The Girl from Ipanema

We lived two blocks from Ipanema Beach, which meant we were treated to acres of bikini-clad women baking in the hot sun. They seldom entered the surf but were content to stroll about or lie on their towels. The men were more energetic, playing volleyball or actually swimming.

The Girl from Ipanema was a real person, immortalized by composer Tom Jobim in the song. She swayed as she strutted and presumably the men swooned as she passed them. Years later her daughter took up the custom. And for all I know her granddaughter carried on for them.

There’s one huge difference between Brazilian men and Italian men when it comes to women passing in the street. Italian men in Italy tend to be vulgar and sometimes threatening, touching (if not actually touching) on parts of a woman’s anatomy in a rude manner. Brazilian men — ahhh, Brazilian men, understand the gift of a girl and will say gentle, complimentary things. Girls in bikinis are especially cherished, or sometimes the man will show he has style by not staring. Rio de Janeiro is a beach town and as such might drive an Italian man crazy, but Brazilian men know they have a gift of the girls in sun-drenched Rio. In Italy it’s a class thing; gentlemen in the upper class behave as such. They refrain from that game the other men play.

And, oh yes, some American dubbed the bikinis “dental floss.”


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