With the world’s current political state and increasingly anti-US sentiments arising in many foreign countries, being an avid traveler and US citizen could propose numerous problems. However, I like to consider myself a problem dodger and do not fear travel despite Bush’s warnings against it. I’m not saying that I will be visiting Iraq or any Middle Eastern country soon, but I recently went to South America, which has openly criticized and publicly protested the Bush administration. Despite personal precautions, which include a cover for my passport and the purchase of local press, I still can’t help but worry, when traveling abroad, that my actions scream, “I’m a North American!”
If my actions inadvertently yell, “I’m from the US,” then what do my clothes say to the locals? Fashion is and always will be a way of expressing oneself and one’s beliefs; it’s also definitive when making first impressions. Even when I’m wearing clothes purchased in said foreign country, the pairing and putting together of the outfit is instinctually Californian. Thus, while traveling I cannot shake my distinct paranoia that I am, figuratively speaking, wearing the American flag.
For example, last week I found myself on the beautiful beaches of Punta del Este, Uruguay, South America’s answer to the French Rivera where rich Argentine and wealthy Brazilians hob-knob with middle class Americans looking for an escape from the winter months. As I walked down the crowded beach filled with beautiful, dark-haired, bronzed bodies, I am certain everyone knows I am North American. The decisive factor that makes me feel self-consciously like an outsider? My bikini bottoms. Yes, sounds insane, but my sister and I are the only girls on the beach whose bikini bottoms provides full coverage of our booties. When it comes to beaches, boobs are to Europe as butts are to South America. Sadly in the US, neither boobs nor butts are acceptable on the beaches, where too much skin is seen as slutty (hello, blonde bimbos!) or stupid (hello, skin cancer!). Therefore, bikinis provide complete coverage.
South American bikinis, which range from thong bottoms that show the entire butt to triangle backs that show the majority of the cheeks, are actually much more flattering than full bottoms that hide everything. Often times, a larger bikini bottom makes the wearer look as if they are swimming in a soggy diaper, which is never attractive! I have always been a fan of smaller-butted bikini bottoms and have constantly praised their ability to flatter the booty when the perfect balance of coverage and skin is achieved. Unfortunately, even in my smallest bottomed bikini, there’s just too much fabric. I ask myself, while shamefully lying on my back, should I do what the local girls do? When their bikini bottoms cover too much butt it seems they simply pull the bikini up into the butt crack to minimize butt coverage and maximize tan skin. The only thing that stops me from doing as the Romans do, is the undeniable fact that my booty, close to the crack, is white — whiter than any of these Brazilian, Uruguayan, and Argentine eyes have ever set eyes on.
Constantly determined to fashionably fit in at each and every occasion beach included, I decide the solution to my problem would be to purchase myself a nice, new, tiny-bottomed bikini. Luckily, venders walk the beaches of Punta selling everything from coffee and magazines to caftans and itsy-bitsy bikinis. I catch the bikini-vender as she walks by, her arms full of bikinis, and sit down to find the smallest bottoms I can feasibly fit my bottom into. My sister watches in horror as I hold up tiny bottom after tiny bottom. I feel like Goldilocks: the green bottoms are too big, the red bottoms are too small, but the turquoise bottoms? They’re just right! And just right for my skin tone, too! I buy my cheapest and smallest bikini to date and head quickly to the local beach bar, where my father is stationed nursing beers, to make my transformation from booty conscious to booty confident. My cheeks hanging out in all the right ways, I walk back down to the beach to christen my new butt-baring bikini.
While desperately working on my tan (a sliver of white is now visible to daylight that was previously concealed) and checking out the cheeks that surround me, I notice a group of four very brown boys who are running around in hot pants (yes you heard me, not speedos, hot pants!) with a soccer ball. As one comes seriously close to my lounge chair, I slyly enjoy the eye candy from behind my copy of Latin American Vogue.
The mutual checking out continues throughout the afternoon and finally the cute BBB (brown Brazilian boy) asks me: “Where are you from?” He speaks a Portuguese-accented Spanish and guesses I’m Spanish, as in from Spain. The tiny bikini in a supreme combination with the local magazine has successfully masked my nationality! I lean over and reply, “I’m actually a native of California.” But it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for and I finally feel like I can travel in peace. As he flirts aimlessly in a typical Brazilian fashion, I breathe a sigh of relief to know that people don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that I am a US citizen. It’s also nice to know that neither the threats of anti-US backlash or the warnings of President George Bush can keep a travel-loving Californian like myself from enjoying a new culture, a new country, and a new bikini bottom.
Source: Sports Illustrated