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April 28, 2004

What's Appropriate?

Dear Friedrich --

The scene: my Bikram yoga class -- a 90-minute sweat-a-thon held in a room heated to over 100 degrees. It's damn hot in there. After 30 minutes, you're as wet as you'd be climbing out of a swimming pool. Between postures, you guzzle water and towel off; five minutes later, you have to towel off again.

We're all there in order to get sweaty and red-faced, in other words, and we're dressed for the occasion. Guys are shirtless and wear baggy, long swim trunks. Gals are in lycra shorts and sleeveless tops; the more daring (and the more fit) wear jog-bra tops.

Yesterday, two of the women in class were breaking new ground. Although they weren't together, both were wearing sleeveless t-shirts -- the kind the kids call "wife-beaters." These shirts are made of tissue-paper-thin, stretchy cotton fabric that goes transparent at the mere thought of sweat. Neither woman was wearing a bra beneath her shirt.

I enjoyed witnessing the episode and am not about to get moral about it. Still, it did leave me thinking about a couple of questions.

First: do women who do this kind of provocative thing know exactly what they're doing? The two in my yoga class weren't Bikram first-timers, so they knew they'd be doing some serious sweating. And when the boobies went on display, neither woman expressed embarrassment or made any attempt to cover up. So can I assume in this case that these women did know what they were doing? Wow: women in NYC can be amazingly aggressive in terms of their sexual self-presentation. These were four of the most publicly-visible nipples I've seen in a long time.

I wonder if the answer might not have to do with a couple of factors. One is age. Of course, we all seem to get better control of our behavior as we age (at least up to a certain point, which I've probably already crossed). We throw out signals a little less blindly as we settle into ourselves. But from 15-25, we don't seem capable of doing much beyond acting out what our hormones tell us to do. Which makes sense: biology has us in a breeding frenzy. Girls during those years sometimes seem to think that they're just "being pretty" and "having fun" when everything about them is in fact screaming "impregnate me now."

The other factor is class. Some of my women friends who were raised upper-middle or middle class look back on their youthful behavior and laugh ruefully. "I had no idea," they say. One preppy woman friend told me that as a teenager she used to wear denim miniskirts with no panties beneath. The boys loved following her up the high-school stairway -- quel surprise! I said to her, "And you had no idea?" Her answer: "Really, no. I just thought I was being prettty and cute, and I loved it that the boys liked me so much."

Women friends who were raised poor or working class, on the other hand, usually laugh when I tell them such stories. They know the score themselves; they always have. And they say they can't believe that any woman wouldn't know exactly what signals she was sending. "Oh, come on," they say. "She did too know what she was doing. Every woman does."

Me? I suspect that some middle and upper-middle-class girls really do live insulated and safe lives that leave them more than a little clueless. (How clueless, I'm not really sure.) And it also seems to me that all young women are necessarily a little out of control, even the ones who know the score. They're showin' the goodies off and dollin' the goodies up because their raging hormones and clamoring biology are giving them next to no choice in the matter.

In any case, spring has arrived in NYC, and this year the women are once again back in low-slung pants and high-hemmed shirts. Cute! Well, it's sometimes cute. Sometimes, to be frank, there's just too damn much blubber on display. I'm glad women are feeling free to be frisky; I'm also glad that women are feeling freer than they did back in the anorexia years to enjoy sporting flesh and curves. But -- good lord -- there are a lot of young women around who are showing off a lot of excess flesh.

I'm not about to suggest passing any laws, of course. But these things do raise questions about manners, respect, and aesthetics, no? It's one thing to make yourself slinky and sexed-up for a special evening out; to put buttcrack and below-navel flesh on display on a workaday sidewalk is another. To enjoy in private the jiggle and wobble of excess poundage is one thing; to parade a be-hiphuggered spare tire around in front of a noonday crowd is another.

