by Milana Vuković Runjić


It’s a familiar story: ever since they worked out that see-through clothes make them visible, Croatian girls have started wearing outfits that reveal more than they hide. It’s no wonder the local priest gets angry when he sees them in front of the altar wearing white trousers, made of very thin material, and thongs. But priests come and go; fashion remains. In the past, people thought you were strange if the top two buttons on your shirt were left unbuttoned; now they think you’re strange if you button them at all. Rings used to be worn on fingers; now there is toe jewelry and ankle bracelets with little bells. Like in all patriarchal societies, the follies of fashion are there just for women; in the capital, men are loyal to their suits, and in the few remaining cities they are still attached to their T-shirts and casual trousers—of course, that doesn’t mean there are no men wearing T-shirts in Zagreb either.

Before the summer holiday, Croatian men and women will buy their summer read. By and large this will be the only book they will read all year, so they will choose very carefully. They might pick up one of this year’s bestsellers, titled Better to Be Born Without That Thing Than Without Luck, written in Dalmatian slang by a nice girl from Split, who is also a professional actress and has long blond hair. We were recently side-by-side on a TV show I took part in, also hosted by a blond girl, a former singer, who asked me if I thought that sex was linked with happiness. “No, absolutely no,” I shot out, because I could see a lot of under-aged individuals, and even children, in the audience. When the host looked at me in amazement, I explained that it’s possible to be very happy even without sex and that, in fact, bad sex can even spoil your mood. The only thing that is guaranteed to make me happy, although I’m not yet admitting to it in front of the cameras, is… cooking.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Milana Vuković Runjić writes a sex column for the Croatian newsweekly Globus. This month’s column, like last month’s, was written specifically for the Believer.

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