It has struck me that when you are in another country, talking to other people who have moved there from abroad, a strange thing happens.
People behave in lots of ways that they wouldn’t do at home, but one of the weird things they do is accept wholesale any information given whatsoever about the new place. Without questioning it, without judgement, nothing.
So it came to pass that my friend from the US, when in England, was told that the English drink a lot because one year the Irish topped a poll of European drinkers, and we didn’t want them to ‘win’ again. This was related as a fact, not a funny anecdote. I can imagine Winston Churchill (for some reason, it has to be him), announcing gravely over the wireless that it is the duty of every man, woman and child to go to the pub immediately, to defend the reputation of our great nation. Everyone gathered round sombrely, determined to do their patriotic duty.
Thus the off-the-cuff remark becomes inscripted in marble.
Another Brit living here told me with great authority why it is that Brazilian women actually cultivate (rather than avoid) bikini lines on their chests. Topless sunbathing is banned, but she said the actual reason is that they want to show men they are quite pale underneath the tan, and capable of having white children. There is plenty of evidence of racism, unfortunately, in this country that bills itself as ‘a country for all.’ But this was just pushing it a bit too far. In that case, why not be like the folks I met in Thailand, who avoided getting a tan at all costs, and tried to look pale all over?
Since the same woman, mother of two youngsters, advised my 45-year-old friend and I to have children for a permanent visa, I can only conclude that she was one of these tedious sorts who thinks the meaning and purpose of everything begins and ends in children. Not sure who has less chance of doing this, me or a 45-year-old woman. In any case, the lack of spontaneity and freedom motherhood inevitably entails would mean I might as well live in the UK after all. No need to go to all the bother and expense.
For the record, I think Brazilian women do this because men find it sexy, since it shows the outline of the breasts. When analysing the sense of any theory, I think it makes sense to acknowledge that the male fascination with breasts is a more powerful drive than most.