Self-expression seems to be the sacred ethos of the age, beyond criticism. And we seem to be living in an era when many women feel compelled to act out every single one of their urges, preferably on a public stage. It's a time when you hesitate to ask such questions as "Well, really darling, what do you expect people to make of how you're presenting yourself?," let alone venture such a thought as, "Um, given that you're a little tubby this season, do you really think it's a good idea to do your shopping in crotch-grabber jeans and a bandeau top?" What all this self-expression means to other people doesn't seem a fit topic of conversation; we're endlessly fascinated by the act of talking, and concerned not at all with what gets said.

To indulge in a little Neanderthal-speak for a second, how does this style of dress and behavior hit you as a guy? Although I'm a played-out old disgrace, I'm an uninhibited one. Still, for all the delights the tummy-style puts on display, I'm quickly wearied by it; I'm made resentful and then numb by having my built-in responses and reflexes attacked so regularly and so determinedly. Naked backs and bellies can't help but yank my attention around. When they're fit and sleek, I bump into telephone polls for one reason; when they're overweight and saggy, I bump into telephone polls for another. I wouldn't mind bumping into fewer telephone poles.

If young gals want to to radiate "sexy," "young," "carefree," and "in charge," please lord let nothing stop them from doing so. But is it too much to ask that they spend a minute or two figuring out how to express themselves while also showing a little respect and consideration for other people?

I confess happily to a few moments when all I want to do is give in. "Bring it on!" I think. "If it means more boobs, more bums, more tummies, and more flesh, then bring on ever more self-expression!" But then I revert to my usual crabby self.

So, three questions. 1) Do women know exactly what sexual messages they're sending? 2) In an age that values self-expression above all else, how can the discussion about what's appropriate take place? 3) Should overweight girls really be showing off droopy bellies and squashy hipfat in midtown?



UPDATE: OuterLife has been watching girls at the seaside and has recorded his observations and reflections here. Good line: "It may be that teenage fashion was set in stone back in the days when Americans weren't so overweight." Here, he wisely decides that the subject merits more study.

posted by Michael at April 28, 2004


I remember in my days in art school at roughly age 30 I had the first such moment of irritation at the kind of behavior you discuss. There was a very attractive young woman who always dressed in a low-cut black leotard top, and there was plenty of cleavage for the top to show off. (She was married, to a much older guy, I think, go figure.) Anyway, at some point she was intrigued by a sculpture I had made and wanted to talk about it. That was fine...heck, that was great...but at a certain point I remember thinking, as she was standing quite close to me while making certain points, Gee, do you really want to talk about my sculpture or are you just trying to get a rise out of me here?

Occasionally, it does seem like enough is enough with the sexual provocation. I bow to no man in my admiration of the female bosom (and other body parts) but I dislike being obviously used just to shore up an attractive woman's ego.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on April 28, 2004 06:03 PM

1. "And you had no idea?" Her answer: "Really, no. I just thought I was being prettty and cute, and I loved it that the boys liked me so much." She's either a total idiot, or she most certainly did know, and therefore, um, not truthful. My guess is #2. Probably has "issues", as they say.

2. Your yoga friends knew what they were doing too. But just because someone does something, it doesn't mean that it's for healthy self-expression reasons. Maybe they have personality disorders. Maybe their insane. Maybe they were molested as children. It can be for unhealthy reasons, remember.

3. But is it too much to ask that they spend a minute figuring out considerate and respectful ways of doing so? No, it isn't.

4. But you shouldn't act like men have nothing to do with this. If men really want considerate and respectful, they shouldn't have "followed the dunce up the stairs"---if she hadn't gotten any attention for wearing no panties, the panties would have gone on right quick. Not that that entirely explains her. I mean, all women could have men following them up the stairs for wearing no panties, and all women didn't choose to do that.

Posted by: annette on April 28, 2004 07:39 PM

Agreed, Friederich.

I can remember the almost-torture I experienced back when I was younger and saw bra-less gals wearing tight tee-shirts. Unfair! Unfair!!

And about that time, sexual harassment rules were appearing, making it even more difficult for a male to cope with such situations. Thanks to Bill and Monica, the harassment rap is a little easier to deal with these days, but still...

