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A friend from the States is visiting me in Tokyo. What is the most Japanese place I can take them?
I am so glad you asked this question. Skip the temples, the sakura and the sake. The most Japanese place on earth is Tokyo Disneyland, possibly Tokyo DisneySea. I know you're probably thinking this is American imperialism at it's worst. It's not. In true Japanese fashion, Japan has embraced the brain child of my fellow Kansas City escapee and infamous chain smoker, making it her own. (It was bound to happen. Mickey's head and ears are so circular they are positively zen like and the Japanese love smoking more than Don Draper.)
For starters, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea are crazy crowded but never chaotic. People wait quietly yet excitedly for hours at a time to ride the latest Disney miracle with zero complaints or whining. (The only whining or crying I've ever seen there is by foreigners or children too small to feel the collective burning shame radiating from society.)
The park is ridiculously clean, even by Tokyo standards. Sure, you will find a bit of popcorn here and there.The physical evidence of a small child losing their mind when meeting the absolutely gigantic Mickey Mouse. Unlike Western toddlers, they seldom scream or cry in the faces of Mickey, Minnie or even the Frozen chicks. Instead, they silently implode. That is why the park smells of anticipation. That is to say that the park smells of strawberry and caramel popcorn farts.
The staff are so polite and accommodating to guests every single need that after I left the park, I found it frustrating when my taxi driver was unable to read my mind. Even cast members hauling trash bags full of dirty diapers smile and wave at guests and tourists with a grace and gusto that puts royal families to shame. If you drop your purse or wallet under a seat in a ride or on Main Street, U.S.A it will show up in lost and found within minutes if not seconds and all of your credit cards and cash will have remained in tact. (Unless you'd just come from the souvenir shop. In which case, you wouldn't have anything left to steal anyway.)
If you've spent more than five seconds in Japan, you know how imperative it is to be or have something cute. Life just does not get any cuter than it does at Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea, nor could it be more embraced by every gender and age. Everyone dresses cute there, it doesn't matter if you're 4 or 400 years-old. You've got your Lolita on. ( I've seen the roughest, toughest pinky missing, pubic hair perm wearing "family man" in an oversized Winnie the Pooh hat giggling into his soy sauce and butter popcorn Donald Duck bucket. (Yes, that flavor exists.)
Each character has his/her own herd of groupies with season passes, many of whom remind you of the groupies depicted in Almost Famous. Many of these teens,twenty somethings and kyoiku mommas would let a character have their way with them behind the rocks of Thunder Mountain if Mr. Big Yellow Shoes only asked. Sadly, the characters are not allowed to talk. Plus, it is damn near impossible to tell at a glance which groupies would take up an indecent proposal because Japan does not make a distinction between dressing cute and dressing sexy. They are one and the same. FYI, to stop dressing cute is to renounce one's sexual activity once and for all.
Just so you know, every one of the Japanese kids in the Disney character drawing class is going to kick your ass. (especially since erasers are banned) Just accept that and enjoy your glorious mistakes. You will be complimented on your "creativity" and "skill" by the teenager sitting next to you with a flawless replica of Rapunzel as if your making Rapunzel look like she was chewing tobacco was a deliberate social statement on gender equality. Smile and say, “thank you”. Some of those kids think you have direct access to Disney himself. (You've got a better chance at being actual kin than they do) Maybe you are an undercover quality control expert or an animation talent scout for the next Toy Story movie. Ready or not, you will become apart of their Disney experience. Don't assume they are being sarcastic and resist the urge to pop their Fantasyland bubble. (I still have bite marks on my lips for my last visit a week ago.)
The Japanese have temples and shrines but Disneyland, Disneysea and the Apple store truly is Church. It's where people gather regularly, if not weekly, to worship with varying levels of devotion. If the Japanese like something or someone they like them forever (For example, Mr. Big is still big in Japan) maintaining a devotion and intensity that can be both charming and alarming. I once saw a what looked like a 6 year-old girl on her father's shoulders in tears screaming between hiccups, " I love you so much!" like Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GIyTFl4Cb4) as Cinderella passed by in the electric parade. Her surfer father, looking eager but unsure of how to support his daughter in her emotional outburst, thrust two shaka signs in the air screaming, " Hell yeah, we love you Cinderella!" It would be a pity for anyone visiting Japan to miss that.
Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman Always Ready to Help you With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One
Dear Gaijin Girl,
I’m a first year English teacher at a primary school in Iwate. I’ve just been invited to attend the funeral of our principal’s husband. What should I expect?
