Thursday, July 17, 2008

Intermission: Oh for fuck's sake, just deal with it.

Looked at the front page of Baltlantis today, and saw this hapless jeremiad. This has been such a staple of American bitching stereotypes that it's not even amusing any more, just annoying.

(The following is best read to a background of German outfit H-Blockx's seminal punk anthem, "This is not America".)

Water parks in Estonia, like pretty much everywhere in Europe, frown upon swimming shorts. There are, historically, some valid reasons for it. Swimming shorts seem to have been designed in California, with the express purpose of wearing them as swimmable outerwear; you get out of the ocean, they dry out very quickly, and you can be on your way. I have a pair that I got at an Orange County Target a few years ago. They have both external pockets, big enough to fit, say, a wallet, and a conveniently secure inner pocket, which can store, say, a car key. By their very design, swimming shorts encourage being worn about town, to the drinks vendor, to the corner shop, etc. In the summer - and yes, Estonian summers do get hot enough to warrant this, however briefly and occasionally - it is not unreasonable to expect people to get out of their apartments in swim shorts and a T-shirt (or not), walk down to the beach or pool, and have a dip. If we're talking about Anne Kanal here, it's a perfectly legitimate and pleasant passtime.

This, however, has gotten some of the more sun-soaked European countries riled up about possible hygiene issues. The thinking is that shorts worn on the street are likely to bring bacteria or other contaminants into the swimming pools (especially ones less enthusiastic with the chlorine than Kalev). There is also the chance that you will forget some keys or coins in the pockets of your shirts, and they will end up fucking with the pumps and filters. So while I'm not sure if there is an actual EU directive proscribing swimming shorts, there is certainly a prevailing opinion.

For what it's worth, I've worn my Target shorts to the Aura swimming pool in Tartu and have never seen anyone take up issue with them; not for me, not for my friends, not for the stable minority of swimmers who choose to come to Aura in non-speedo gear. I'm fairly sure though that I would be stopped if I wore the shorts to the actual water park bit of it, the bit with the slides. People have been given a legitimate, sensible reason for this limitation: swimming shorts often have metal rivets, almost always have exposed seams, and without fail have loose legs. All of these could potentially generate friction and/or snagging on a water slide; however small the chance, the water park does not want the liability, and that's their right.

What's really annoying though is Mrs. Gonzalez's proud, militant, American ignorance. First of all, there is nothing wrong with Speedos: they are a superior choice for swimming, because they provide far less resistance than flappy shorts - the reason why even in genitalia-shy America, they are the choice of professional athletes. The assertion that she is unduly stressed by the vague outlines of male reproductive organs is, frankly, ludicrous. She mentions a husband in the article, so being married, presumably she has indeed seen what a penis looks like and what it can do. Dear Dana: this is not Utah. It is Estonia, a country with a sauna culture, where children grow up knowing that it is perfectly possible for people of opposite sexes to be naked in the same room without an orgy ensuing. Oh, and our age of consent is 14. Doesn't that just shock you?

We are human males, Mrs. Gonzalez. Near enough all of us do indeed possess both penises and testicles. Even, believe it or not, the President of America. If you can't stand the wienerfest, get out of the water.

And for fuck's sake, stop complaining about pool staff doing their jobs. Oh, you say they should rummage through your bags and/or require you to present swimming gear at the counter? How about, instead, and this is just a thought, you follow the fucking rules that you are perfectly well aware of, and stop expecting people to accomodate you just because you're American?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I felt the same indignation about the cultural intolerance displayed in that article.

Giustino said...

Dude, I am an American, and when I read Baltlantis, I feel like I am an Estonian and they are the Americans.

AndresS said...

If hygiene and/or stuff coming out of the pockets why are shorts allowed everywhere in North America? I don't think the water parks there are any dirtier than over in Europe and the pumps seem to run fine.

I could really care less about this issue but for freedom loving Estonians to be told what swim wear they can and can't have on is unacceptable. :)

ailon said...

Well, reminding customers at the front desk of the rule doesn't seem like too much to ask. After all at least in Lithuania (I think the same applies to Estonia) more than half of male population nowadays use swimming shorts for swimming. So, it's safe to presume that uninformed or ignorant customer (after all 90% of them are ignorant :) has shorts in hist bag and no "speedos".

Personally I don't even own "speedos". Only Speedo swimming shorts.