Come to think of it, before the "sexual revolution" there were girls we called "teases". They did not necessarily wear provocative clothes, but they were flirtatious indeed. More than once I embarked on what I was expecting to be a hot date and ended up the evening being more "frozen out" than usual.

I hope some female reader can fill me and any other dumb males in on the psychology of the "tease".

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on April 28, 2004 07:51 PM

The "tease" is essentially an ego trip. It's exactly what it seems to be to you.

Posted by: annette on April 28, 2004 09:16 PM

The "tease" is essentially an ego trip. It's exactly what it seems to be to you.

Some interesting stuff about such headcases here.

Posted by: Brian on April 28, 2004 10:46 PM

Apologies here -- sometime between a couple of hours ago and now, half this posting disappeared. Alarming! I wonder why. Anyway, I'll try to recreate.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 28, 2004 10:58 PM

Done: recreated, sorta.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 29, 2004 12:21 AM

> Although I'm a played-out old disgrace, I'm an uninhibited one.

I find the older I get, the more lecherous I get. Inside my own head at any rate. I feel less inclination/obligation to actually get off my butt and do anything about it (partly as a consequence of being happily monogamous, partly being older and less hormone-driven) - and that, I think, frees me up to just relax and enjoy the view.

Note, however, this stuff has unintended consequences. I started going to yoga class a few years ago largely because there were babes there. I never suspected I would end up taking the yoga more seriously than the babes.

Posted by: Alan Little on April 29, 2004 04:46 AM

Travelling abroad has made me both more and less tolerant of this sort of display. More because girls in some places really show it off. Less because American teens are a bit too tubby to carry off what they now do.

Walking around Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg in the summer is enough to cause one to walk into a bus. How about tighter than tight low cut pants with thongs and see through tank tops? Or one woman on the metro who suddenly pulled up her skirt to wipe her face? And a lot of them would give our model and actress wannabees a run for their money. No strip of LA or New York is even close in terms of most 8s and 9s per hour.

The new hedonism: Godless communism meets Egotistic Consumerism

Posted by: grouchy on April 29, 2004 07:14 AM

"No strip of LA or New York is even close in terms of most 8s and 9s per hour."

Geez. Comments like that make my skin crawl. Especially from played out old disgraces. However, I'm sure the 8's and 9's care deeply what you think.

Posted by: annette on April 29, 2004 08:52 AM

Although you stuck in the middle of a thought, I liked the comment on manners. In some ways, it seems like bad manners to wiggle,bounce and sashay when it's really not appropriate. Sort of like picking your teeth in public. Save it for the right time and place, please.

On the other hand, there really are no models for young women on how to be sexy and still fully dressed. The media takes it off at every opportunity and those women's mags you like to talk about are doing the same thing.

And if a girl who wears a short short skirt without underwear has no clue why the guys are following her up the steps, she's probably the same one who will end up in the ER giving birth to a baby she had no clue she was pregnant with. I dont buy it.

Posted by: Deb on April 29, 2004 09:13 AM

Scene: after-work shopping hour on Herald Square.
Women clothing floor in a big department store. Speakers scream in aggressive tone: "You're beautiful, no matter what they say!". I'm going thru the racks of summer tops (size 8). Young women behind me sings along. I glance - she's at least sise 12 and maximum 20 years old.
She obviously enjoys herself, singing out loud and pushing hangers.

And I can understand. Of course, it's an excess, but after watching Paris and Nicky 24-7 on one hand and attending lectures of "motivational speakers" via "women studies" in community college on the other, what other result would you expect?

And, Michael, I don't think you get the hormone progression right. The whole enjoyment of 18-25 phase is in teasing. Not only it is easy to control your sexual desires, you have almost none. It's so funny to see boys silly heads following you like weatherwanes! Of course, you notice tight butts and wide shoulders, but it doesn't wake you up at night.
Whereas in 15-20 yrs time, ahm - well, let's just say - it's different.
It's a damn joke, I tell you. Look around and pay attention to all screamingly-red-haired ladies in their "sunset" years, in high heels on varicose legs, low-cut pink/black dresses, massive clanking jewelry and green acrylic nails. Isn't that ironic, I ask you?

