Me, Myself and Somaye #3: Moulin Rouge

mmsbanner4Me, Myself and Somaye chronicles the experiences of an international student coming directly from Iran, who had never been to another country, started college a few years later than average, and was raised in a culture diametrically opposed to most of the trends and behaviours practiced in the Netherlands and at University College Utrecht. Funky banner inspiration courtesy of De La Soul.

By Somaye Dehban (’07)

– Is that you, Somaye?

– Yes! Of course!!

– You look…look different?

– Well, yeah! It’s Moulin Rouge night!

When you are an alien to a group or community and try to be part of them and blend in, you never know when you have crossed the line for trying too hard! There is always this background noise asking you: “What the heck are you doing?!” and you want to be able to answer the question every single time it’s asked in great detail and with satisfactory answers. The noise is louder when you are crossing the values that you grew up with, the values that you actually believed in and perhaps still believe in. Yet, you also do not want to be an outsider, not anymore – and probably at that time you do not know exactly why you do not want that. And you try. You try hard. The harder you try, the louder the background noise gets.

And there is a moment that you do not know whether it’s that noise that’s telling you that you have crossed the line or if you have actually crossed the line of trying too hard and now the “others” are telling you that you have crossed the line, the others that you are trying to be one of; the others that you are trying to blend in with. That moment is a fucked up, confusing moment! A moment like the Moulin Rouge night moment!

 

It’s somewhere in 2006 when I’ve been a chief at the bar for a few months; I have a second-patrol-shift at the entrance for Moulin Rouge night. I had been going through my clothes to find something appropriate for the night; but what is appropriate for Moulin Rouge night? The color code was Black and Red and the only thing I had seen from Moulin Rouge was that “Lady Marmalade” video by Pink and Missy Eliott and some other singers whose names I did not know at the time. The uncomfortable feeling I had for a while after watching that clip was thinking that I had committed a sin just by watching those women. Lingerie, full-color lipstick, fishnet-stockings and skin – showing off skin!

That’s all you have to play with to dress up properly for a Moulin Rouge night at the bar, when you want to be one of them. The first I do not have, the second I do not dare to put on, the third was available but never used, and the last one makes the background noise scream in my ear!

The noise goes back to a point it made before, a couple of months earlier, when I signed up to be a bartender: “If you hadn’t signed up, you wouldn’t have to go now!” and it made sense. “But for how long do you want to back off?” I asked the noise and there was only silence.

 

I step out of the door of the apartment on the Kroumhoutweg in the hope of being invisible till I get to the bar and hopefully the rest of the evening. Helaas, you are spotted in that “costume” immediately – the Red!

You want to play it “cool” and pretend that you “own” the way you look and that it’s not a hopeless attempt just to look like them. The first one just looks at you twice, but the next one asks:

– Is that you, Somaye?

– Yes! Of course!!

– You look…look different?

– Well, yeah! It’s Moulin Rouge night!