Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dutch Treat

I recently wrote a post on what I like to call my "nether lands." After I finished it, I realized that I should probably say a word or two about the group that I have chosen to revile: the Dutch.

I think that we all choose, or need to choose, a group to hate. By deciding what we despise, we reestablish our priorities and identity. In other words, if we hate Mexicans, then we define ourselves as all that is not Mexican. When I was growing up, we all hated the Soviets. We knew that they were slavish, subservient, subhuman alcoholics. Of course, now we know that they're funny, mildly egotistical (but who isn't?), friendly alcoholics. Similarly, our hatred of the French (or should we call them the Freedom?) surrender monkeys defines us as aggressive, responsible, and active in the world. Of course, we aren't supposed to hate the French anymore, so I guess that they're back to being obnoxious, highly cultured, semi-allies.

My hatred of the Dutch should have begun when I was a child. Two of my parents' best friends, Merle and Margaret, were stationed in the American embassy in Madrid for a couple of years. When they returned to the DC area, they had befriended a Dutch diplomat, Ben, and his horrid wife, Else (actually, "horrid" doesn't quite cover it. What I really mean to say is "foul, evil, self-indulgent, subhuman, totally disastrous, fucking cuntrag of a wife, Else." However, I'm trying to be nice.). Ben and Else, of course, were stationed in DC, which meant that we had the joy of seeing them every few weeks. After only a couple of visits, we decided that Else's nickname would thereafter be "Or Else," as in "Do it my way or else I pull out the cattle prod." Seriously, she had the kind of personality that Heinrich Himmler gave medals for.

Not to slag on my parents' choice of friends, but Merle and Margaret weren't much of a prize, either. Margaret was constantly trying to one-up my parents, and visits to their house usually ended with my mom feeling like a used vibrator. Personally, I find it hard to believe that M&M really liked Ben and Else; it seems more likely that Margaret kept the two Netherlanders around for their exotic accents and Northern Virginia Yuppie street cred.

Actually, Ben wasn't really that bad. He was a little smug, and had the kind of mellow attitude usually associated with Buddha, stoners, or the severely mentally retarded. Else, on the other hand, was the sort of diplomat that a country might send if it was looking to start a war. She constantly commented on her absolute contempt for every aspect of American culture, and used to regale us with her tales of breaking traffic rules and harassing cops for pulling her over. Frankly, she made the South African diplomat in Lethal Weapon II look like Jeff Daniels.

I stupidly assumed that Ben and Else were merely a snotty pair of assholes (hardly a rare breed in Northern Virginia). A few years later, however, I got a job at William-Sonoma, where I worked with Grete, a Dutch emigree in her sixties. Grete's well-shaved moustache (I only noticed the thick black growth when I got within three feet of her face) and pleasant demeanor led me to think that she was a Nazi war criminal hiding out in drag. She was ultimately fired for stealing from the till.

Flash forward to January 2001, and my first visit to the Netherlands. I've been travelling around Europe for a couple of weeks, and have made friends on every train I've ridden. On the train from Berlin to Amsterdam, I find myself in a compartment with two mannish-looking blond women and a womanish-looking blond man. The man, Ernst, follows me to the dining car, where he buys me a beer. I think that, perhaps, I misjudged him; just because he looks like Truman Capote's faggier younger brother is no reason to be judgmental, and he seems to be a pretty decent guy. Ernst proceeds to tell me his entire history of being a submissive homosexual who likes to be beaten. As I gulp down my beer, it becomes clearer to me that Ernst is looking for a few fresh bruises. When I bluntly tell him that I'm not into men, I realize that he knew this all along, and was hoping to goad me into a little slap and tickle, heavy on the slap. I quickly make my exit.

When I get back to the car, the two mannish women are talking. I should note that these women aren't mannish in an Eastern European, broad-shouldered, Rosie O'Donnel way. They are slight of build, thin, and delicate. They just happen to look exactly like David Bowie. Once I get to Amsterdam, I learn that this is common--all Dutch women over the age of 25 look like David Bowie. Except for the ones who look like Steven Tyler.

Anyway, the ladies are talking. Now, I have memorized a few key Dutch phrases, like "Dank u wel" (thank you), and so on. However, listening to the two sisters, I realize that Dutch isn't pronounced like its spelled. "Dank u wel," for example, is pronounced more or less like the sound of an elephant with a head cold yelling out Hitler's speeches through its trunk. Seriously, it sounds like these two women are telling each other to go fuck a donut, but the smiles on their faces tell me that they're having a pleasant conversation. After about two hours of listening to them talk, I realize that they both speak English, although they apparently don't have the slightest goddamn clue about courtesy.

As I wander around Amsterdam over the next few days, I learn that this utter disregard for the feelings of others is a common Dutch trait, as is extreme cheapness, alcoholism, and an amazing level of condescension. Finally, however, I make a friend. One day I'm hanging out in a coffeehouse when a black guy comes up to me. We talk for a few hours, discussing politics and our respective cultures. I'm excited; I've finally met a Dutchman who isn't an asshole. Then Maurice tells me he's from Suriname, and I realize that some stereotypes exist for a reason.

When I get home to the U.S., I review some Dutch phrases that have entered the English Language:

Dutch Treat: you're paying for your own lunch.

Dutch Uncle: a person who is brutally critical.

Dutch Courage: the bravery that comes from a bottle.

Dutch Oven: pulling the sheet over your partner's head after you fart in bed.

Based on these phrases, one would think that the Dutch are alcoholic, cheap, hypercritical perverts. Based on my visit to Amsterdam, I'd have to agree. A quick review of Dutch history gives me even more reason to hate them. For example, in 1637, they destroyed their economy by speculating on tulips. In succeeding years, they would go on to export slavery from Africa to America, set up the South African government that would later enforce apartheid, surrender to Nazi Germany after approximately four days, arrest Anne Frank, and maintain their colonial empire until 1975. Through this all, they would maintain the smug, wooden-shoe wearing sense of innate superiority that makes them such a fucking pleasure to deal with.

In the meantime, they would produce four artists of note (no, I don't count the Brueghels). Van Gogh, of course, would flee the Netherlands as soon as he could. The question, of course, is why Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Bosch chose to stay. The Dutch have also produced a good beer or two, although the export versions of Heineken and Amstel are pretty awful. In fact, I can think of three positive things about the Netherlands:

1. Prostitution is legal, regulated by the government, and unionized. You might not agree with this, but a visit to the Prostitution Information Center convinced me that it's a pretty good idea.

2. Marijuana is legal. Again, you might disagree with me on this one, but it seems to work out well for the Dutch, and I think it would really help America's current tax shortfall.

3. Wynand Fockink, a distillery in the Netherlands, produces the absolute best liquors I've ever had. Seriously, they're amazing. Still, as with every other good things the Dutch do, they keep it all for themselves. You can't get Fockink Amsterdam (the brand name) outside of the country.

Recently, the Dutch have discussed legalization of a political party that endorses child molestation and have deported many of their Islamic citizens. Based on these actions, I get the feeling that the country is gearing up for a fresh run of obnoxiousness. Pretty soon, a lot of people will have problems with the Netherlands. Kindly remember that I told you about them first.

God, I hate the Dutch.


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