My friend and I reunite after 18 months. I missed him dearly, but once we sit down for ramen we can both tell it’s like we were there yesterday. I talk about him often. He’s the person who was so discombobulated by Dutch white innocence, that he felt more comfortable going back to the Middle East to live in the closet. He’s doing better now. No more crack, and the spinning class is surprisingly inclusive. He even joined a theatre group.
“Remember when you scolded me because my website was in Times New Roman?” I ask him. He doesn’t. Back when this happened, he was working a Dutch corporate job. Part of him, or perhaps all of him, must have been so embarrassed to learn he’d sent his UX-hopeful coworker to a webpage that looked like it never left the late nineties.
“Oh look, another book on personal branding” I say as we walk into American Book Center. “That’s actually really what I need” he says. It’s because he’s hoping to be invited to SoHo House Amsterdam. “That reminds me of, what’s her name… Anna Delvey?” I say. That’s exactly what it is, he tells me. It’s a private place for selected Amsterdam creatives. A country club in the city.
“It’s great. You can’t take pictures in there, they let you connect with other creatives, and it’s 200 euros a month. My friend rebranded herself in such a brilliant way, check out this picture of her with her paintings on Instagram. She got an invite right away.” When I note that he moved a five-hour plane ride away from SoHo House Spuistraat, he seems surprised.
At Coffee Company, he shows me his blog, but he holds his hand over the title, of which I manage to catch a glimpse. It’s such a weird name I forget it instantly, but the writing is beautiful. I’m saddened by Gen Z’s inability to just use their own bleeding name for stuff. I don’t think the fragmentation is doing them any good.
I peer pressure him into getting one of those silly hand treatments at Lush, where the people always seem a little too eager to greet you. The person giving the treatment has a pronoun button on their apron, but still I get it wrong. “Zinzy, her pronouns are they/them” my friend says. Minutes later, I joke how I need an applause for managing to use the correct pronoun. The two most oppressed people on Kalverstraat, and we’re mere inches away from becoming the boomers we avoid.
We finally land at Bar Bario, where the Callaloo Hoek staff has come down with covid. What a waste of a good appetite, I think, as I Uber us Ranchi sandwiches. Like two people on a date that can’t find its pace, we take turns asking each other questions from the jar on the table. “When was the first time you felt represented by the media?” I ask him. “Never”.
“This is your SoHo House,” I say, waving my arms feverishly at the Black pride on the walls and queer people of color at the bar. “Your people are here”. He cries a little bit, but because he can’t escape the characteristics of his generation, I can’t tell if he’s faking it, method acting, or just unable to cry like a normal person.