Think of Brasil and what comes to mind? Quick word association: beaches, waxing, caipirinhas, bottoms, futbol, bikinis, Carnaval, Big Jesus. <– those were the super scientific results gleaned from my roommates. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of them have to do with the body. Brazilians are famous for their beauty and body image, and even after just a few months here, I feel it having an effect on me.
We went to the beach on Sunday, and as always, there was much to see. Five hours passed quickly without even a book or music, just sitting and watching. First – there is a ton of skin. Black skin, brown skin, one Asian family, burned tourist skin. All the men wear speedos (usually with athletic socks and sneakers. Someone figure this out.) and ALL the women wear tiny bikinis.
I feel like I’ve gained a new appreciation for the female aesthetic – perhaps because I’ve seen more of it in these last few months than I have in my entire life. My roommates and I point out the most magnificent booties we can find, marveling over the lack of pubic hair due to the famous Brazilian wax, but questioning the choice the women make to only shave below the knee. Cellulite, wrinkles, odd body shapes…they all pour them into barely there bikinis and walk around, bend over, breast feed, drink beer, frolic and dance like no one’s watching. It’s so different than the States. Women are just like “here I am. There’s the sun. There’s the water. Lets be here.” I freaking love it.
Sometimes the body positivity goes the crazy way – there is a lot of plastic surgery and not a little bit of ego around these parts. We watched an interesting mother/daughter pair for a few hours — mom was in her 40s, teenage daughter. Mom was suuuuuper proud of her body, which you could tell she paid for, but parts she worked for, too. In three hours, she took no less than fifty selfies, posing at every angle, getting just the right reflection in her aviator sunglasses, adjusting the filter, trying again. Her slightly chubby teenage daughter quietly seethed, fully clothed under the umbrella, earbuds in and texting the whole time they were there, never once invited into a picture.
The selfie is HUGE here. People have those selfie-arm gadgets. I’ll take the occasional selfie, but if I can’t get it within two shots, I feel like God’s saying “dude, stop.” It’s hilarious to watch people so unselfconsciously take them on the beach, in the ocean, eating, drinking. There are always lots of girls who take those super natural photos of a yoga-type pose, hair down, facing the sunset. (I’ve written a fair share about selfies. See here or here or especially here.)
My favorite is the bro selfie. This is when bros take pics for each other, with poses they have clearly been practicing in bathroom mirrors. The abs are taut, the arms are flexed, the dumb look is fixed on their face (when did looking confused become “cute?”). And then their bro takes it for their bro, and they look at it, and bro asks their bro to take another one.
How do these conversations go? “No, dude, one more time. There was a shadow that made my chest look hairier than it is. My hat wasn’t tilted the way I like. Do it again, please, because you’re my bro.”
Something about living here has made me simultaneously more and less self-conscious. More because we’re at the beach all.the.time. I’s hot here all.the.time. So we don’t wear a lot of clothes. I think about my armpits a lot. I wish some parts fit better in my bikini. But I’m also less self-conscious because with the sheer amount of people on the beach at any given time, I’m the object of no one’s attention. Even if I was, oh well. Curves ahead. Handle with care. Or don’t.
Maybe it’s also a product of getting older. I care less and less about how I look, and more how I feel and how I make others feel. I love to work out because it makes me feel good. There’s lots of things I love about me – my eyebrow game is super strong and I love my hair. But at the end of the day, and certainly my life, if I’m remembered, I’d rather it be looking “happy” rather than thin or even in shape.
And I’m so happy right now. So remember me with a beer in one hand, holding my top in place with the other, losing a hat I’ve only had for one day in the waves because I’m screaming every time the water crashes, if we’re going to make this an accurate picture.
I love this place. I notice how beautiful things are.
This was my selfie a year ago. My how things have changed.