In the US, I’m perfectly normal. I’m relatively well educated, deep in debt, average looking, and averagely tall. I’m a white guy with brown hair and my genetic normalcy allows me to blissfully fall under nearly everyone’s radar. Before coming to the Netherlands, people assured me that my average-white-guyness would make it easy to fit in. My weak mind was soon lulled into thinking that, if nothing else, I could be the quiet Dutch guy in the corner of the room rather than the unfriendly, weird, and clearly American tourist in the corner of the room.
Turns out I look about as Dutch as I am, which is not at all. I’m less well educated, deeper in debt, on all counts uglier and pudgier, and painfully small.
Kleding is Dutch for “clothing,” but anecdotal evidence tells me the translation omits “…for the freakishly tall.” Kledingwinkels (clothing stores) in the Netherlands are basically one Big & Tall store after another. Nearly every piece of clothing is L, XL, or XXL, and even the occasional M is made for giants. After trying on comically large raincoat after comically large raincoat, I managed to find one that fit. Sure, it was a little short in the arms, but it fit. No more swimming in Dutch-made gear intended for Dutch-made Robert Wadlows. Pleased, I look at the price. Less pleased, it’s a children’s jacket.
Would Gary Coleman’s friends (bless his little heart) tell him he’d fit right in if he was moving to Kenya with the Maasai? Sure, that comparison’s a stretch and more than vaguely racist, but the answer is still no. I never really cared or wondered why the Dutch were so tall, but two real estate agents offered the single most scientific, convincing, and comprehensive explanation ever.
Liz and I were looking for apartments and everyplace we saw had abnormally tall closets. I’d need a stepstool; Liz a ladder. We finally commented about how tall the Dutch are, and without blinking an eye, one realtor said the Dutch are so tall because they sleep so much. Lying down for such a long time lets the body stretch out. Before I could possibly challenge the reasoning, the other agent agreed with a certainty reserved for water being wet, puppies being cute, and Nickelback being awful.
Well, there you have it folks. Het is wetenschappen. It’s science. Please don’t trouble yourself with those pesky genetics or generations of natural selection. A quick nap will change your DNA in a jiffy. Lying down will obviously elongate your bones without all the pain and suffering that Gattica would have you endure. And Gary Coleman must have clearly been an insomniac with only himself to blame for his shortcomings. I don’t get enough sleep so I can’t reach full Dutch potential.
Quite the tidy explanation, unassailable from any and all angles. Why can’t I find a suit that fits in Amsterdam? Sleep. Why don’t my feet reach the ground when I’m on the toilet? Sleep. Why do urinals here lovingly cup my balls? Sleep, and good design.