Just so you know, it doesn’t matter if you teach English at a primary school or not. If you are a foreigner in Japan, you are an English teacher. It’s only a matter of time until your pillow talk includes an exasperated explanation on why you said, “Do that thing I like.” instead of, “Do this thing I like.” that will kill the romance faster than a chopstick up the nose. As grammar takes up more and more of your conversation and he takes note of new vocabulary words you’ve unwittingly dropped, you will soon begin to wonder if he is using you just to improve his TOEIC score and get that coveted, swanky overseas promotion at work. Trust me, it feels better to be used for sex. At least sex is sexy. Having to explain what predicates are while having sex? Not so much.
Sorry to hear about your principal’s loss. That’s a shame but from a cross cultural perspective, it’s kind of cool. You get to experience Buddhism in all off it’s cyclical pond paradise glory. ( I recently walked by a Buddhist cemetery that had on it’s wall an advertisement for the love hotel next door to it. On the other side of the love hotel was a crematory. That busy block represented the circle of life not found as an attraction at your local Disney park.)
You should know that you will be expected to bring money, ¥5000 (about 50 bucks) in a special “Sorry he/she died” envelope. (You can buy the envelopes at your local convenience store for a buck or more. Be careful not to choose the “So happy he died!” implying celebratory envelopes right next to them. These envelopes can look virtually identical unless you can decipher the handwritten style Kanji on the flashy chord embroidered faces. Bring a Japanese person with you to make sure, you don’t want to be the one who lets the cat out of the bag and confirm what everybody is really thinking, that nobody really liked him. Plus, it’s bad juju.
The Japanese aren’t as much religious as they are superstitious. (Though they are beyond fine with opening umbrellas indoors. So much so that if I were superstitious, I’d point a finger at all the rows of open drying umbrellas in schools and apartment buildings and, like a mechanic with his butt crack showing, pronounce, “Well there’s the cause of all your earthquakes and disasters right there.”)
I was recently in a building on grounds that were used as a prison for war criminals. Plus, it was the site of several executions during and after WWII. The building is now a shopping mall called “Sunshine City” and many people working in it are convinced it is haunted with ghosts. When our elevator stopped, opening at the 4th floor when nobody had pushed a button for it and there was no one waiting to get on, the two women in the elevator with me agreed it must have been ghosts and commented that if you were there all alone in the building at night, you could hear the ghosts marching and/or screaming. Interesting for sure, but it doesn’t answer the more pressing question, “Why would a ghost need an elevator?”
Back to funerals, don’t put anymore than ¥5000 in the envelope, or you’ll look happy he died. Also don’t wear anything shiny, hair clip, tie clip or otherwise. This is also considered a celebratory, “yay he’s dead” gesture. Wear all black, and I mean all black, preferably a bit shitty too. If you want to wear jewelry, an unflattering single string of fake pearls is your only option. Men wear a black suit, white shirt with a black tie, a la Blues Brothers. When in doubt, just think “What would I wear or do at a jazz funeral” and whatever your answer is, don’t do that.
Be prepared for very few tears and a lot of smiling and laughing by friends and family before and after the ceremony, particularly if the deceased is old. Everyone will appear to be happy in a “I never thought he’d leave!” kind of way. Some will be, for sure. Generally, the waterworks tend to flood at home after the funeral. The smiling and the laughing are a brave show to a room full of people who are also a little bit drunk or can’t wait to be a lot drunk at the after party.
If you attend the wake, expect shitty food, usually stale finger sandwiches from a catering service specializing in shitty food for funerals and wakes. (Again, if the food is good, it’s the mark a celebration. Plus, grief is a lot like flying in that your palate is shot anyway.)
A super expensive Buddhist priest with pop up midway through the ceremony, put his Rolex watch to the side and then chant a bit, 15 minutes or so, he may or may not wave around a horse hair whip, put his watch back on and then promptly disappear.
You will probably be expected to pinch ash, (not the deceased, something akin to incense ash) and raise it to your forehead with a quick prayer for the deceased.
You might also help place statues of wooden Buddhas and the deceased’s favorite flammable things, pictures, cigarettes, anime figurines, and that sort of thing in the casket before taking it to the crematory. The crematory is usually a private bus ride away from the funeral home, creating a chicken exit for those not able to stomach watching someone go into and out of an oven where guests are expected to help place the biggest bits of the remains in a box via chopsticks. (I recommend skipping this bit if your chopstick skills aren’t up to snuff. You don’t want to be the one who accidentally flung Grandpa’s backbone clear across the room and into a bin.)