Posted by: Tatyana on April 29, 2004 09:42 AM

I don't think teenage girls know what looks good on them yet.

Their bodies are changing rapidly. I remember the year a junior high friend who had been a skinny jumble of arms, legs and glasses returned from summer camp with a set of size D breasts. It's hard to know what to put on those things when only a month before you were wearing an undershirt.

And then there's the discovery that what you wear can provoke a reaction from the opposite sex, whether for good or ill. I think girls in their early teens are still testing those reactions. (Although I'm pretty sure your pantyless friend was either a slow learner or kidding herself about how boys responded to her.)

Also, I don't suppose you've spent much time in clothing stores catering to the teenaged set. You'd be hard-pressed to find a top longer than eight inches, a pair of jeans that fit went up near your actual waist or a skirt that extends much beyond two inches under the crotch.

That said, by the time women get to their 20s most know the responses they'll get and I'd wager your yoga babes knew exactly the reactions they'd provoke.

Posted by: Rachel on April 29, 2004 09:58 AM

Funny thing about my panty-less friend is that she grew up very sensibly -- had fun in her 20s, is now a sweet wife and mommy with an interesting parttime job. Part of the explanation may be that she and I are remembering back to the late-hippie years, when people did a lot of fairly unconscious provocative acting-out. But maybe not. Anyway, go figure, huh?

Tatyana -- Sorry, I wasn't being clear. I'm with you on how women seem to develop. It seems that from 15-25, hormones drive girls/younggals to be terrifically tease-y. (There's that great painting -- Fragonard? Boucher? sigh, my memory's shot -- of one of Louis XIV's mistresses, showing her plump, nude and pink, face down on a sofa or bed, and Colette wrote about it something like, "The girl is radiating, release me from the torments of my beauty and youth.")

American young women often seem compulsively tease-y, even bullyingly tease-y, often without having any idea of how tease-y they're being, maybe because in the States the "sexy" gets overemphasized (and vulgarized) and the "truly erotic" is often missed entirely. (IMHO, of course.) So there's often a funny combo of stress and cluelessness in American girls' tease-iness. They don't get it -- few young women do -- but it's compounded by their swaggering conviction that they do, and that they're in charge, and who-cares-I'm-great-anyway. So there's no release into decadence and lasciviousness, just all that response-whacking and stress.

And yeah, of course, women often do seem to catch on (if and when they do) much later, often in their 40s or 50s. Ah, life's little ironies. Colette's great on that too.

My guess about that is that if young women really were on to eroticism -- if they had any conscious control of the signals they're sending, and what the real purpose of it is -- the species would never reproduced. Hormones and development send both young guys and young gals into a whacky, dizzy, unconscious, gotta-have-it decade, which (from a biological p-o-v, anyway) should result in reproduction. Once you get a little control and perspective, you'd probably think twice. But I don't think nature wants us thinking twice, at least not about reproducing...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 29, 2004 10:35 AM

"I don't think teenage girls know what looks good on them yet."

Fine. But I don't think there is a teenage girl in the world who actually wears a skirt and no panties because she doesn't know if it looks good or not.

Posted by: annette on April 29, 2004 12:47 PM

I think Tatyana is right. In high school (and to some extent university), my wife-to-be had a strong weakness for somewhat diaphonous peasant dresses. Being not terribly busty, she didn't wear a bra (she looked very sixties when I met her).

I once asked her about what people around her thought. She replied that she didn't think about it. She liked the way she looked, but she certainly wasn't interested in male attention per-se. Hormones hadn't really kicked in, many of her male friends were gay (this was an alternative high school), and in her opinion any male worth spending time with wasn't the type to be ruled by hormones. (She hung out with the gaming geeks in high school.)

And frankly, I tend to agree with my wife. A little discipline rules out a lot of distraction. Of course, I'm a geek and perhaps have never been as hormone driven as some others.

My personal opinion is that young women usually dress for other women, and many/most are not interested in the male attention that it might garner.