Jens-Olaf said...

In Germany we did not know other than a kind of speedos, shorts are quite new for swimming, and there are many swimming club members in the pool in Germany. Swimming with shorts is like doing pole vault with a tie. I have seen photos of my grandfather in Estonia where he was naked, 1930s. Somewhere near Klooga, outside.

Kristopher said...

Yep, I'm starting to reverse on this too.

Sure, something is potentially a little revolting in a Richard Simmons way about scanty synthetic fabrics -- but there's plenty of 3/4 cut styles that would pass muster at even a stupid pool, which Kalev certainly is.

If you ever do your laundry by hand (as I was forced to recently when my wife was on holiday and I couldn't decipher the alien symbols on the machine) you will see how much stuff comes out of ostensibly unsoiled clothes.

Aura is simply a more pleasant place. The only thing I can fault is lack of a weight room, but for that you have UT's Ujula 4. Kalev stinks.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that most people critical of the no SWIMMING shorts policy go off with America bashing. America has nothing to do with it. As ailon commented, more than half the local (that would be non-Americans) male population wears swimming shorts.

giustino - Baltlantis is probably more Canadian and Estonian than it is American.

Flasher T said...

"for freedom loving Estonians to be told what swim wear they can and can't have on is unacceptable. :)"

*shrug* It's a private business. Don't like it - go somewhere else. There is no shorts ban on public beaches.

"Well, reminding customers at the front desk of the rule doesn't seem like too much to ask."

In Aura at least, there's a big sign at the front desk with a "no shorts" pictogram. That's reasonable enough, I think. The staff shouldn't have to inspect everyone's swimwear.

"America has nothing to do with it."

And yet it's pretty much exclusively Americans who go "oh noes, speedos, I can see balls!"

Jens-Olaf said...

BTW, some aspects of this discussion are old as 150years back. I cannot resist to quote here from a web site about swimming and the history of dress code.

"Around 1860, the wearing of drawers of a large roomy pattem was begun at the St. George's Bath, Pimlico, to the very great discomfort and annoyance of most bathers.

This action led to a comment in the august London Times that "unfortunately, the comfort of bathers is interfered with by rather obtrusive regulations, strictly carried out. We hope that the board will some day follow the example of other establishments, and leave these things to the discretion of the patrons. This matter is still left to individual discretion at Oxford and other places. The wearing of any covering is a dirty practice-it hides disease, if any, and prevents the water from free contact with the skin. Regardless how bad men's drawers may be, their effect is small as compared to the absurd manner in which women cover themselves. An A.S.A. costume is all very well for mixed bathing, but when bathing otherwise, the sexes might be left to use their own discretion."

The wearing of drawers in the London baths f*st began around 1860. At first, swimmers paid one penny for a pair of drawers, but all the other baths in London issued them free. The height of fashion was achieved at Biarritz in 1864, when "suitable bathing dresses for ladies showed women dressed in bathing costumes," which included a hat and boots (see Fig. 1).

However, in 1883, Eaton College boys were still clinging to their staunchly upheld tradition of naked bathing, while in Japan, men, women and children bathed together absolutely naked without restraint. In 1896, London school children were finally made to wear drawers-"a ridiculous and even a pemicious custom."

Anonymous said...

And yet it's pretty much exclusively Americans who go "oh noes, speedos, I can see balls!"

- No, it's not.

ailon said...

"*shrug* It's a private business. Don't like it - go somewhere else. There is no shorts ban on public beaches."

Well, if McDonalds decides that they wont serve crapburgers to people without tuxedos it's their right, but it doesn't mean that people can't bitch about it in the paper :)

Giustino said...

I don't think the water parks there are any dirtier than over in Europe and the pumps seem to run fine.

The American water parks are slightly more innundated with kiddy urine.

giustino - Baltlantis is probably more Canadian and Estonian than it is American.

I think it is more Tallinnese than it is Estonian.

Anonymous said...

The American water parks are slightly more innundated with kiddy urine.

Oh, right. And you know this how? A 5-yr old is going to pee in the pool if he gets the chance regardless of nationality.

Kristopher said...

American pools are notorious for insisting on/policing rules that hybrid diaper/swimsuits be worn for the under age 3 crowd. That was demeaning for our toddler, who hadn't had an "accident" at that point for a long time. Haven't encountered that in Estonia.

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