Oh yeah, before you leave, you’ll be given a gift. Usually something boring and dull (hints of celebration be damned unless it's alcohol related) like buckwheat tea or new bath towels. I have a stack of these towels in my closet. No matter how hard I try and as nice as they are, I just can’t bring myself to use the “Dead Man’s “towels. I can’t shake the feeling he can see me use them. I guess I’ll have to ask him if he can the next time an elevator door at Sunshine City opens for no reason.
Dear Gaijin girl,
My 45 year-old son isn’t married and still lives at home. How can I get him married or to move out of the house?
Sincerely sick and tired,
For the love of Buddha and the wife and child he abandoned, stop doing your son’s laundry! Stop cooking for him! Stop providing him a rent and utility free existence that enables him to buy enough electronics, game consoles and porn to ensure he doesn’t have to have any real human interaction until there is an electronic apocalypse or too many blisters on his right hand.
I also want you to ask yourself a few questions. If you are married, do you enjoy your marriage? Have you, at any point and time, told him that the only reason you are in the marriage was for your son’s benefit? If you have, you’ve got nobody but yourself to blame by giving him absolutely nothing to look forward to. The relationship between parent and child is typically stronger than between husband and wife in Japan. There was a time when this was necessary for survival but not anymore. (I seriously doubt your husband is a samurai riding horseback around the country burning down temples and shrines. If he is, well done. That’s much sexier than a salaryman getting drunk with his coworkers and projectile vomiting in the station.)
In the West, as you grow older, you gain more and more freedom along with control over your life. In Japan, it’s the opposite. As you grow older, you lose your freedom. That’s why a child under the age of 5 in Japan can resemble a wild animal. Once they enter the school system, the social pressure to conform is as swift and as intense as Anne Sullivan teaching Hellen Keller how to fold a napkin. In a way, life peaks at the age of 6 in Japan. You are surrounded by educated adults whose primary concern is your welfare. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically work past midnight every night (unpaid mandatory overtime) to decorate classrooms, put together activities and festivals in a manner that puts Broadway production values to shame. The typical elementary school classroom resembles Disneyland with desks and slightly better food. (F.Y.I. Disneyland food sucks balls) University is the last shot at freedom before entering a life sentence of doing desk work in a gray office in a gray building in a gray suit while being financially responsible for a family. Ask the average Japanese university student, “What are you reading?” They will reply, “What do you mean ‘reading?’ Why would I be reading? I’m going to Thailand to eat mushrooms and buy a T-shirt in a language I don’t understand that says, “I took home an exotic dancer and all I got was this pukey t-shirt.”
In the West, it’s completely different. Most parents swiftly kick their children out of the house when they are 18 and turn the child’s room into a gym or a dungeon filled with geriatric fetish furniture to host munches. This may seem harsh at first but the nice thing about kids being kicked out at that age is after they leave home, you never have to see them ever again unless you really want to and isn’t that a nice choice to have? You’ll be much less tempted to kill your son in his sleep, which is another option albeit a messy one. I should warn you that freedom works both ways. An American friend living in Japan complains about his mother in New Jersey constantly calling him asking him to visit. I tell him he doesn’t know how to leave a country right. He should have never given her his number.
Your son is fully aware of the fact that life can’t possibly get any better for him than it is right now so make life more difficult for him. Kick him out. Make him pay rent. Try and initiate sex with your husband in front of him. You don’t have to do that but try to rekindle the romance in your marriage anyway. A pickle tickle wouldn’t hurt you none. Frankly, you probably need it. (Oh and stop calling your husband ‘Dad’ your son doesn’t need the reinforcement to call him that anymore plus, it’s unsettling.) If this seems too difficult, move. Move away or get on the Peaceboat if you like just leave all your son’s stuff in garbage bags in front of the home you’ve vacated and don’t tell him where you’ve moved to for at least a year. That’ll get him out of the house and into a pachinko parlor or soapland but at least he won’t be your problem anymore. You’ve been a great mom but now is the time to cut the crusty cord and to stop fantasizing about the death of a person you are supposed to love before you end up on a wideshow for CO poisoning everyone in the house.
Dear Gaijin Girl,
My American husband and I are going to have a baby in ten months. I want to quit my job to be a full time mom. My husband wants me to go back to work soon after the baby is born. I’m confused. I thought he was supposed to take care of me? What should I do?
