One of the challenges posed by conducting my life in a liminal state rests in finding a mental space of my own. Wherever I am, nothing belongs to me because I am in someone else’s place. Running, however, is my own and acts as that space and place to call my own.
Running can be the time for pondering my musings about things I don’t understand. One such topic where I have struggled to understand has to do with wearing knee-length shorts on this tropical island. I struggled out of practicality and efficiency. Wearing longer shorts can be painful on the thighs and they make an inefficient stride–two things I learned while running in college. While it is something I respect by dressing according to custom, that is, not to wear clothes revealing any part of my thigh, it was through running that I understood the custom.
As I ran in my running shorts, I would think about how I could wear longer shorts. This did not make sense to me as a runner because we think about our stride… everything from how our gear (clothing, shoes), diet, preparation affects our performance… everything! Wearing longer shorts would be an impediment to my workout. But the more I ran, the more I saw people I would see again, the more uncomfortable I felt with even part of my thighs showing as I ran. It was then I realized my practicality was no longer valid.
In my culture, it is not appropriate to wear a low-cut shirt or too short of a skirt to work. Similarly, it is not appropriate to wear a swim suit around downtown St. Petersburg, Florida without loose clothing to cover myself. Perhaps this can be done in another place. If I did not have the appropriate clothing, I would obtain it. The point is that as much as body parts are natural, cultural meanings become ascribed to those parts, and on Yap, the thighs are one area not to show.