Ben? Gender bending?
What are we talking about here?
The thought of Ben donning a “skirt” a few years ago, would just have made us both laugh out loud. After all, no judgement here, guys wearing skirts has been a pretty marginal slice of the population. In the U.S. and in Europe, that is.
However, after spending about two years in sarong wearing South Asia, it’s amazing how normal it feels now, for Ben to wear one. That is… at home! The minute Ben walks in the door of our loft, after work, off come the jeans or the dress pants, and on comes the sarong. “Ahhhh” he says ” this is WAYYY more comfortable.” Weekends and time at home is synonymous with sarong wearing.
As we head out of our building on a Saturday when there is a music festival happening literally on our street, we both suddenly realize that Ben is still wearing his Sri Lankan brightly colored sarong! Uh oh.. now what?
I was wondering if this day might come. And here it is… unplanned, un thought out, but my boyfriend/husband is wearing what most Americans definitely consider to be a skirt, in public.
Lo and behold, it seems that Ben is definitely NOT the only guy wearing a “skirt” on this particular day. Surprise, surprise! A new normal in America? A trend that is catching on… Or are we only noticing this, because of Ben’s sudden gender bending / culture bending wardrobe?
Shortly after we leave the music and head to a nearby park, we realize we forgot our water bottle and Ben goes into a 7Eleven store to buy one. In the line to pay, in front of him, is a very toned burly construction guy. When the woman working in the store looks at him to indicate he is next in line, he steps aside and motions to Ben and says, “LADIES FIRST!” And then, they BOTH crack up laughing!
Now that was CLASSIC!!!
But there is definitely precedent…
When we travel and live in other countries, we tend to naturally merge toward local dress, less as a matter of strategy, than as a matter of comfort. The nature of interactions changes when superficial barriers, such as difference in dress, disappear…
Sarongs are very common in Sri Lanka and worn only by men. A similar garment is worn by women, but is more of a wrap around skirt, called a “redda.” The sarong is the standard garment for most men in rural and some urban communities. Most men of upper social class wear the sarong only as night garment or only within the confines of their home, or on special occasions.
By the time we discovered Sri Lanka, Ben was already well on the way to making the Sarong, or Lungi, part of his standard dress… It all started for him in Indonesia.
Sarong wearing in Indonesia has a rich history…With a humid climate, sarongs have made it easy for workers in rice paddies to walk through fields, and they are light and comfortable and easy to move in.
They have also been used as carrying sacks, headscarves and have therefore been an integral part of daily life for men and women in Indonesia. Sarongs in Indonesia still today are dyed, using the ancient method of batik. Designing sarongs is definitely an art.
Even though Buddhist Bali is unique and very much differentiates itself from the rest of the Muslim majority Indonesian archipelago, the sarong does cross over to Bali.
You say “Sarong” and I say “Lungi”… same, same, but different.
In India, there are many variations on the lungi, depending on whether you are in the North or South, and the ethnicity and cultural traditions of the people of each region. In Kerala, the lungi is generally colorful and available in various designs and is worn by both men and women. It is also called kaili Mundu.
The Lungi or Sarong is not the only accoutrement that offers opportunities for “culture bending”.
In Abu Dhabi, men traditionally wear the kandura, which is a long robe for men which in addition to being comfortable protects from the hot sun.( It is “inherited” from the Bedouin desert culture.)