Being in California, especially a place like Santa Barbara means seeing thighs. Thighs of all shapes and sizes, halfway hidden or out there for the world to see. Shorts, skirts and swimwear all show off these thighs. Man thigh, lady thigh, Santa Barbara is an equal opportunity thigh flaunter. Maybe you don’t notice thighs but after three years in a country where anything above the knee being shown off was equivalent to us walking around topless, I notice thighs. In Papua New Guinea things are changing but skirts, at least to the knee, are still the typical PNG female dress. Even long pants are considered immodest in some places. And while women don’t walk around topless all the time, breastfeeding in public and other breast baring behavior is still widely acceptable. When I was in PNG, my friends and I would joke that if an American man came to the door, you put on a bra and if a Papua New Guinean man came to the door, you put on a skirt. Each culture has its own sense of modesty.
I am a California girl at heart but showing off thigh is something I definitely have to get use to again. Three years ago what I would have considered a modest swimsuit or pair of shorts, now seems completely scandalous to me. One quick look around Santa Barbara tells me that society here thinks otherwise but I still hesitate. So in order to get back into one of my favorite activities, I am having to step out on a limb and bare all. Ok so it’s just a typical swimsuit but keeping in mind the above statement that showing thighs could be viewed as a topless equivalent, you can see where this would be a big step. I have now been swimming for a couple days and am enjoying being in the water and seeing tan lines crisscross my back once again. And so for swimmings sake I will sacrifice my Papua New Guinean modesty in favor of acclimating back to California. Just don’t invite any of my Papua New Guinean colleagues to the pool.