For all the dreams and schemes,
people are as they seem
On a hot summer night
Don't be no fun, don't forget you're young
On a hot summer night
Year after year, summer after summer, I grew up with the same familiar living room scene. The oak trees hedging the house had yet to reach maturity, so the summer sun would blaze through the floor to ceiling windows, bringing the inside temperature to an uncomfortable toasty. Below the ceiling fans and the over-worked air conditioner, my dad would relax in his lounge chair watching CNN and drinking diet root beer. He wore only two things: his navy blue shorts and headphones.
I have been having flashbacks of my dad’s round, bare belly. Why? Because when it’s hot in this city, Chinese bellies appear. The bellies come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Some bellies resemble Buddha’s firm rotundness. Some bellies long and thin like a green bean. Men eating dinner, watching mahjong games, watching their baby grandchildren, sitting around shooting the breeze—all with their shirts tucked up exposing their brown midriffs. At the same time, one hand gingerly rubbing around the belly button.
|This mahjong game is intense!|
Westerners, like us, chuckle at this fashion faux pas. But to the Chinese, airing out one’s midriff is as sensible as turning on the AC. Despite having studied abroad in the U.S., desperately wanting to leave China, and having a Frappuccino addiction, our very Westernized Chinese friend responded to our snickering with this unamused piece of logic: “They do that because it’s hot.” Right, it’s hot. Let it all hang out. Beijing, after all, is sweltering.
Now a week into the September, the daytime temperatures are bearable. As summer wanes so should the belly exposure. But I will always think fondly of my dad sitting in front of the TV, remote in one hand, a cup of diet root beer in the other, and his Chinese, hairless chest and belly in plain sight. Thank goodness manners are cultural, and not genetic. He always wore a shirt when my friends came over. That would have been so embarrassing.
Love you Dad!
Chinese Word of the Blog: 闷热 mēn rè
English translation: sultry / stifling hot
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