Mimi-Siku grabs a pair of tea packets from the drawer and busies himself in the kitchen nook. I have absolutely no intention of taking even a sip, but if brewing chamomile is distraction enough from any tantalizing possibilities involving kidnapping, rape, or UFO abduction home videos, then I’ll pretend to play along.
“Anyway,” Mimi continues, “I started as a member of a weekend loincloth and sarong society. Some friends and I would get together to game or watch fundoshi-related movies. One particular night—to this day I can’t remember exactly why—we did Jungle 2 Jungle while high. I think it was Throwback Night or something. With weed. We really got into it, too. Each of us skinned as a different character from the movie—it’s obvious which skin I installed—and I swear we found infinite wisdom in the lines and mannerisms of the Mimi-Siku character. The conversation went from, ‘What kind of father agrees to take his son to New York City, but tells him fuck you, leave your clothes back home?’ To, ‘How cool would it be to cruise the trials and tribulations of city life by going fundoshi in NYC?’ To, ‘Like, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have cell phones or sports cars. We can have things, we just shouldn’t be them, you know?’ To, ‘Like, think about how Mimi-Siku living in the city is that ideal. You’ve got all the convenience of the city environment, but all the comforts of the fundoshi lifestyle. I mean, humans created modern civilization to keep the wilderness at bay, right? What are clothes but a shelter from a wilderness that no longer exists? Like, if you think about it, the more developed a society is, the less clothing its citizens should wear. The less developed a society is, the more clothing its citizens should wear. Everything is backward, man!’ To me finally joking, ‘We should totally create our own fundoshi subculture subculture! We could called it Sikuism!’” Mimi laughs, flashes me an over-the-shoulder smile. “That was the night Sikuism was created. Sugar? Honey?”
I shake my head. This is the most ridiculous origin story I’ve ever heard, and yet I can’t stop listening. It’s not because I’m particularly enthusiastic about stoner Mimi-Siku worshippers—I just can’t imagine where this is going.
“So, we finish the movie,” Mimi says, waiting for the kettle to go off. “Everyone sleeps in until noon the next day. We all go back to our day jobs after. I completely space about the Sikuism thing. Then, about a week later, the first of my followers, loinclothed, backpacked, and ready to embrace their inner jungle, sends me a friend request on SuperMegaNet. And I’m like, what? Who? And they’re like, ‘Your Facebook page really inspired me to quit my job and hit the road full-time fundoshi style.’ I check my browser history; it turns out on Jungle 2 Jungle movie night I created a Facebook page dedicated to Sikuism, its principals and core values, and I already have fifteen followers, all fundoshi enthusiasts who’ve sold their houses, emptied their bank accounts, tossed out their wardrobes, and who’re dead-set on becoming Sikuists.”
(Hm. “Our day jobs.” Stranger Danger meter just jumped a little—Mimi-Siku and his friends do not necessarily sound like your average thirteen-year-olds.)
“In the year since, more and more people have joined the cause as well as spread the word. Something about a simpler, more minimalistic approach to modern-day living seems to be trending right now.”
I furrow my brow. “So…it’s like a back-to-nature kind of thing?”
“Not quite,” Mimi replies. “The thing with Sikuism is, it’s not about finding your way back to the jungle, so to speak. It’s about bringing the jungle with you wherever you go. In Jungle 2 Jungle, this was the visual metaphor of Mimi-Siku practicing fundoshi while navigating the urban sprawl of New York City. Likewise, Sikuism is the practice of bringing your jungle with you wherever you go. In other words, your jungle paradise isn’t a place you someday hope to travel to, it’s an inner state of being you create wherever you are or whomever you’re with.” Mimi grins. “Too many of us believe that happiness, adventure, inspiration, or fulfillment is a place that has to be reached, that it’s traveling overseas, climbing mountains, going on safari. But we never get there because bills pile up, responsibilities weigh us down, and so we settle into lifelong complacency, always dreaming of going to our jungle, but never actually getting there. With Sikuism, wherever you want to be, you’re already there.”
Seriously, Mimi-Siku, how old are you? “That’s, uh…wow. So, what does a subculture creator do, exactly?”
“I organize meet-ups, mostly,” Mimi says, removing the kettle from the hotplate and filling a pair of inexplicably-attractive cream-colored coffee cups. “I also update and clarify the rules in the Sikuist’s Handbook. You know, stuff like recommended diet, how to maintain strict, separate work and living spaces, complimentary versus invasive uses of tech, where to park your van overnight or get free WiFi, how to make your own loincloths—stuff like that.”
“You must be really busy.”
Mimi shrugs. “Busier than I used to be in some ways, yeah. But also way more effective. Honestly, since becoming a Sikuist, I’m calmer and more confident. I think more clearly and get more work done with less effort. When you strip away all the excesses of the modern world, you’re left with the purest, most effective version of yourself you’ll ever get to know. I’ve gotten so much more programming done just this last year than I’d ever gotten done before I converted. For the first time in my life, I’m me—” A notification sounds on his phone. “Crap. Sit tight for a second.” He drops the tea bags, grabs his phone, does a quick swipe, a tap—and becomes an overweight thirty-something woman with pigtails and glasses. He—she—then holds the phone up with the front camera aimed at her face and starts a video call with some boy who looks to be nine or ten. “Hi, baby. How are you?”
“I’m fine,” the boy replies. “Are you still coming to Claim Jumper for my birthday next weekend?”
“Of course! I wouldn’t miss it for all the pot pies in the entire world!”
“She’s coming, Mom!” the boy yells, not quite off-camera enough to keep the audio from clipping. “Do you want me to tell her two o’clock?”
The boy’s mom yells something unintelligible in the background.
Facing the camera again, and at a more appropriate volume level, the boy paraphrases: “Mom says to come at two o’clock, and she’ll text you the address so you can GPS it.”
“Thank you, sweets,” Mimi says, and pretends to rub her nose against the touchscreen. “Tell your mom Auntie Valentina says hi, and she’ll see you all soon, okay?”
“Okay, I will.”
“Bye, Aunt Tina.”
Mimi ends the call.
Swipes, taps, and becomes Mimi-Siku once again.
Glances sheepishly over her—his—shoulder. “So…yeah. I’m a thirty-six-year-old woman who hasn’t yet figured out how to tell her sister’s family she identifies as a lanky teenage jungle boy.”