Posted by: Tom on April 29, 2004 01:52 PM

What I find most interesting about the debate is how quickly something that presents itself as a sort of 70s-style puritanical feminism reveals itself actually to be a form of hostility, or misogyny.

Two young women wear tight teeshirts that are revealing when sweaty, and so they must be insane, or probably molested as children, or have personality disorders? This in a tone of pseudocompassion that seems oddly similar to blistering contempt. A girl goes pantiless and she moves from being an idiot with "issues", to a head case and so on?

I don't think so.

How about: the pantiless girl was "defying convention" in an era when that was, um, conventional. I missed the hippy period and pantiless girls walking up stairs, but what I think is:
(1) I would most certainly have followed such girls up the stairs, a respectful few steps behind. I'd have found it glorious, a wondrous thing, though I wouldn't have thought it was a sexual come-on aimed at me. Or at anyone in particular. Of course it would have been sexy in a generalised way.
(2) Yes, I quite believe that the girl would genuinely have thought she was being cute and free-spirited. Moreover, she _was_ being cute and free-spirited. In a 60s sense I'd guess she thought she was challenging ideas about repression, old rules that imagined that the world would come to an end if girls took their bras or panties off. Sure, it's not a very profound challenge, but it wasn't a very profound era, in many ways. However, anyone who thinks it's a terrible and important thing if a young women leaves her panties off one day, well, their ideas must come from an even less profound period.
I'm with the pantiless girl; I mean, on her side against the people trashing her. Good for her!

Second, I came from the punk period, and I loved punkettes. Cleopatra makeup, tiny skirts made of weird substances, torn pantihose, aggressively labelled teeshirts and such. It used to amuse me, me being in a massive hormonal high over these incredibly sexy and enjoyably challenging young women, how older people would mutter regretfully about how these girls looked terrible, unsexy, disgraceful, terribly unattractive and so on. "Hah!" I'd think, and also, "Yummy!" But I'd say something politely tolerant; I wasn't a very hardcore punk.

As for girls of today, who look like women have mostly looked, as recorded in 100s of years of nude paintings, instead of looking like the stick figures that fashionistas have liked for the last few decades, I know a simple test to work out whether they look good. Stop sighing for the poor lost dears who haven't a clue, etc, and ask a young man or a young woman, who likes young women, whether they think that girl X's little crescent of belly is part of the Downfall of Western Civilisation, or whether it looks yummy, biteable and potentially comfortable? I think you'll find that young people have no trouble fancying young people.

Me, I know that girl X's little belly isn't aimed at me, sad to say, but I like it. She looks great, I salute her confidence, and I'd glad she's seen through the flesh-phobic life-denying images sponsored by the diet police and the fashion scene, who are not and never were pro-girl, or pro-women. They were the enemies of girlhood, and I'm glad that girls ar shoving back: all those editors and photographers can all take a running jump, and take their supermodels with them, say I.

Am I sometimes distracted by young women is revealing clothes? Of course I am; I'd hate to imagine not being. Do I think that being distracted is in some way an assault on me, an invasion or infringement? Of course not; it's a pleasure to the eye and an enhancement to my day. (But if I couldn't then go to work, or get on with whatever I was doing, it's me that would have a problem, not them.) Might as well hate flowers for being beautiful.



Posted by: Laon on April 29, 2004 09:03 PM

"Two young women wear tight teeshirts that are revealing when sweaty, and so they must be insane, or probably molested as children, or have personality disorders?"

Careful. I didn't say they "must be". I said they "might." MBlowhard said this was all purely about uninhibited self expression, and I believe that's terribly oversimplified. He doesn't know anything about those girls. Whathisface up there who calls them "8's and 9's" clearly doesn't either. (Funny you didn't think that was misogonystic. Funny as in amazing). There may be all kinds of things behind inappropriately sexy behavior. Sometimes its honest self-expression. Often it isn't. And, yes, I am not alone in thinking our pantiless friend was being less than forthcoming when she said she had "no idea." There is also a difference between low slung jeans and no panties, no bra. Defending inapprorpriate behavior too much is also patronizing and misogonystic. Like she can't really be held accountable...she's just a girl.

