Monday, November 17, 2014

Work, Friendly Reminders and...

After coming into work this morning, the woman who prepares the coffee and other office things walked around placing photocopies of some paper on our desks.

When I settled down to take a look, I saw that it was divided into four parts and had some go-to keigo for the phones and phrases to use when passing people in the hallway.

There are a lot of things like this here; signs in bathrooms telling you to think about others when you use the toilet, reminders to slow down, reminders to greet people in the hallways. A lot of it is neat, in a way. Sometimes a reminder can do a lot to put you on the right track, much like what happens when an elementary school student running through the hallways hears, "Why don't you take it slow?," and they turn around to see a teacher. Suddenly the student becomes more aware, slows down, and, what's perhaps most important, it happens in a moment. No one is yelled at. No one is punished.

My apartment has signs asking everyone to think of others and not turn up their TVs or stereos too loudly, and more. Unfortunately, they are just gentle requests, and when I've called to the management company to ask them to get my neighbor to stop his 30 minute intervals of smoking, they promised a note. "Even though his smoke gets into your room, we can't tell him he can't smoke on his porch. All we can do is remind him that his habit is causing others an inconvenience." 


So, since my neighbors have been having annoying loud squeaky bed sex at ungodly hours, I am not really sure that a phone call to the owners is going to stop anything. Really? Who has sex at 2am on a Sunday night/Monday morning? Or 4:30am on a Wednesday? Come on, that's just weird.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Body Image is Effed Up

I've been in Japan for close to eight years. I remember when I first arrived and how I'd walk around downtown after work. August is unbearably hot and humid in Japan, and yet it seemed like none of the girls walking around me noticed the heat. They looked cool (literally) and put together. From their perfectly permed and styled hair, to their perfect make-up and well-fitted clothing...and heels (!!!), I felt completely out of place.

I was used to wearing jeans and t-shirts with baseball caps. in a braid...

Make-up? On me??? 

No way.

I was, however, ready to toss all of the clothes I brought with me from the US. In fact, I did end up sending back a lot of clothes and buying new ones in Japan. At that time, the only people in t-shirts, jeans and flip-flops were tourists. But the more I tried to find clothes that looked good on me, the worse I felt about my body.

The first thing I went after was clothing. Japanese girls have a nice variety of fashion styles to choose from, but none of them look good on an athletic build. Or someone with a larger chest. Or someone with a larger butt...
The short, shorts that look passable on a Japanese girl with slender legs and a flat butt, made me look like a hooker. Paired with the knee-high socks that are so popular here, and I might as well walk down the street with a neon "For Sale" sign flashing at my crotch.

Did I mention that every other girl here has a thigh gap large enough to drive a MAC truck through? TWO! Side-by-side! 

Then I started thinking about make-up. I can try it, right? That should be someone straight forward. No.
Nothing is that easy.
I never wore make-up in the US and I had no idea where to start, so I started with Korean BB Cream...which comes in two shades if you're lucky. Both of them are typically too light for me. 

So, while I was feeling bad about my body, I started to feel bad about my skin color. I never really cared about this stuff when I was in the US. Well, I hated my body in the US, but being in Japan made me hate it even more.

At work, what were probably meant to be compliments made me feel even worse: comments on the shape of my butt, the length of my legs, the size of my chest...the size of my arm muscles. Usually something like: "Oh! Sexy!" or "Wow! Big muscles!" Later, the same group of women would talk about how they want to avoid getting darker in the summer or how they don't want to bulk up. Oftentimes in the summer, I'd get people who'd hold up their arms next to mine to see how dark they got.

Going up a size or two from my US size to my Japanese size was also a big hit. The reactions from coworkers at that time made me feel shitty at best: "YOU wear an XS??? NO WAY!!1" "Well, in US sizes I do" "Well, Americans are big, so..."


At 5'3ish, I feel incredibly short at times. There are a huge amount of girls who are my height but weigh 30lbs less than me and totter around in heels all day. They all look a lot taller, they are a lot thinner and more.

Finally, what is somewhat related is the way that white people are worshiped here. Any clothing ad will inevitably have a thin blonde staring back at me. If you are white and relatively thin, people will ask you to model. To a degree, white people are held up as a defacto beauty standard. Even the mixed models are almost always half-white. Half-Asians get featured only if they meet the standard, and you'll never see half-black models outside of a small number of magazines that cater to hip-hop fans. Heck, the half-black comedians are called ugly to their faces on TV.

