Saturday, February 18, 2006

Readership, modesty, and a language barrier

So my dad reads this blog too. Which means he's probably rolling his eyes and wondering what he did wrong in raising me because of the last post's this is my quick Brazilian culture update to ease troubled souls over my choice of clothing. I'm so modest here, it's ridiculous.

It's funny how things are different in different cultures. If I went to Romania, for example, all my piercings would have to go, but here, they're perfectly acceptable even within the Christian subculture. Here, almost anything goes. Well, almost.

Brazilian modesty standards vary greatly, depending on weather, social class and proximity to the beach. Here in the favelas, a bra counts as a shirt. Not for me, of course, but for a great many of the women. And shorts that in the States I would only use as swimsuit bottoms are normal go-out-on-the-streets sort of fare. Go down to the Zona Sul where all the beaches are, and you'll see men and women wandering around, doing their grocery shopping, having a beer, eating lunch at a their speedos and bikinis. Without coverups.

But there are different standards for every possible social occasion. I think it has something to do with povery and televison, that insane pressure to appear neat and pressed and perfect because only the rich can afford to look grungy and not be judged for it. Example of a conversation I overheard, after we had to make a detour because the color of my friend's belt didn't match the color of the shoes she was wearing. Not really the color of the shoes, but the color of the heels...

Brazilian 1: It doesn't can't wear a black belt with shoes that have white on them.
Brazilian 2: If you were going to the Zona Sul, it wouldn't matter. They wear all sorts of mismatched stuff down there...
Brazilian 1: That's because they're rich slobs! Don't they ever watch televison??? No one EVER is mismatched on TV!

So there's that. Bag, shoes, belt...they need to coordinate. And the color of the stitching on your jeans should also be considered.

So then we get to church attire. There's one standard for morning church, another for night church, and yet another for what's appropriate to enter a church building in. When Anna was here, we were getting ready for night church and I was wearing a iittle tank top, a peasant skirt, and rastarinhas (dressy flipflops). Junior walks in in his jeans and pressed shirt and sneakers and gives me the "you're not actually going to wear that to church?" look. What? I'm dressed, I have makeup on, I'm wearing big earrings. He's wearing sneakers (which granted are expensive here and therefore okay for church) and jeans! There's this language barrier I can't yet cross related to the myriad of new social standards I still don't get. So I changed. Into black and heels and all is well with the world.

It's tiring, trying to figure all this stuff out.

So when my Christian girlfriends tell me they're embarrasssed to go to the beach with me because my swimsuit looks like something their grandmother would wear (and knowing that one of my swimsuits from the States, IS, in fact, the same one my grandmother uses!), I decided to take the plunge and be Brazilian.

Giving in to peer pressure and the allure of pink. What can I say? I'm a conformist.

1 comment:

wren said...

Jenna! A pink Che bikini?! I love it!