Vladimir Putin is infamous for his former KGB affiliations, media suppression, gay rights antagonism, pontification against American foreign interventions, but perhaps most notably for his penchant of going shirtless in numerous photo opportunities. His body can best be described as a fleshy barrel, a thick, hairless keg of supposed masculinity. I’d always assumed he was proud of his body and the presumed power than comes from confidence in one’s shape.
I’m sitting at a lovely poolside, surfside bar, called Louisiane Brewhouse in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and this city is renowned for its heavy Russian tourism influence. (People even asked me as I walked down the street with my European build, American swagger and confusingly attractive mullet if I was Russian. I’ve gotten Spanish, Italian, Canadian, but never Russian.) Anyway, people watching as I do, I can see the men here carry themselves in a very Putin-esque manner. They walk with a wonderfully erect, gratuitous self-assuredness that only rich men can achieve. They are like peacocks with a beer gut. And, they are all wearing the tiny Speedo style shorts. I’m generalizing, but I’m watching them as I write. The men are most certainly Russian. They have hairy, protruding stomachs, undefined, powerful arms, rounded backs and bowlegs. I realized that Putin’s implicit statement in his shirtless parades is that: “This is a Russian man. We are not pretty American boys with visible biceps and abdominals. We possess a power akin to a Moscow winter. We are indomitable. We care not for mirror muscles.”
I usually can hate on people pretty easy. But, I find it hard because they are so obviously proud of their top-heavy shape and Speedo bulges, that it’s as if they convinced me, without saying a word, that, “This looks good.”