No trip to Amsterdam is complete without time in her famed Red Light District. I meandered through a few times, and actually ended up there by accident while out wandering on Hallowe’en night.
Now, before I get started, and all you high-society prostitution know-it-alls get up in my stuff with your snarky emails about how, nimrod, the way to get laid in Amsterdam, if you’re not a cheapskate, is by calling one of those sketchy Estonian modeling agencies and asking for Vlad, not by wandering around in the Red Light District – save your breath. I was just looking, and was doing it for you.
First, let me tell you, and I am telling you this because I love you .. and Amsterdam. The best that Amsterdam has to offer is not up in those windows, tapping back at me with acrylic nails and a painted-on smile. Nono, that’s more like a darker, 200 pound version of my old Algebra teacher. Eeeg. Shudder, walk quicker. The strategy was to move slow enough to check everything out, but fast enough not to get caught in any awkward conversations (with the ladies or with the occasional fruitcake who wanted to talk.)
But then, the speed bump that was baby-faced, blonde, and standing long and lean in her window. She wore a two piece purple sparkly thing that looked like it came out of an Austin Powers movie. Actually, she looked like she’d walked out of an Austin Powers movie. And gabbing on her cell phone, ignoring everyone. Slower now … stop. Oh, whoa, now she’s hot … holy fucking moly. Yep, definitely. Should I be staring like this? I guess she won’t mind, I mean, that’s why she’s standing there. Is she going to say something to me? I hope not, because then it would be rude to just leave. Oh, and the whole disinterested act she has going – sexy. A final glance, then onward, picking up the pace again.
I watched the clientele. Some nervous, some nonchalant. The occasional guy being challenged by his rowdy friends to go for it – as if a bachelor party sort of thing. Couples, too – more young and beautiful than I’d have guessed, a few middle-aged. Some clearly shopping for fun, others just passing through. A few boyfriends pulling their girlfriends through the district “just to look.” The gawking tourists with their giggling and occasional point of the finger. Tourists who’d taken a wrong turn and were clearly mortified. (Sir? Which way to Centraal Station? Tot ziens!)
The looks the prospective customers exchanged with the women; the unheard conversations and doorway bargaining; the mischievous, shameful expressions of prospects as they darted past for their second time, thinking, should I?
I’m not going to go down a socio-philosophical rathole on prostitution here… I mean, it’s not my thing, but some guys definitely dig this sort of transaction. Quick, cheap, to the point, no questions, as anonymous as you like. Doesn’t sound any more dysfunctional than many marriages, but I digress.
From a policy perspective, I think the way it’s handled here (like so-called “soft drugs”) is a whole lot smarter than how we handle it in the US. And prostitution has been around forever, but it’s just that the more subtle forms (you know, like waiting until the third date to put out) are far more socially acceptable than the blatant ones.