I didn’t really notice how enormously fat and slob-ish (the two NOT being related) so many Americans had become until I moved to Barbados and began to live in a culture that is a size the U.S. used to be and also generally neatly dressed.
I just returned to my Barbados home after five days in the States, my home country. When I boarded Flight 651 out of Miami, I was concerned that my seat mate was a walking refrigerator who would infringe upon my seat real estate. He was doubly afflicted: very large and also sloppily dressed. He wore a shiny sleeveless polyurethane sheath of a garment that had “Lightning Jack” embroidered across the back. If his girth hadn’t kept him pinned into his seat, his shiny poly shorts with elastic waist would have caused him to slip out of the seat onto the floor of the plane. Where he would not have been able to get up.
Just as I was praying that he wasn’t a fellow American, his large, furry arms began flipping through his well-stamped passport. I glanced over (eesh, his long grey hair was pasted to his neck). Sure ‘nuf, a fellow Yank. A Yank who is signaling to me and the rest of the world via his dress that he needn’t be bothered to make the smallest effort.
He wasn’t the only American slob (fat or otherwise) I saw during my stay in Miami: Men wearing grungy worn-down flip flops; sports-team jerseys on men reflecting fantasies of playing pro ball; men stuffing pizza into their faces while walking (at least Americans can still multi-task); stretched-out t-shirts with vulgar sayings …. (Women date these guys??)
Actually, perhaps these are the women these guys are dating: Women with bikini tops that cover the nipple-but-not-much-else of a silicon breast; unzipped jeans revealing an itsy bitsy bikini; girth squeezed out of the top of their jeans, aka “muffin tops”; kids’ strollers equipped with a food-holder for mom’s Biggie Fries …. there’s more but I’m feeling queasy.
By contrast, Barbadians are generally tidy dressers: collars on shirts, shirts tucked in on men and, on women, peeks of cleavage instead of the whole – um, enchilada, jeans zipped and buttoned … and I’ve yet to see the Hefty-bag-shiny clothing of my seat mate.
I’m not saying that Barbados is a prim society; I’ve seen video of some goings-on in Barbadian night clubs that make me cringe. Still, as I grossly generalize that Americans are often fat and slob-ish, I also grossly generalize that Barbadians are usually well-kept and neat. It helps that Barbados society isn’t, like US society, 67% fat or obese.
Bajans are taught manners in dress at an early age. Children in Barbados wear uniforms to school and are required to keep their hair neat and tidy. Barbadians dress for church — including hats on women. And while you see flip-flops and cut-offs at churches and funerals in the States (“Just be glad people are still going,” you hear), you do not see that here in Barbados. In fact, in recent years church-goers were tending toward more casual and revealing dress but the ministers here put their collective foot down and banned such clothing.
My husband and I are not immune to complaints about our appearance. Greg and I met for lunch recently at the beautiful golf club at Royal Westmoreland, where he’s a member. I had come from a business meeting and was dressed up in skirt, blouse, and heels; Greg had come from his office and was wearing a button-down, long-sleeved tailored shirt, ironed dark jeans with a belt, and tassled loafers with socks. We were seated and graciously served — but at the end of the meal as we were leaving, the maitre d took Greg aside and told him to please refrain from wearing jeans to lunch at Westmoreland in the future.