I was walking around Shanghai on my study abroad trip with my friends when we saw a small family sitting on the sidewalk outside their shop. All the girls noticed the young baby the mother was holding and immediately began to crowd. We all “aww-ed” at the baby’s cute face and smile. But after a few seconds of the smiling, we all began to quiet down to an awkward silence. The baby looked dressed in a jumper, but why did we see his butt? Why did we see things we weren’t supposed to see?
Babies are a messy bunch and it’s no wonder that Chinese babies are not exempt from this generalization. However, the Chinese people are incredibly innovative and have discovered an easy and efficient way to take care of baby bodily functions.
Queue the crotch-less jumper.
For much of this past summer, I spent time in China studying abroad and traveling. And aside from the many incredible historical and cultural sights, I also saw many a child in a crotch-less jumper. Often, their mother or father, perhaps a grandmother or grandfather, was holding them, oblivious to the fact that the child, young enough to not have bowel control under his or her metaphorical belt, could at any moment pee or poop everywhere.
In Elizabethan times, babies were often wrapped in cloth diapers. However, these diapers were often neglected, washed infrequently, and obviously, anyone with simple knowledge and experience with babies knows, waste built up. In tropical areas, a climate closer to Shanghai’s, where I was staying, babies were often diaper-less, as they were often naked anyways. Disposable diapers only came about in the later decades of the 20th century.
So obviously, there’s a certain practicality to crotch-less pants.
When it’s hot, as it often is in the summer months in China, Chinese people simply tend to lose clothing. Women wear short skirts and tank tops. Men wander the streets shirtless. Children get down to their small under-things. It’s enough to make a tourist dizzy.
When I was in a canal town in Suzhou, I saw a father holding a young girl up so that she could pee… on the wall of one of the historical buildings. Modesty out the window, that little girl needed to go and a crotch-less jumper made it a lot easier for her to do so.
So next time you’re in Asia, make an Asian person happy. Strip down and put your baby in some crotch-less jumpers.
Michelle Chan is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park majoring in Print Journalism and International Business. She’s a member of the Student Government Association, numerous newspapers, tutors English and works as the sponsorship chair for UMD’s Habitat for Humanity chapter. She is also part of a student church group on campus. She grew up loving Italian food but in recent years, Chinese food has a made a major comeback in her life.
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