Amsterdam is a cool city – and it sure as hell knows it. With it’s unabashed adoption of sex and drugs, Amsterdam is like the guy down the hall from you freshman year. The one who repeatedly stank up the halls with Afghan kush, all the while writing hallucinogenic-induced poetry, freestyle rapping, or justifying his decision to become a casual Buddhist practitioner.
I have to give it to Amsterdam. It is perhaps one of the few places in the modern world that has managed to make a spectacle out of the world’s oldest profession. At night, Amsterdam’s main attraction is no longer its canals nor its Dutch gables, but its women – women of comical proportions, garbed in outlandish lingerie and sporting ridiculously large breasts. Some of them play the showgirl, press their bodies against the glass; they purse their lips and wag their fingers enticingly we pass.
It is here in the red light district that hoards of young men invade the streets to ogle at the women in their glass cases and marvel at the view. I couldn’t help but think of the freshman crawl known to many a college student, and the cliques of guys who would get turned away from frat parties for not having a good enough male-female ratio.
However, it seemed to me that, in this odd blend between an aquarium and a circus, people do a lot more looking than fucking. These women – does anyone even pay them? I watched them in their rouge-tinted window displays. Half the time they were on their phones – scrolling through their newsfeeds, Snapchatting, and looking incredibly bored. Some them were making calls. I imagine at least a few of them had to be talking to their mothers.
But for all of its inflated embrace of vice, Amsterdam has a unique kind of romance, with its boats and bicycles – the Venice of the north. When I visited with my boyfriend last weekend, we had a magical time walking along the water’s edge.
“I understand it now,” I told him we passed the Prinsengracht canal. “The hype.”
It was uncharacteristically sunny while we were there. Before we left, we were able to have drinks on the terrace without the warmth of a heat lamp. I had shed my jacket as I sipped my Heineken, thinking that this was such a great place to be young.
Good beer, plentiful sunshine, and the man I love.
For a moment there, Amsterdam tricked me into thinking it was summer.