I am a Kiwi but I haven’t actually lived in New Zealand since 2012. I did live in Aussie for a large chunk of time, and the rest of the time Nick and I were travelling and living random foreign places like a Caribbean island or a Chinese city. During this time I have come to realise the totally unreasonable hang-ups that most Kiwi’s seem to have about other people’s bodies. Hang ups that I grew up with and that I have taken a long time (not to mention effort) to shed!
The two references contained in the title of this blog will be very familiar to you if you’re a Kiwi or if you’ve ever lived in New Zealand. Wearing tights as pants is akin to committing murder back in good old Aotearoa. Check out this blog post from a Kiwi blogger that I love. She is hilarious and I like to optimistically think that this post is tongue in cheek. And it’s the comment section that really shows up some gross attitudes back home! I believed it too, once upon a time. I have been a party to those group conversations where you pick apart exactly why a woman should absolutely NOT be wearing tights as pants. Things like camel toe, bum stretch that makes the cotton-elastane fabric very sheer, visible cellulite, thunder thighs… The list goes on as to why wearing tights as pants is such a serious fashion sin! Its slightly less sinful if the wearer is skinny. It’s a communal eye sore if the wearer is fat. Like me. I have seen people cover their eyes to avoid looking at the tights-as-pants wearer, like looking at such a monstrous sight is going to give them allergic conjunctivitis or something. It elicits such condescending noises as “oh honey” like these tights-as-pants wearers are persons to be pitied. Simply because of what they chose to wear on their lower half.
Funny thing is, I am sitting here wearing, you guessed it, tights as pants! I love wearing tights as pants. Tights are comfortable, cropped tights are my personal favourites and I wear them regularly without any apology. Yes, I am fat. Yes, sometimes when my tights are well-worn, the fabric gets a bit sheer and see through. Yes, I have a large butt and very large thighs and yes, these are very visible when I wear tights. No, I do not care what other people think of me or my tights as pants. I do not care for people who think that they have the right to police my choice of clothing. Over the years, thanks to movements like Body Image Movement and Eff Your Beauty Standards, I have learned that what I choose to wear is nobody else’s business. And that it’s actually none of my business what someone else chooses to wear. Unless someone directly asks me, that is. Like when Nick asks me what I think of his outfit. Which he does sometimes. Otherwise, if I am not asked then I am learning to butt out. My opinion on what that girl over there is wearing is not so valuable that I need to be sharing with anyone who is within hearing distance. And it’s not an easy habit to unlearn. I still haven’t completely mastered it! Every now and then I still find myself wanting to verbalise my opinion on someone else’s outfit. Sometimes I catch myself, sometimes Nick catches me, sometimes its not til much later that I realise, that was a really shit thing to say. And I feel the same way about others who feel the need to comment on me and what I am wearing. I wear tights as pants. I wear body con dresses. I wear bikini’s! And I don’t have any time for people who tell me that a certain outfit “isn’t very flattering” or that my outfit “would look much better if you lost a little weight”…! And yes people actually says these things to me.
A few years ago, a Kiwi ice-cream company made an ad that documented the transition of togs (what we Kiwi’s call swimmers/bathers/swimming costumes) to underwear, depending on the proximity to the beach. It was a funny ad and totally played into the generally Kiwi fear of the naked body. Males generally wear board shorts to swim in and anyone who wears speedo’s (also known as nut huggers and budgie smugglers) is always the butt of jokes. Nut huggers worn too far from the beach are definitely not togs and are definitely not appropriate to be worn independent of actual pants (to avoid confusion, by pants I mean trousers). Anyone who actually wears budgie smugglers is usually coined as being a poof or European, probably German.
