Last week I kind of got my butt sunburned. My American friends who think that all of Russia is a frozen wasteland year-round will be surprised to hear that you can get a sunburn in northern Russia, on your butt no less. (Let me make it clear I was wearing a bathing suit, it’s just styled in such a way that the bottom of my butt got burned, all right?)

Where does one go to sun one’s butt, you ask? Why, in the city park right at the end of my street. Go to any park any day of the week in summer and you will be surrounded by nearly-naked sunbathers. I’d feel pretty self-conscious about lying on a blanket in a bathing suit in a city park in the US, but here it doesn’t faze anyone. And frankly, that’s kind of nice.

This lack of puritanism has other positive ramifications. Russian women’s fashion is rather, um, provocative by American standards, and this used to sort of bother me because I felt like my options were 1) to be looked upon with scorn by other young women or 2) to wear clothes that I didn’t like and didn’t feel comfortable in. But I’ve come to terms with that, and have also realized the advantages of being surrounded by scantily-clad women: Russian men are so accustomed to seeing women like this that they are pretty blase about it, and so there isn’t a lot of sexual harassment on the street. At least, not compared to Washington, DC, where being under 50, female and breathing is grounds for someone shouting a rude comment at you.

Of course, occasionally I witness a Russian man ogling or saying something suggestive to a woman, and it’s even happened to me a couple of times, but in DC I couldn’t leave the house without getting harassed, and no, I really am not exaggerating. Sometimes it’s nice to be ignored.

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