Posted by: annette on April 29, 2004 11:09 PM

Actually, the 8 or 9 thing struck me as a bit tacky, on the whole, but not hostile. There's an easy test for which is the more serious piece of nastiness.

Tell one of those young women that she's "a 9". I predict that she'll think that you're timewarped (that movie was a _long_ time ago) and a bit, oh, mildly sleazy, let's say. But will she feel attacked, upset, done down by the comment that she's a 9? I think not.

Now say to the other young woman, "You shouldn't be wearing such clothes! Why are you wearing them? Maybe it's because you have personality disorders. Maybe you're insane. Maybe you were molested as children."

I dunno, but I'll be betting that the second young woman is the one who will feel she has come under attack, and an attack that was uncalled for in its hostility and contempt.

Which set of comments sounds like the sort of hostility to women and to their sexuality that is usually called misogynist? It was the quite intensely expressed hostility to those young women, based on no obvious provocation, that struck me as notable and made me protest.

You'll note that the word "inappropriate" is the rhetorical trick called "begging the question". That is, it pretends that it's a given that wearing revealing clothes to a yoga class is inappropriate, when that isn't a given; it's what's being discussed.

Finally, the idea that defending young women is itself a misogynist thing to do, is an interesting rhetorical twist. It relies on a new and previously unknown definition of misogynist, which may not catch on since it seems to mean the opposite of the more widely known meaning.

I don't think that young women are irresponsible to dress in revealing ways that annoy some older people. Therefore the suggestion that I was defending irresponsibility, presumably on the ground that young women are not fully intelligent and don't know better, isn't an particularly telling criticism of anything I actually did say. I think young women have the right to reject other people's prescriptions of how they should dress, or to follow them; they have the right to make that decision, and more power to them, in every sense.

You have the floor, because I'm going to the beach, ironically enough. I'd have to say that if you ever come to a beach, or many city streets, or a gym in Australia, you should bring your smelling salts. (I'm confident in saying that most Australians hought that the fuss over nipplegate, for example, was a fairly bizarre phenomenon.)



Posted by: Laon on April 30, 2004 01:47 AM

I'm made resentful and then numb by having my built-in responses and reflexes attacked so regularly and so determinedly.

Ha! Mike, that's a great way of putting it...

My opinion: on the whole, it's welcome motivation. Especially in academia, it's easy to get lost in the world of ideas and to forget about the physical world. Having your reflexes jangled on your way to the convenience store can knock you out of your mathematical reverie and send you to the gym.

btw - I agree with Laon, for the most part. Why is rating a woman's attractiveness quantitatively considered "misogyny", while rating it qualitatively considered flattery or mere description? Only those feminists who wish to stamp out the totally natural male appreciation of female beauty - or the equally natural locker room talk - could declare ratings to be misogynistic. Save the "misogyny" accusation for wife-beaters and those who force women to wear burkas, not those who appreciate female beauty.

Posted by: gc_emeritus on May 1, 2004 03:27 AM

"Now say to the other young woman, "You shouldn't be wearing such clothes! Why are you wearing them? Maybe it's because you have personality disorders. Maybe you're insane. Maybe you were molested as children."

Yeah---but who said that to her? I certainly didn't. There seems to be some rather single-tracked motive on your part to attribute something to me I didn't say or intend. I don't care what those girls wore---seeing boobs in a yoga class isn't gonna bother me one way or another. It seems to--rather judgementally, I might say---bother you guys quite a bit. And it was attributed to thoughtless self expression. ALL I SAID was that might not be the only source for the behavior. Freely rejecting convention---your comment---might also be a source. See...lots of possibilities.

Posted by: annette on May 1, 2004 08:53 AM

However, I will acknowledge one thing. Since MBlowhard brought up the appropriateness question, not me. Why would guys wearing swim trunks without shirts NOT be "inappropriate" sexual behavior, but a girl sweating through her shirt be one? What are the guys doing?