First of all, congratulations on bearing the fruit of unprotected sex, as well as, not having anywhere near enough communication on what you or your husband expects, needs and/or wants out of marriage ahead of time. You are going down a path so bilingually beaten you’re actually standing in a queue.
I have some news for you, Yuri. You’re going to be a full time mother whether you quit your job or not. That baby is going to take up more time, energy and money than you ever knew was possible. It appears that your husband is aware of this though he may not be aware that your office is expecting you to quit because it’s easier (and cheaper) for them to throw a farewell party and buy you a bouquet of flowers than grant maternity leave or offer flexible working hours. Japanese companies and medical institutions have a long way to go when it comes to women in the workplace/modern world . (After examining me, my male Japanese gynecologist while still looking at my who-ha, slaps me on the inner thigh shouting, “Good girl!”)
By the way, don’t tell Westerners when you’re 9 and 1/2 weeks pregnant that you’re 9 1/2 weeks pregnant. You’ll scare the shit out of them. They don’t know that you count from the last period instead of the last missed phantom period you were “supposed to have”. It sounds somewhat superhuman, like you are going to give birth to an action hero whose only weakness will be math.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, Yuri but ain’t nobody going to take care of you except you. Don’t misunderstand, I am not telling you to simply look out for #1 nor am I telling you to help your husband look out for #1. I am saying, “Welcome to world of readjusted life expectations!” You might want to take notes with an erasable pen.
Hopefully, you two will learn to look out for, live for and take care of each other. I’m not exactly sure how that works as I am never in a relationship due to my zero tolerance to bullshit. However, as far as I can gather from the 3% of healthy couples around me, this is a learned skill that develops over time through earnest trial and error, as well as, honest and consistent communication. Yuck! I know, it sounds hard and not anywhere near as sexy as the muddled montage of dubbed Beverly Hills 90210, Little House on the Prairie and Full House episodes that has been playing in your head since elementary school subconsciously shaping your international marriage expectations and priming you for epic disappointment. I suggest watching reruns of Roseanne, Married With Children, Raising Arizona and old family movies of my uncle at dinner desperately trying not to laugh while near deaf Grandpa hocks an epic and deep-seeded loogie a foot away from the table before announcing to all that I, his granddaughter, was not a picky eater as a baby, in fact, I “never did let go of that tit.” These are not accurate depictions of what family life should be like either but they will make you feel better about your current situation.
Good luck Momma, you are going to need it,
Always Ready to Help You With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One Dear Gaijin Girl, My American Husband and I have been married for three years and have two children. My husband still expects me to have sex with him. Is this normal? Sincerely Stumped, Mizuho
Dear Mizuho, I completely understand how you feel. Actually, no, that’s a lie. I cannot understand why you’d want to turn down a reliable and ready source of the coitus unless it’s your husband is really bad at sex or you don’t know how to enjoy it. In the West, sex is always considered a dish on the marital menu that may or may not be ordered every day but is never completely removed from the bill of fare unless the restaurant burns down. (Even then, I’m sure some people would roast marshmallows over the still burning flames of the building hoping against hope that their charred bits of sugar fluff will taste like sex or at least, a hand job.) As I told the Japanese wife of a Welsh neighbor, “If you want to have a long and happy marriage, learn how to like sex because your husband is going to want to have sex with you until you die and probably after.” (The Welsh husband smiled, nodded and drooled in agreement.) There are many resources you can go to to learn more about how to enjoy sex but I recommend staying away from Japanese porn or anything else that suggests woman are not voluntary participants in the act or involve girls so young they technically haven’t been born yet. Contrary to popular belief, your sexual prowess does not peak at twelve years-old and a satisfying sexual encounter does not have to include tears. If your husband is just plain bad at sex, I have nothing but sympathy for you. Men are very sensitive about their penises. It’s very hard to talk to them directly about how they use it. Japanese people often assume that Americans are super direct about everything, we’re not. The Russians are. You could probably tell a Russian man he was bad in bed and he wouldn’t get upset or take it personally. He’d just wonder why you expected anything positive out of life in the first place. For women, sex is 90% mental and 10% discovery. (You want to put what WHERE?!) I think your safest bet is to practice getting your head in the right space for sexy time. Try to practice fantasizing about things that will really get your juices flowing. Picture him paying all bills on time, for once. (That’s in my spank bank but you might want to aim for something a little more realistic and attainable.) This will take time to figure out and that’s ok. You’re married, you’ve got nothing but time. I suggest trying sex with a side of intimacy. It’s an item on the menu more exotic in Japan than whale, plus you won’t have to worry about Sea Shepherd documenting and live streaming your sexual exploration for the world to see. Good Luck, Gaijin Girl
Since being born blue a month early, head to head, with my identical twin in photo finish fashion (Nobody knows which one of us was born first. I think it was me because she was dead at the time.) I've spent more time than my fair share in a hospital. Over the past ten years, I've had four knee surgeries in Tokyo. Several years ago, I snapped my ACL ligament doing a jump kick in karate class. (I know, I'm a jackass.) The doctor at the time wouldn't fix it because, in the doctor's words, "You're not an athlete. You're a woman." As a result, I've needed patch up surgeries over the years. This year, I've finally got the ACL repaired. Here's one thing I've learned over the years.
