Saturday, April 01, 2006


I'm wearing dark-colored medium-tight blue jeans and a gray-blue form-fitting pullover shirt. Mottled-blue cotton socks and Adidas Samba's on my feet. Bushy hair and a smooth-shaven face... Pretty typical.

In evaluating my physical appearance, I realize I am not quite American anymore. My jeans are too tight for American preferences -- unless you're an cowboy or a ballet dancer -- form-fitting around the thighs and flared at the bottoms. I would have never worn "dress socks" with jeans during my days in the USA; standard-issue white tube socks always seemed to do the trick... But even playing basketball back in America one time, since moving to Amsterdam, Matt Olszewski had to loan me some socks so I wouldn't look like the clueless foreigner that I had become. If my old friends from BGSU, like Matt Eldon and Gregg Stark, could see my hair this afternoon -- they would point and laugh at "The Buuuush" on top of my head that used to be a sign of an apathetic college student but is now the sign of, well, me. I tried letting my beard grow out a little bit this week -- which Americans can do, because we're actually capable of generating moderately thick facial hair in less than three months (unlike many Nederlanders) -- but I had to shave it all off after a few days because it was itching so much and making me feel silly every time I looked in the mirror. I reflect back on the time when my family hosted Guillaume -- the French foreign exchange student -- remembering his tight clothes, bushy hair, and "Euro" swagger... And I can see a little of myself in the reflection. I start to become anxious about how I will be perceived when I'm back in Ohio this summer, because I remember some of the amused glances from Guillaume's days. Of course, he could get away with it because he was French. But what's a Shelby boy doing looking like this?

Of course, the irony of it is that I'm painfully aware -- simultaneously -- that I'm not quite European either. My jeans are actually a bit too roomy for European tastes -- in that I can still use my front pockets (which also happens to be so typical of practically-minded Americans). The nondescript long-sleeved shirt that I'm wearing would have once been considered "dressy" enough to wear to school presentations or Sunday morning church; but here, I feel that my shirt is at the very social extremities of "casual." I only wear sweatshirts or T-shirts now on Saturdays, when I plan to be staying at home for most of the day... And while nobody in Holland would comment about my socks, they would take offense at my shoes -- because you're only supposed to wear sport-shoes if you're playing sports. My hair length is good enough for European standards, but I don't gel it up often enough to really fit in. So I either get a super-buuuush as the wind whips my hair as I bicycle through the city, or I get smug tourist-disdainful looks from the natives if I wear a stocking cap (they seem to be considered out of place anywhere other than on the ski slopes) to keep my hair down and my ears warm.

I'm a mutant half-breed. I'm somewhere in between cultures. And not just in my sense of fashion -- but in my music, my art, my politics, my language, my diet, my athletics, my affections, my hopes, my fears, my personality, my tics... I'm a freak by-product of straddling two continents. Not quite American. Not quite European.

I am Eurican; hear me roar.


At 2:56 AM, Blogger Sander Chan said...

Seems like you fit in quite well with the multi-cultural Amsterdammers... You're amazing at integrating in our silly culture. I'm proud of you!
I think that I would be stubborn and prideful enough to stubbornly wear European style clothes in the States. And I think I would still try to speak European style bad English.

At 10:42 AM, Blogger Marco said...

Yeah Sander... I know you would, you Europatriot! :)


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