Damn. Went for that one hook, line and sinker.

Posted by: annette on May 1, 2004 09:14 AM

And, are all the guys thin and fit who take their shirts off?

Coz one of the most amazing elements of this thread is not that several male visitors really object to the stimulation---it's that the girls aren't thin enough and stimulating enough for you. Just a tad arrogant, IMHO.

Posted by: annette on May 1, 2004 09:18 AM

Annette, that reminds me of last summer visit to Sandy Hook island in NY harbor, where I went for landmark fort watching and discovered a nudie beach.
What I discovered:
1. I can tolerate crushed bugs, disgusting mice, yaky spiders and bloodied accident victims better then the view of severely overweight men wearing only cowboy hats, standing legs apart, hands on buttocks and general "in charge" air.
2. I can't imagine how these people could eat their food (and seem to enjoy it, too), when in the process of putting chunks in their mouths they inevitabbly touch neighbors' hanging, ahm, treasures and send them swinging.
3. If nobody were as interested, as they seem to proclaim, in watching each other (I didn't notice any direct glancing or finger-pointing), why they keep crowded in one small piece of a very long beach? There were no fences and nobody seem to prohibit them to spread out, so to speak.
4. Come to think of it, there were less interaction, laughter, beach volleyball, flirting, etc. between groups on that beach than on the regular one further in the lighthouse direction, with provocatively half-dressed population.

How boring...

Posted by: Tatyana on May 1, 2004 12:35 PM

That's supposed to be
3. As UNinterested, etc.


Posted by: Tatyana on May 1, 2004 12:45 PM

"I can tolerate crushed bugs, disgusting mice, yaky spiders and bloodied accident victims better then the view of severely overweight men wearing only cowboy hats, standing legs apart, hands on buttocks and general "in charge" air."

LOL---I think that says it all.

Posted by: annette on May 1, 2004 01:29 PM

I've only spent one day on a nudist beach, but I gotta agree -- it was one of the least sexy experiences of my life. I looked around in curiosity for about a half hour, decided that almost no entirely-naked body looks good in harsh, direct sunlight, and lost interest. Made me appreciate the ways we've developed to make ourselves more appetizing than we tend to be in the raw -- all the atmospherics, the mood-setting tricks, the hide-and-go-seek behavior and dressing ... All helps to make us a lot more appealing. Reminds me of food, actually -- a heap of raw ingrediants? Well, sure, ok. But a really welldone meal? Let me at it!

Actually, what I'd kinda been hoping to promote here was something no one seems to have picked up on. I wonder if the thread's dead or not. Anyway, my general bit of interest here was in the way we settle on nonlegal agreements. I don't think anyone wants to pass a law against a chubby girl wearing hyper-revealing clothes in midtown. But we somehow settle on certain agreements (one of which, of course, is that we let teens get away with a little more, just because they gotta).

To illustrate: on the one side, what if everyone in public wore an up-the-neck suit? That's pretty extreme. On the other, what if everyone, young and old, fat and scrawny, wore nothing but a thong? That's a little more exposure than most people are willing to endure.

I mean, we kinda settle in informal ways on a range of what's acceptable. How do these agreements come about? To some extent, I think we scrutinize (and probably shame) each other into behaving acceptably. To some extent, we talk about it. These days, what's a little weird is that no one does talk about it. "A person's gotta express himself" is the general ethos, and it's almost unheard-of for anyone to talk about how it affects other people. Yet Deb's right, I think -- it's a sign of consideration for other people to play (at least loosely) by the rules, which exist (however informally) for a variety of reasons.

Buttcracks (male or female) at the office, for instance, or lots of cleavage, or men in short shorts -- most of us would find this distracting, and most workplaces don't permit it. But how or why? Interesting questoin: as the bellybutton generation moves further into the workplace and into positions of responsibility, how will the workplace dress code change?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 1, 2004 02:11 PM

I linked to this in regards to the "blubber" remark.

Posted by: Lynn S on May 1, 2004 05:57 PM

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