I speak English, and the in-laws speak English and Hindi (which I am somewhat conversational in now as well).

After years and years of speaking English day in and day out, it has become my language of choice. That’s why I write in it. Language skills are fluid. It’s really amazing how preferences can change over the years. Should we ever move to Germany for any length of time, perhaps that’ll become my language of choice again. Who knows?

But the point is, it should be *my* choice what I’m comfortable speaking and writing in. Not anyone else’s. And that goes for every immigrant equally, no matter the colour of their skin, or where they’ve decided to settle down.

2019: The Year of Authenticity

A couple of months ago, I “came out” and consolidated my pen names. It’s been a work in progress, but there’s no turning back now. My main goal for doing this was openness.  Although anonymity gives me the freedom I need to write freely, I didn’t want to hide anymore either.

But it occurs to me that a lot of “me” is still hidden.

I have a Facebook page, but it’s purely about my writing. I don’t share photographs or intimate details; not even my real name or my face.

While that’s going to stay that way, for a variety of reasons related to privacy and mental wellbeing, I am going to make an effort to be more open. More real. More authentic.

Why? Because there’s really no reason not to. It feels more honest and freeing as well. I miss the freedom of expression that comes with blogging; something I’ve dabbled with occasionally over the years and which I wanted to start again with the launch of the L. Moone name and website. And I’ll have nothing to write about, if I can’t share stuff about myself.

Here are a few things that you – especially if you’re a relatively new (2015 onwards) reader – might not know about me, and which I would like to get out of the way before I add more personal blog posts.

  1. I’m not British – I’m actually German.
  2. I don’t live in London (anymore).
  3. I don’t have kids, but I do have a family.
  4. The awkward goth phase I went through as a teenager never really passed, even if you wouldn’t know it by looking at me.
  5. I self-identify as a motorcyclist, but it’s been a while since I actually rode one. (Scooters don’t really count, do they?)

 

Of women’s health and choices

I said I would start blogging occasionally, so here I am. With a topic I’ve dealt with in my personal life for a while, but only really decided to tackle a few months ago. The catalyst? Being diagnosed with hypertension. If you’re on my Lorelei Moone mailing list, you’ll already know about this last part.

I’m 33 and I have high blood pressure. Sure, my weight isn’t what I want it to be, and I have too much of a sweet tooth, but I have always been relatively healthy. Or so I thought.

I’m also married and do not have (or want) children. Birth control has been something I’ve always had to think about. For more than half my life I’ve been using hormonal birth control methods. Save for the implant thingy, I had tried just about everything and found that every single one I had tried, was basically shit.

We all know about the potential side effects, right ladies? We know we might get cranky, we might get fatter, develop pimples we didn’t have before, etc. For me, a major side effect was that my libido became non-existent. It doesn’t matter what I did, I just wouldn’t want sex. Ever. I realise that this is a weird thing to admit when you write what I write.

All the methods I had tried threw my hormones off. But what’s the alternative, really?

Six or so years ago, I got really fed up with my birth control and went off it for a while. They gave me a “cap” to use instead. What a load of rubbish that is. Condoms sound great in theory, but once you’re used to what things are supposed to feel like naturally, it’s hard to go back to those. I know some people successfully monitor their fertility to prevent pregnancy, but I wouldn’t know where to begin and was never given the knowledge or tools to track any of that. And having had an unwanted pregnancy before, I would rather not risk going through that again.

Well, once the hypertension diagnosis came in, it came as a shock to me. I was so ashamed of myself. Sure, when you’re taking the pill, your GP will want to check your blood pressure perhaps twice a year or so. Heightened blood pressure is a known side effect, and yet I always thought it wouldn’t happen to me. Certainly not at this age.

But it did. And now I’m taking pills for it every day.

That same day I got my diagnosis, I made a decision. I couldn’t go on like this. I wouldn’t accept that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. I decided to quit my birth control immediately. As luck would have it, my period had just come on. I insisted that along with blood pressure pills, I would get a prescription for a non-hormonal IUD – something I had shied away from all these years, because I’d never heard a good thing about them. I was told that because I was on my period, this was the right time to get it inserted.

Spurred on by shame and desperation, I went for it.

Without going into too much detail, it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. Afterwards, I had to see the doctor again for aftercare instructions and nearly passed out in her waiting room.

Now, 4 months later, my periods are still brutal. At least one day every month the cramps are so bad I can hardly bring myself to leave the house. This was something I had never experienced before. If there’s one thing hormonal birth control is very good at, it’s lessening PMS and period cramps. If my period was coming at an inconvenient time, I could simply postpone or skip it. That, obviously, is no longer an option.

And yet, I’m glad I did it.

You may wonder why. I can share a few reasons with you right now.

  1. I am done for the next 10-12 years. No condoms, no caps, no pills to remember to take. As long as the string is still there, I’m protected.
  2. I’m taking control of my life and my health. If the hypertension was caused by the contraceptives I’ve been taking, perhaps I can reverse it. Even my consistent weight gain over the years, I’m hoping to undo now. Estrogen can make you ravenously hungry, so it’s harder to keep your diet in check. And so on.
  3. I feel like a real woman. And I don’t mean that in any mystical, floaty sort of way. I have my sexuality back. Like a frog, slowly being boiled in a pot of water, I hadn’t noticed all the parts of myself that had gone missing. All the things I hadn’t truly felt all these years.