Women do generally have more variety in swimwear choices. We also have more disapprovals and unwritten rules to contend with. You want to look hot and attractive, so a two piece is generally the ideal. But your boobs aren’t big enough so you tend to go for a padded and underwired bikini top option. What about your tummy though??? No one wants to see that soft flesh around your middle. So then you cover it up with high waisted bottoms or a tankini. Magazines have headlines splashed across the front covers talking about “Bikini Ready Bodies” (indicating that you have to DO something to change your body before you can put a bikini on it) or how to cover up those “problem areas” of your body. Problem areas, according to womens’ magazines, are things like small boobs, big boobs, a soft tummy, a flabby tummy, scars on your tummy, big hips, a big bum, big thighs… And if a woman doesn’t do the world a favour and cover her “problem areas”, then people seem to think they have the right to utter phrases like, “Cover it up love!” or ” No one needs to see that!”
I grew up in a pretty average family environment. It was common knowledge that Mum had inherited her thunder thighs and big bum from my great grandmother, and all of the Aunties would joke about whether me and my sister would get them (I did!). I knew instinctively that thunder thighs were a bad thing, because Mum always covered up her thighs and was embarrassed by them. Many of my cousins and Aunties were fairly large girls/women and many of them swam wearing large baggy t-shirts and large mens basketball style shorts. They had thunder thighs, big bums and soft tummies. And they all knew to cover up. How did they know? Because even when no one said it to their faces, everyone used phrases like “No one wants to see that” “Thats just not flattering” “Doesn’t she own a mirror?” when talking about everyone else. We all knew that those phrases applied to us too. And then the smaller, skinnier girls would rock about in their bikini’s. They were the ones I admired growing up. I wanted to look like them so that I too would be worthy of wearing a bikini. And even the bikini girls weren’t exempt from judgement and unwritten stipulations. Wearing your bikini too far from the beach made you an attention seeker, and you copped all sorts of comments and dirty looks because you didn’t cover up. Even wearing a bikini top with shorts/skirt in town would earn you the side eye from someone, or a nasty comment in passing. Didn’t matter how hot it was, wearing a bikini away from the beach or the pool was simply NOT the done thing, especially when you weren’t the societal version of “hot” or attractive.
Spending the past few months here on the Croatian coast has certainly been very different to beach culture back home. Here, bikinis and budgie smugglers are totally normal for people of all ages and body types. In fact, they’re optional in many places! It’s not unusual to see people sunbathing or swimming in the nude when we pull up to random little bays for swim stops. Old people, young people, big people, small people. It’s not offensive. It’s just life! It’s just people being comfortable in the body they have and there’s no harm in that. I love seeing older ladies all decked out in blinged up bikinis!!! They rock it! Who cares that their body has seen lots of sun and may not be as perky as it once was?!?! Does this mean that they should hide their bodies in layers of fabric??? No way! I would pay to see anyone game enough suggest this to them.
I was taught as a Kiwi kid that my body could cause offence and that in order to avoid upsetting anyone and embarrassing myself, I needed to hide the parts of my body that didn’t conform to societal expectations. And I have see many Kiwi’s come here to Croatia (and other places too no doubt) thinking that they have the right to comment on a person’s outfit or poke fun at someone’s body because the object of their comments have dared to let their body see the summer sun. Mostly it’s not comments that are said directly to the persons’ face. More often it’s snide comments in conversations with others, seemingly innocent comments or, my least favourite, faux-concern comments. The kind where the criticism is wrapped in a generous layer of oh-but-I-am-just-trying-to-help. People from other countries do it too, not just Kiwi’s. I guess I am just sensitive to it when I hear people with the same accent as me talk in disgusted tones about how “we don’t want to see his junk hanging about.”
To all those who think that they have this right, here’s a revolutionary idea… Avert your eyes! Keep your opinions to yourself! Do you really have such a boring life and small mind that, instead of marvelling at the amazing country around you, you feel the need to pick apart someone else who has done NOTHING to you?!
My personal aim is to be so busy enjoying my life that I am far too preoccupied to care what someone is wearing or what parts of their body they’re exposing! And I am not going to cover my body up just because other people mistakenly think they have the right to pass judgement on my bits. I will continue to celebrate mine and others’ right to enjoy life in whatever clothing (or lack of clothing!) they feel most comfortable in. Our bodies are amazing vehicles and they enable us to do so many incredible, exciting things. I’d much rather focus my energy in being grateful for all my body has empowered me to do! And all the incredible adventures that I have to look forward to.