Unless what you think is that I recently started running again and went for a run along the ocean without a shirt on (but emphatically WITH shorts). Then its exactly what you think.
I have been running for years now. Track and Cross country in high school had me running nearly every day, always without a shirt. Because if you didn't run without a shirt that meant you were a rookie. And I didn't want to be no rookie. Plus, its Florida and it was stinkin hot. So after four years of being trained to run without a shirt, I really can't stand to run any other way.
So when I went running the other day in Qingdao, naturally the shirt was off. Now, I have lived in China for a while at this point. So I have kind of developed a sense for when I am acting culturally normal-- and when I am not. For instance, throwing your own trash away at Starbucks or a fast food place. Not normal. People look at you askance. The staff is kind of surprised. One time I even had a Chinese lady stop me in the middle of clearing away someone else's trash from a table so that I could sit there. She said I really should get the staff to do that.
Anyways, so as I was running, I began to feel a disturbance in the force. People were staring. Sometimes craning their head to get a better look. This is not all that uncommon in China. Staring isn't rude in the least, and often times Chinese who haven't seen foreigners before will give you a pretty good look down, unabashedly. But, the people I was running by all lived in a part of town covered with foreigners. I knew it wasn't the common "He is a foreigner" stare. This was a "He is a foreigner doing something strange" stare.
But what could it be?
At first I thought it might be the actual running. Maybe they don't run here. They do Tai Chi instead?
Nope, I remember seeing joggers before (always with overly expensive workout clothes).
Then I thought it might be that I was running without a shirt. Maybe people always wear shirts here.
Nope, my first week here I saw men in speedos playing volleyball on the beach (then immediately tried to forget that I had). Plus, as I was running I ran right by a group of guys without their shirts on.
Aha! Maybe, they don't wear shirts sometimes, but ALWAYS wear them while jogging?
Nope, I saw an old man jogging with his dog and he definitely did not have a shirt on.
I was stumped. Why were they staring? What was weird?
Then I realized. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Its not that they could see my chest. Its that the could see my hairy chest. Yup chinese men have about the same amount of chest hair as an 11 year old boy. And my chest? Well, lets just say I don't use shampoo only on my head.
Now this could bother me. But I have decided its not going to. I am just going to view myself as official ambassador to China for extraneous hair. Maybe I'll start a trend. Maybe by the time I leave, there will be a whole flock of Chinese men applying Rogaine to their chests in an effort to grow some man locks.
~J. L. Smith