Sure, it’s annoying to deal with painful periods. But pain can be managed. Hot water bottles and ibuprofen are my new best friends during those days.

And I’m pretty sure that if men were the ones getting pregnant, there’d be a whole lot of better methods of prevention out there. But what can we do? These are the cards we’ve been dealt as women.

So yeah, I’m glad I took the plunge. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner, before the hypertension issue had even come up. Would I have done it, though, if someone had encouraged me years ago? Probably not.

I knew it would hurt, though I did understimate it. For future reference, when a doctor casually asks you about your pain threshold before a procedure, fucking brace yourself!

But, childbirth hurts a lot more. And when you don’t want to become a mother in the first place, it’s going to be even worse.

It’s been a long journey to here

Today, on the 23rd of August, I’m writing this after spending the entire day so far sifting through my old blog posts. This is as good a time as any for some reflection and analysis.

I’ve been at this writing business for a while, you see. And my life and career have undergone numerous changes over the years.

Hedonist6 on Blogspot

Back in 2012, I had a little blog over on blogspot. Some of those ancient posts are still available here on this brand new website. They’re my history and I can’t part with them, so I’ve decided to take them along into this new phase of my life.

Those days were a tumultuous time in my life and marriage. If you’re curious, check out the following posts:

These are the humble beginnings of my writing journey. I started as many do, autobiographically.

Hedonist Six – Quality Erotica (or so I thought)

But I swiftly moved on to fiction. With the release of my first story, Ladies’ Day in the autumn of 2012, my fate was sealed. I would be an independent author. And I have been ever since.

My books from this time include:

  • One Night Stand (I think my first story, Just for One Night, was expanded into this novella)
  • Beautiful Stranger (evolved from that first story, Ladies’ Day)
  • Just Another Day at the Office (currently being reworked, for re-publication in October 2019)
  • The Rebound List (The first quarter of this book is included as the story Virgin, in Gratis: Midwinter Tales)
  • Only a Taste (the beginning of which is the story, A Day in Brighton, which is part of Gratis: Summer Fling)

For a few years, I was content writing these stories I loved, under the weird (and I think, wonderful) name, Hedonist Six. I was never a bestseller, and that didn’t matter to me, because I loved this new creative outlet I had found.

Lorelei Moone – Shifters, baby!

But come 2015, I was ready to up my game. I was ready to take this writing business more seriously, and try my hand at something that I thought could give me both creative satisfaction as well as some monetary success.

A brand new pen name, Lorelei Moone was born.

Under the new name, I published a whole bunch of paranormal romance novellas, organised into four main series:

I did quite alright with these books, and I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved as Lorelei Moone. I still write under this name today.

Hedonist Six – Spectacular(ly underwhelming) Relaunch

During 2016, I decided to look at those old, unloved books, languishing under the name Hedonist Six. I had grand plans. I would take everything I had learned about publishing and marketing, and professionally rework and re-publish all my existing work and hopefully capture a larger audience for them. I did relaunch everything. I got new covers and updated my descriptions. I built a mailing list using giveaways and swaps with other authors. And I basically broke even on my investment.

It was hard that those books which I began my writing career with were not getting seen as much as I wanted them to. I had good reviews, so I was reasonably confident that readers liked them once they found them. But I could not get these books in the hands of enough new people. This failure would put me off writing contemporary romance and erotica for years to come.

L. Moone – Time to grow the F up

I’ve come to the conclusion that during all these years, (seven years, coming up in October or so), I made one crucial mistake. I wasn’t being real enough. This old blog I’ve ported across to the new website was as real as I’ve ever been, but I’ve always hidden behind an abstract sort of a name. Going forward, I’ll be doing no more of that.

Another part of the same mistake was that I launched my paranormal romance books as a separate “persona” from my original work. Lorelei Moone and Hedonist Six were always completely independent from one another. Hardly anyone knew I was the person behind both of these “authors”. That wasn’t fair to anyone, least of all to myself.

You see, I want to be able to openly share my activities and my life with the world. But I can’t do that, if I have to hide what I’m writing, simply because it fits under my “other brand”.

2019 is the year that I put my old pseudonyms behind me and emerge as myself. This is the year I become open about all of my writing, not just the books you happened to come across first.

From now on, my paranormal and contemporary romance titles will be connected. This website will serve as the new home for my blog. And if Facebook et al will let me, I’ll combine my social media accounts as well. I’m done confusing the issue, and look forward to simplifying my interactions with the world. Most of all, I’m done hiding.

I’ve already updated a few of my books on Amazon, changing the author name from Hedonist Six to L. Moone. Next up, I’m tackling an old project that has been pending for years. My first novel, Just Another Day at the Office has been unpublished for years (I think probably 2016 or so), because it needs a rewrite and a good edit. That’s what I’ll be working on during September 2019. My planned launch date is the 7th of October.

And I could not be more excited about it.