In general, Danes are not gossips, particularly about the sex lives of people they know.
It’s partly the Danish fetish for privacy, partly the basic acceptance of all things sexual, partly the lack of naughty excitement about all things sexual.
Danish politicians, for example, don’t have sex scandals. French politicians have sex scandals. American politicians have sex scandals. Danish politicians have tax scandals.
They could be bedding down every night with a chimpanzee and the Danish media wouldn’t touch it.
What the Danish public cares about is – Are these guys paying every krone of their giant Danish taxes? Because I am! They’d better be! Or did they or their spouse fail to meet the full non-residency requirement necessary to avoid the top tax on annual income? (That was a real scandal, by the way).
✚ That time I made a gossip mistake
Gossip is not really exchanged or enjoyed. A few years ago at an office party, I saw two co-workers who were married to other people leave the party with their arms around each other.
When I mentioned it to some other colleagues at lunch on Monday, their sudden silence made it clear that they felt the person who was behaving improperly . . . was me.
There are some people whom, it is generally agreed, it’s OK to gossip about. These are the people who appear in the weekly Danish color tabloids sold at every supermarket and kiosk. (One thing you should know about these magazines is that unlike supermarket tabloids in the USA, you’re not allowed to flip through them while you wait in line. You touch them, you buy them.) These tabloids are also available for your reading pleasure at pizza joints and hairdressers all over Denmark.
This generally approved subset of gossip targets is relatively small. We’re talking about anchors on the local news channels, football players and their lightly-clothed girlfriends, the stars and judges of reality shows. In these weekly color tabloids, they openly discuss their romances, or lack of them, their children, or lack of them, their beach vacations, and the hats and dresses they wear to galas. There are a surprising number of galas in Denmark.
Nevertheless, it being a small country, you’re bound to know some of these people personally sooner or later. I have an old friend who works for DR, the Danish public broadcaster, and while I was waiting in line at the supermarket to buy cat food, I learned that her husband had left her.
✚ It’s OK to gossip about the Royal Family
The real star of the weekly tabloids, and the foundation of all Danish gossip, is the Danish Royal Family. It’s the world’s longest-running soap opera – more than a thousand years on the throne and still going strong. In every weekly edition of the tabloids, you can count on several happy stories about the Royal Family. Happy, happy, happy. They are spending family time together! They are going to galas! They are an inspiration to us all!
Behind the happy family pictures, outside the tabloids, there is an entirely different undercurrent of royal gossip. Various princes are said to have different fathers than the officially announced candidate. Lots of examining family pictures there, comparing face shapes and eyebrows and noses and hairlines.
There’s also a long line of gossip about the Queen’s husband and his extramarital sexual activities. The man’s eighty years old now, but according to the rumor, the Queen has said she would abdicate if these activities were ever disclosed.
Another standard rumor is about the former Queen Ingrid, the current queen’s mother, who was supposedly a kleptomaniac. According to legend, she would go through stores and people’s homes picking up items and putting them in her purse, and then a lady-in-waiting would come after her and pay for everything. None of this has ever been publicly confirmed, but everybody in Denmark knows the story.
And then there’s nonstop chatter about the sex life of the younger royals – whether they’re happily married as they pretend to be or whether they’re getting some on the side.
But if the Danish royal family wanted to take the focus off their potential sex scandals, there’s one easy way to do it.
They could do something that royals in most other countries do, and in fact most people in Denmark do, and even some Danish politicians do.
They could pay taxes.
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Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2023