Feb 17, 2014

Natural Beauty

I can’t remember the last time I wore pants. Undies, however, may need to come back into use.

When I wear my longyi (traditional skirt that pretty much all Myanmar men and women wear), I’m not trying to fit in and be fashionably cool and local. I’m trying to stay cool, and comfortable, and, um, free. I simply love wearing it, and happily my wife loves me in it too.

But there’s a fine art to tying the knot that keeps a longyi up. Locals are constantly re-tying it while walking down the street, happily flapping the skirt a few times to refresh the air supply before the ritual double fold, tease-out-2 ends, twist-once and tuck in. Young men playing chinlone pull the bottom edge up and tuck it in at the waist, creating the sexiest diaper look imaginable. Fashions include tight neat knots, Big Bulging Man knots, let a long end flop out free in the wind knots, and clever ways to tuck your money into the knot for market days. I’ve gotten good enough that I can go hours or even a full day without needing to re-tie, nor worry about what I need to wear underneath as a precaution.

Until yesterday, that is. Our newly-befriended neighbour came over with a gift of fresh watermelon. At one point during the visit with this young woman and the usual other folk who gather at our house, I gave Sarah a high-five. John Bo’s parents were so amused that they did a two-handed slap (high-ten?) Not to be outdone, I motioned to Sarah to do a jump-in-the-air high ten.

As we both gracefully launched into the air and slapped hands, the longyi knot strained against this new vigorous motion. When our feet triumphantly landed on the concrete floor, my longyi triumphantly landed around my knees. I quick-as-lightning pulled it back up, laughing and looking to see just how much had been revealed to our friends. John Bo’s quick commentary settled any doubts about modesty having been spared:

“It’s Okay, Mr Rick. Natural beauty.”

It takes 5 minute to walk over to the office, but much less time for a good story to travel. By the time I reached there, knowing smiles and giggles met me at the door. My other co-worker, Thein Thein Win, greeted me with a coy question – “So, Mr. Rick, how is the longyi tying going?”

“Good until today”, I replied. She smiled, then outright laughed, and said, “I heard. Natural beauty!”

1 comment:

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