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. 


  1. don't adopt their screwed up beauty standards.

  2. Thanks :)
    To be honest, it's very weird to feel this way and I spend way more time than I should over-thinking things that probably don't matter...