Yes, I Am Talking About You

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Yes, I Am Talking About You

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS/THE OBSERVER

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS/THE OBSERVER

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS/THE OBSERVER

By NOELLE DE LEEUW, Contributing Writer

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I have a secret.

What started out as a playful exploration of my abilities has turned into a shameful practice that has filled me with guilt. The truth is: I am not like you. This may come as a surprise — when you encounter me on the street, or in class or on the train, I may strike you as one of your own. I walk like you. I dress like you. I know the difference between a Sicilian slice and a Neapolitan. I can effortlessly rap along to Hamilton’s “My Shot.” And I have very strong opinions on coffee chains (spoiler alert: never Starbucks). But behind my carefully created façade lurks my true identity.

I am not American.

Before you frantically get ICE on the phone, know that I come in peace. I’m from this tiny country called the Netherlands. You know, Old Amsterdam. So it’s basically like home for me here. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, right? Anyway, this wooden shoe-laden, tulip-fantastic, windmill-extravaganza that is my home country means that English is, in fact, not my first language. And with my Dutch native tongue comes my fatal flaw, because as it turns out, we bilinguals have a hidden power. I am ashamed to admit it, but I feel like there is no option for me but to come clean.

I am talking about you.

Yes, you. You see, the Dutch are at an utmost advantage in the gossip department. Do you know how many people around the world suffer from this disease of the throat that we like to call a language? Let me tell you — not many. And with this unique position comes my dirty little secret. The most malicious lingo that my vocabulary allows has been reserved for you. And you’re right next to me when it happens.

It is you, the weird dude in that one class I have.

Your weird remarks are exhausting. I don’t know why you can’t take a hint. I am in my group chat as you’re starting yet another monologue of absurdity. I’m talking about you, and about how weird you are. I am questioning how on earth it’s possible that you feature a wedding ring on your finger while I am still single. I’m looking you in the eyes as I do it.

It is you, you absolute creep on the street.

I am walking down Central Park South, minding my own business. I am on the phone with my fellow Dutch-tongued confidant when a series of obscenities are yelled into my direction. I am disgusted. All men are pigs. You are practically right next to me, and I am ripping you to pieces in terms you would never understand. Suddenly, I am just as smug about the situation as you are.

It is even you, Professor.

You know who you are. At the mention of American culture and New York City phenomena, you feel the need to pause, and direct yourself to me with the question, “Do you understand?” You should know there is something you don’t understand. I dare you to unravel the words on my screen.

By now I am positive you have labeled me the Bicycle Bitch of Brooklyn. The Heineken connoisseur from hell. The personification of Dutch directness. But there is more. I have discovered how my taste for shameless slander in secrecy goes further than the casual ad hominem remark. I find myself having the most inappropriate of conversations in the most public of settings.

I am at a hip coffee shop surrounded by matcha-sipping people pretending to work, when my Amsterdam friend, a fellow prim-and-proper beacon of pickiness in the romance department, decides to confide in me her most out of character of actions: a passionate love affair with the guy who lives next door. The juicy details are scattered all over the screen of my Macbook, in letters big and bold enough for everybody around me to see. If only they knew.

I am at the grocery store at rush hour with my fellow Dutch friend, who is on the phone with a friend from home. She is telling her, in explicit detail, about a recent encounter of passion. In the middle of the frozen food section, the mention of sex acts and body parts are flying around left, right and center. It appeared the young man in question was Jewish. She did not know what to do with “it” (you can decipher that on your own time). People around me reach for bags of peas and tubs of ice cream. If only they knew.

I am in class and have fallen victim to a serious case of distraction. I am in the group chat with my girlfriends, talking about all those things girlfriends in a group chat talk about. I tell them, to their great amusement, about a recent moment of utter humiliation. The guy next to me looks puzzled as he glares at my screen. If only he knew.

Between my indulgence in salacious talk, and my somewhat casual habit of character assassination, I promise you there is a sweet girl in me. I am, contrary to what is evidenced above, a well-mannered young woman. Even though this was not easy to confess, it feels good to get this off my chest. And I will try to be better. I will try to stop exploiting the Gouda cheese-eating bicycle-enthusiast that hides within me. To stop taking pleasure in knowing that all the monolinguists out there don’t know about my power. 

I will try to be better. And if you catch me blushing at my screen anytime soon, you’re in on my little secret too.