Ah, Those Brazilians

Crab-Killer Waxing, Showers and the
Economy, & Fake Facebook Girlfriends

Blame it on Carnival. If you were in Brazil right now, you couldn’t possibly miss the countrywide preparations for the pagan celebration-turned-to-multi-billion dollar extravagance, which starts in a month. Since it impacts the whole country, why not its news cycle too?
It remains arguably the biggest Brazilian cultural export, and also the annual excuse for wackiness in the streets, and dreams of redemption and glory in people’s imagination. Either that or something else. Otherwise, how to explain the three themes of today’s post?
We exaggerate, of course. The expensive pre-fab debauchery now known as Carnival has little to do with what was once the cultural confluence of African slaves and their dizzying beat-driven music, and over-dressed Europeans, wishing to get lost (see: Veneza, Carnevale).
If it all sounds like a colonizer’s idealization of an ancient rite he could not understand, preserved by the official story as something the ‘natives’ used to amuse themselves, well, that’s because it sadly was. What’s left of it now is a sumptuous but ultimately kitchy visually massive parade of costumes, best experienced with an American Express expense account card.
So, what does Carnival have to do with the latest news sporting the word ‘Brazilian’ on their headlines? Not much, really, except for the general feeling that if you were in Rio at this time of the year, it’d all make sense. Since you’re apparently not, let’s hope these three stories set you up with the right mood, just in case.

THE INTIMATE ITCH
In public health arenas, the past couple of decades have seen a spate of stories about the supposed negative effects the cosmetic technique known as Brazilian Waxing may cause. Mainly risks of infection, since as it totally removes pubic hair, it can also leave the body open to all sorts of parasites and micro pests.
Allegedly. There’s also a certain resistance to the very concept of going through such an extreme procedure, just to be able to publicly flaunt that unnatural look of complete absence of hair. Which, most likely, has first become fashionable among, you guessed it, Brazilian women. Men of all sexual orientations have since been completely sold to the technique.
Now there’s something positive about it too (cool off, everyone, this is not about sexy Brazilians going mad. Seriously). So much waxing, you see, is helping eliminate pediculosis, or pubic lice, or crab, driving it globally to the brink of extinction. And that’s a good thing, right? Well, that’s when things become conplicated.
The tiny, crab-shaped blood suckers have been seeking shelter in the netherlands of humans since ancient times, and up to a few years ago, getting rid of them implied using toxic topical insecticides, which could themselves open up a whole new can of worms (sorry, we couldn’t help it). Now doctors don’t seem to be treating them as often as before.
The cause: waxing, they say. Basil Donovan, a physician at the Sydney Sexual Health Center in Australia, hasn’t seen a woman with lice since 2008, and numbers in males have also been shrinking. What started as a cosmetic luxury, became also a tool in the fight against pubic lice infestation. “Better grooming,’ Donovan and others say. Who knew?
Left unsaid, of course, is whether extinguishing lice is really all we need. Or going hairless, for that matter. Although linked to sexually transmitted diseases and other serious health risks, no one knows what’s the environmental impact of the disappearance of an entire species, however tiny it may be.
Also, as it’s been proven elsewhere, hair is essential, and fighting against it is usually a losing proposition, or at least, an expensive one, if you can afford weekly sessions. Ironically, there’s a class of people who could really benefit of waxing (and beard and hair cuts too), but almost never get to experience the procedure, or visit a cosmetic health clinic: the homeless.

HYGIENE HURTS ECONOMY
We had no idea, but it seems Brazilians are becoming known for yet another personal grooming habit too: showering several times a day. It’s not clear why it shouldn’t be so, as if you live in a hot, tropical country, there are very few personal pleasures (again everyone, please calm down) one would indulge as a refreshing shower whenever the opportunity arises.
So it’s a good thing, right? Again, not really. Writing on Quartz, Jacob Albert says that what Brazilians have been spending in consumer goods is not following the relative cool down of the country’s economy. As a result, he sees a rise in household debt and defaults in credit, a luxury some 35 million natives have gained access to only in the last 20 years.
Oblivious to a possible economic grinding halt, Albert says, these new comers to the middle class continue to spend as if President Lula were still residing in Brasilia. And then he mentions that bit of Northeast Brazilians, traditionally the poorest part of the country, and their habit of showering several times a day.
That’s when economic analysis sometimes betrays a certain bias against those climbing the social ladder, all the while ignoring the excesses and often poor investment choices by those already up there. While excessive reliance on retail sales can be damaging to any country’s economic growth going forward, other factors can be more decisive than consumer trends.
In other words, it’s not always relevant to say that the poor’s spending habits may compromise the economy as a whole, when in the case of Brazil specially, this same previously ignored segment has been credited for much of the growth story associated with the South American giant.
We don’t recall having read anything too negative about the habit of many a wealthy investment banker of taking lavishing champagne baths, hiring high-cost escorts, and throwing parties that last for days. But if you hear that the little man of the north is caught dousing himself with a bottle of perfume, oh, call the economists: this stuff will ruin the country. Please.

THE FAKE FACEBOOK GIRL
Having canceled our membership long ago, we’re free to declare that we couldn’t possibly begin to list all the things we don’t like about Facebook. Or how lucky we are for not needing a new service, offered by a Brazilian agency, for those who’re part of it, and still, are very much concerned about their public image.
For a handful of dollars, Namorofake.com.br will create a package with a whole set of people who ‘like’ you. Fake people, of course, girlfriends, if you think you need to have one to show your ‘friends’ and family. They can create an ex-lover, for instance, or a person of interest, all with the timelines, circles, exchanges, and mutual comments, common in social networks. Minus, of course, the flesh and blood of a real person.
As SmartPlanet’s David Worthington calls it, is a ‘relationship bordello’ they have running on FB, and we hear there are openings for those who want to sell their own profile to be used as a stepping stone for the elaborated hoax. We imagine they’d be paid handsomely for their services; otherwise, how could they have their own, ‘real’ profile on the system too?
The thing (part of that list) is that FB is, itself, a great illusion that sells you to the idea that you’re connected with people that care about you and share similar interests. In reality, unless you really know them, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. And if you do know them, so how FB is better than regular email? Whatever.
It’s mind-boggling to imagine how anyone would go to such a sophisticated lie, hiring a service to play along with it. If the purpose is to impress people you don’t know, pretending that you have quite a following, and even a trophy friend to show off, then what happens after some time?
One simply tells everyone, that one didn’t work out, neither that other one, nor the one I told you about? After a while, wouldn’t it be pathetic having to explain why you’ve failed once again, despite the fact that the whole thing was a make-believe? How can you keep up with the succession of lies, or would they keep a detailed log on you to help your memory?
Geez, this is becoming even more sinister as we explore it. What about issues of privacy, of having yet another commercial enterprise knowing about your little secret, which at some point, becomes an all-consuming big secret? Forget about it, we don’t need to go any further. This whole affair (pardon) gave us a tremendous headache.
That’s what we get when we try to make fun of our own compatriots.

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