So, to sum up, this time of my life has been one of my lowest points with regards to my weight, height, appearance and everything. I weigh the most I've ever weighed in my life and I feel incredibly unattractive. It's this kind of stuff that makes me want to go to the US to take a break and take in all of the different body types. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Random Annoyances

What never gets old here is the random reaction I get from Japanese workers when I'm shopping or out and about. 

On a lucky day, the staff gives me the same treatment as the locals: I'm asked if I have a point card (if the store has one), get my purchase rang up and I'm out with no issues.

That happens maybe 50 - 60% of the time. 

The interactions that piss me off are the ones where, after asking the Japanese person in front of me if they have a point card or coupon, when my turn comes, they silently start ringing up my items. Of course, while they do this, I pull out my point card or discount coupon and they, at times, have to ring up the purchase again. 
The weird thing is that I'll pull out my card, they look at the card and give me the stock line they ask Japanese customers: "Do you have a point card?"

Of course I have a point card, what the hell do you think i just pulled out? 

At other times, as soon as I step up to the counter, the face of the person at the register turns to horror and they just stop talking. Or they switch to speaking to me in broken English and pointing to the digital display to show me my total.

You know, I'm not even going to give them any leeway. I don't live in a small town. This city gets a large amount of foreign tourists, but there is also a good number of foreigners and international students living here who can speak Japanese. 
There really is no excuse to ignore a customer or give them different treatment. You talk to me in Japanese, if I don't understand, then feel free to pantomime or whatever else.

Sure, it's something small in the larger scheme of things, but this is one of those annoyances that just builds and builds.

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Pregnancy in Japan

No. I am not, nor will I ever be pregnant.

I've forgotten the password to this site more times than I can count.

But back to the title. I've currently outlasted the majority of the foreigners I came to Japan with. The ones in my area that are left are all men. All of them are married. And within the past few years the majority of them have decided that they are going to spawn. And yes, their wives are Japanese.

What I've discovered through these men is that they are no more enlightened about pregnancy than their Japanese counterparts.

1. My first shocker was hearing that epidurals are not a typical part of the birth process. My next shocker was that of the three foreign men I've talked with recently, all of whom have kids or have wives that are about to give birth, none...NONE of them knew what an epidural was! Whether their wives want to have one or not is up to them. But the fact that the guys, who are all university educated, couldn't be bothered to research this fucking obvious part of birth kills me.

What's more is that two of them didn't seem to give a fuck. "I don't know what that is, I'll just let my wife decide" tee hee hee. Funny, huh?

2. The next thing you may or may not know of is tearing, known as perineal tears, which sound about as nice as you can imagine. This shit is serious enough to have a burn...
Except in this case, it's the result of your gaijin husband's huge gaijin baby tearing its way through your body. If it seems like there's not enough space, the doctor or nurse will take a pair of scissors and cut from your anus to the hole where the baby is coming out, this is called an episiotomy. So, you're lying there, pushing this huge fucking baby out of your cootch, with no anesthesia, when someone pulls out the scissors to cut open your asshole. Again, nothing to numb the pain...confirmed by my coworker this past week.

I should mention that having your asshole either split open or cut open during birth is not something unique to Japan.

3. Finally, I wash shocked at the lack of knowledge about things such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, postpartum depression, and any of the other slew of birth-related and post-birth related issues. 

I don't expect men or even women to be 100% on the ball on everything that goes on with pregnancy and birth. But, I really can't describe how thoroughly pissed I feel at these men who really just left everything to their wives. I'm sure they are more supportive than the average Japanese guy, but, really...the three points outlined above are HUGE. They can impact the whole pregnancy and marriage. 

What's worse is that most Japanese women are NOT open to talking about these kinds of things with their husbands. And so, these guys don't know that their wives probably have stitches up their assholes and don't want and can't have sex for at least a month. Three, four, five months after having a kid, I go to forums and see these foreign men bitching that their wives don't want sex anymore. Can you imagine why?

While their wives are stuck being pregnant, these smug motherfuckers are just sitting around like they're the coolest thing since sliced bread. I don't know if I'm overacting, but there's something about this laissez-faire attitude that really irks me. None of these guys, that I know, seem like the types that have given any serious thought to the issues that surround raising a multiracial child. None of them seem to understand the "mama-tomo" interworkings of female-mother friendships, school expectations, and more that they will be faced with as their kids age.

Other sources on pregnancy/birth in Japan include: this, this, this and this.