“BELLY!” I shout in delight, and Gareth and Colin turn to look and smile.
“BELLY! DOUBLE BELLY!” hollers Colin, jerking his head towards two different naked-bellied men within fifteen feet of us on the crowded street.
You see, it turns out that in China (especially during the scalding hot summer months), it is perfectly acceptable for men to tie their shirts halfway up their chests and walk around public streets, trains, or restaurants with their entire tummies nakedly protruding.
“Bellies aren’t impolite here in China,” explained our local friend. “Now, female cleavage of any amount? THAT is scandalous. But a publicly naked male tummy? Normal.”
In anticipation of the 2010 Beijing Olympics, Chinese officials tried to crack down on boy belly-showing (along with spitting and not lining up), but the fashion lives on, unabated.
Now, being an American child of the 80s, I associate this tied-up belly shirt style more with a Barbie doll I used to own than with macho men. However, a certain American man with whom I’m traveling disagreed.
“This is amazing!” my anonymous American male travel buddy exclaimed, when he at last joined the fashion fray, grasped the corners of his shirt, and tied a fabric knot… thus letting his nude belly shine proud.
Our friend’s experiment was a raging success. Through famous tourist sites, and down crowded city streets this bare-bellied American man walked, and no one seemed the least bit displeased or offended.
In fact, the dozens of Chinese men we passed who also sported naked bellies may have given our friend an approving nod!
So the question becomes: if YOU were in China during the hot, hot summer, would YOU “do as the Romans do” and pull out YOUR belly??