In Japanese hospitals, pain is considered a relatively good thing. When my kneecap broke in three places and my leg started to spasm, causing me to internally stab my thigh over and over, I screamed for morphine. The doctors and nurses laughed. " You're not getting morphine! You don't have brain cancer." I was encouraged by the ER nurse to look around and see all the other patients correctly suffering in silence as they waited to be treated. I look up and sure enough, there in front of me was a salary man with a samurai sword through his head waiting patiently as he pretended to be asleep, or maybe he was dead. I don't know. All I know is that the only other people screaming were two, what looked like 7 year-old boys with broken fingers. The three of us locked eyes and began screaming in unison, creating a Bermuda Triangle of Pain. By that, I mean everyone around us pretended we didn't exist. A few minutes later, the doctor agreed to give me a "mild morphine". However, they only had suppositories. Yep, that's right, the home of the space-age toilet doesn't have chewables. The nurse said,"We will have to remove your clothing." "I can't move!" "What do you want us to do?" "Cut them off and stick the morphine up me!" "But they are nice clothes!" "They are from Uniqlo. Cut them OFF!" Had I been in America, the nurse would have been cutting through my clothes with massive shears as I was wheeled into the ER saying something along the lines of, " Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to wear your wedding dress again?"
Perhaps the best example of just how comfortable Japan is with pain is the fact that friends smuggled drugs into the hospital for me. Yup, I routinely got gifted chocolate, Starbucks and a bottle of valium. I soon became a model patient:)
Dear Gaijin Girl, My American boyfriend talks during sex, is this normal? Sincerely Startled, Makiko
Dear Makiko, Yes, verbal communication before, during and after sex is common in the West though it is optional in Japan. You haven't elaborated on what he was saying so I will give you some guidelines as to what is acceptable for him to say on the futon floor and what's grounds to run screaming in the direction of your local koban. Acceptable things for him to say: "Oh Makiko!" "Your so hot!" "I just love your little (body part)" "I can't wait to put my throbbing (body part) in your little (body part) Note: His sentences might be peppered with other auto racing verbs, as well as, rude words in the four letter range, often starting with ‘f’ and ending in ‘ing’ . Unacceptable things for him to say: "Pull my Finger" "Oh Keiko! (or another woman/man/anime character’s name)" "I just want to cut/slice/dice you into pieces. (-ing forms of these or similar cooking verbs are also not ok.)" It is very possible that your boyfriend will want you to talk to him during sex. Things to say: "Your (body part) is so Big! " "Oh yeah!" "Don't stop!" Things best left unsaid during sex even if you really want to say them: “Would you like rice or bread in your bento tomorrow?” “You good?” “Wake me when you’re done. There’s a drama I want to watch on in 15 minutes.” “Your nose is so big!” “Dad? Is that you?” “(Ping) Ooh! A text!” “I have an English question. Do I say, ‘A boyfriend was bigger.’ or ‘All my boyfriends were bigger?’”
Keep a pencil and a pad of paper nearby so that If he says something that makes you uncomfortable you can write it down. It’s important to remember that when someone from a different culture says or does something that seems offensive, you have to give it a day and consult with people more knowledgeable than yourself before deciding that they are an asshole that deserves to be dumped. If you are really worried, I strongly suggest that you record what he says with an iPhone App or similar. Call his mother, playback what he says and see if she thinks his language is appropriate. I’m sure she’ll have a detailed answer either way, particularly if she is racist. The important thing to remember is that there are plenty of fish in this manmade reservoir of Tokyo and if you really want to be happy, dump your boyfriend and buy a cat. Sincerely, Gaijin Girl
Before I came to Japan, I was told that Japanese people were incredibly mature about the naked body. Not so. The first time I went to a public bath, within seconds of disrobing my boobs were poked and prodded by old ladies like I was an exotic animal at the petting zoo. I was met with a barrage of questions. " Why are your nipples pink?" " Why do your boobs move?"
