During the misspent youth of the shallow man, I saw a film that helped make me who I am today, Top Gun. This incredibly intellectual and moving piece of art, affected me profoundly. Up until then I had no idea that to impress a woman all you needed to do was sing you’ve lost that loving feeling, with your wingman (a concept I also learnt from that movie) and women would be like hagelslag in your hands. Sadly, dreams offered in movies and on TV often differ significantly from reality, which brings me to the subject of today’s post.
The shallow man grew up in a tight knit community in East London. The old folk used to say that in the good old days we were all in out and out of each others houses. Which was true. We’d leave with TV’s, jewelry, anything that wasn’t nailed down.
Today’s post is about an American who in the name of love moved to a tiny village of 800 people in the Netherlands to be with her husband and later went on to win Popstars. She has such a tale to tell that the shallow man, when he stopped laughing, crying and laughing again, has decided to split this story into two parts. Not having seen Popstars for many, many, years, I even subjected myself to several hours of viewing on Youtube. The things I do for my readers!
The Officer and the singer
I’ve been singing for most of my life. I know it’s a cliche, but singing really is my first love and I worked and still work hard at being the best that I can be.
Being a performer in America is a respected form of work. I have worked for Walt Disney, Universal, Universal Studios in Japan, Busch Gardens, and many, many theatres across the nation. I am a member of the honourable Actors Equity Association, the professional union for theatre performers in the USA. Its by invitation only.
I took a job that meant that I could combine two things that I love, singing and travel, so I worked on a cruise ship. While there I fell in love with the man who would be my first husband who was on officer on the ship. We married and decided to settle in the Netherlands.
Inburgering (or keep your expectations low, be humble Uriah)
My first husband was from a small village of only 800 people. For the first two months of my time here, my husband had to work out his notice with the cruise ship company, leaving me, someone who knew virtually nothing about the Netherlands living with his family in a tiny village. The village was full of people who’d lived there for generations and who had no sense or respect of the privacy of others. It was a real culture shock. To be part of the community was to be involved in the endless gossip that went on about people in the village, something that I had no desire or interest to participate in.
I had to do the Inburgering course, which I’m grateful for as I learned to speak Dutch fluently. I was pregnant by this time and as much as I know it’s normal for Dutch women to cycle while pregnant, found it incredible that I’d have go 3km on my bike every day back and forth to the course. What I found interesting about the course was that they went to great effort to teach the participants how to rent a property, but buying a property was not covered, after all we were foreign, why or how would we ever be able to afford a house? Just to reinforce our expected status in this country we were also taught how to claim Uitkering (social security).
Home is where the birth takes place
Now in 2013, the women of Holland are able to choose to give birth in hospital, and can have an epidural if they wish. In 2006— I did not have the same choice. First of all, my family in laws all had their children at home, and the fact that I wanted to give birth in a hospital was considered stupid – or even weak. An epidural? That was absolutely out of the question. The midwife even laughed when I told her that was what I wanted. For my entire adult life, I have worked as a professional singer and dancer. I know my body very well, and knew that an epidural was something that I needed. I ended up being in labor for two days, and when I finally said I was going to the hospital (already in labor)- and an actual doctor took over from the midwife, I ended up having two (yes 2!!!) epidurals.
Privacy does not extend to the labor ward
It was considered strange and downright offensive that I didn’t want my in laws present in the room while I was giving birth. The idea that someone wanted to watch as I pushed a baby out of my hooha was disgusting for me. But they got quite upset about it.
Like one of the other woman wrote for the shallow man blog. They were a wealthy family, and have a great standing in the community where they lived. the money went for nice vacations, and trust funds or houses. I will never forget taking a car trip to a fancy ski resort in France, and me, being an American- everything was so new – being in Europe was exciting, there was a gas station with a french bakery in it- I spent 1.50 euros for a real French croissant. It was like I committed a huge sin, because he sandwiches were brought with us, and I was wasting money by not eating what they brought.
Makeup and clothing.
I will never understand what it is with some Dutch women. To me it seems like when women reach the age of 30 years old, they chop all their hair off, stop wearing makeup and channel their inner feminist for fashion. I was looked at strangely on a daily basis because of the makeup I wore, my feminine sense of fashion and desire to have acrylic nails. They called me “ordinaire” because I actually wanted to look and feel like a woman instead of a man.
You have an accent!
The shallow man will jump in here. So our plucky American protagonist, an experienced singer, tried to launch a singing career here in the land of brown shoes and denim. I’ll add that as I live in Amsterdam Zuid, also the land of hot if not rather loud and poorly dressed women. I’m getting distracted. So back to the tale. When auditioning for singing roles, she was told that she sings with an accent. I find this bizarre, as Lady Gaga, Miley bloody Cyrus, Madonna, Britney, Whitney and just about every other American singer all sing with their own accent and yet are or have been very popular here. I’ll shut up now.
In Holland, singing is considered a hobby. People could not understand how you could make a living with the arts. There is no union here, therefore no protection for people working in the theatre. They never, ever took me seriously, and even the big names wouldn’t have a look at my cv, because- well I didn’t speak accent-free Dutch and therefore I was a stupid wannabe.
I was running out of options as a singer so in order to make ends meet I auditioned for the talent show Popstars. I really just did it to get some exposure and was completely shocked when six months after my first audition, I won!
End of Part 1. Not to be confused with the Sylvester Stallone movie, cliffhanger.
No nosy neighbors were hurt during the writing of this post.
For more wisdom on life in the Netherlands click on the links to buy the Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man, from BOL and Amazon. I’ll also add that I’m even more irritating in person than in the book.
In part 2, we’ll reveal the name of the singer in question and discuss her rise fall and rise again.
Dear Jessica and Andreea-
It’s really great to hear back from people who have read my story. My biggest hope in sharing it is that is will speak out to those feeling depressed or frustrated in their expat experiences and provide some kind of positive feelings towards the future. Not to mention revealing a few behind the scenes looks at the reality television world.
Take care and I hope you enjoy part 2 and the upcoming part 3!
First thing I will do in the next 5 minutes immediately after reading your story I will “youtube” for Popstars auditions if I have any luck with my dutch . Goodluck, girl!
Mysterious singer, so brave of you to share your story with us. Not so much curious at your name, because I think your story speaks for lots op people. I do, however, want to read the second part now. Because this story definitely deserves a happy ending!