When I had knee surgery in Japan. I had to have all my vitals checked beforehand. This included a heart monitoring. The head nurse, brought in a group of nursing school students to watch her hook me up. As I sat half naked on the table, the nurse, a woman in her forties, started to put petroleum jelly on my chest. She then stopped, looked a bit perplexed and said, "Forgive me." as she flipped my boobs over, one at a time, to finish applying the jelly. "I've never had to do that before!" she whispered into my ear. Even though it was a whisper the entire room heard and the nurses, students and doctors giggled till they cried as they attached the monitors.
Later I was told I would have to be naked during my knee surgery "Umm... how many people are going to see me naked? " I asked. " Oh, lots of people." The nurse giggled.
My favorite naked in Japan story is a friend's. Japanese gym locker rooms typically have two sets of lockers stacked on top of each-other. My friend was getting something out of a bottom locker when she felt, what she thought was a strand of her hair, tickling her cheek. Since her hands were full and the gym was so crowded, she attempted to get rid of the hair with a cock-eyed blow or two. When that didn't work, she turned her head to find out that the buck naked woman using the upper locker's bush had been tickling her face the whole time! The next time people try to tell you the Japanese are mature and polite, don't believe them.
I've spent more time in the U.S. in the past year than I've done in the past ten years combined. Things have changed. Nowhere is this change more prevalent than when going through immigration.
When Bush was president, walking from the airplane into immigration had a high security prison/dead man walking feel to it. Each visit, I walked down stark hospital white halls where I was greeted by Bush's smirking portrait hung above the immigration entrance.
"Welcome to America, Heh, heh, heh...Just kidding." he seemed to say.
The immigration officers sniffed at my living abroad without being in the military or the ministry. Why would you live abroad when America is the best country on earth? Surely the only reason to travel is to see how lucky you are to be born American compared to those poor unlucky bastards everywhere else.
Immigration officer, "You live in Japan?" Me, " Yes." "Why?" "I like job security and health care." The immigration officer's face relaxed, "I hear that." STAMP "Next!"
Since Obama became president, the snickering presidential portrait has disappeared and plasma flat screens showing people of color and women in burkas, eyes twinkling as they wave us in, "Come on in, the country's fine!" they seem to say.
This past visit, the immigration officer glances at my passport and speaks to me in a thick Mexican accent. "Welcome Home!" And for the first time in a long time, I felt at home.
I grew up in a rural suburb of Kansas City, a place where a car is the only means of freedom. There was no grocery store, movie theater, ice cream shop or hangout I could walk to. I walked outside the front of my house and saw cows; if I walked out the backdoor, I saw woods and occasionally, my dad in his underwear. It took me five minutes to walk from my house to the end of the driveway to catch the school bus in the morning. I could run it in three, but I tried not to. The reason? My mother could never acknowledge that by the fifth grade, my breasts were larger than hers. Therefore, she never bought me a bra that fit.
On the days I made a mad rush down the 2 1/2 acre front yard to catch the already waiting busーmy boobs bopped, flopped, and damn near slapped me in the face. Trying to dodge my boobs, I looked up and saw kids hanging out the bus windows, laughing and juggling invisible balls in front of their chests.
As I crawled up the bus steps out of breath, the large, red headed, heavy smoker-bus driver looked down at me. Wiping her mascara ruining tears away, she struggled for enough air between cackles to wheeze, "Damn Girl!" closing the door behind me.
Nobody knows where my boobs came from. They are not from my mother or father. I believe they are a gift from God. Only he would know how much I'd fall flat on my face and how much I needed the extra couple of inches of cushion to keep me from breaking my nose. Plus, I they provided a place to put my keys, wallet, ID, homework, lunch...
When I was twelve, my mother told me I should have a breast reduction, and while we're at it, a nose and eye job. At the time I thought, " If I get a breast reduction, I'll eventually break my nose as it will now bust on the pavement. The nose job will have to come sooner or later, Mom's just thinking ahead...but I never thought I'd damage my eyes in a fall." I watched a news program about plastic surgery and was horrified. I wasn't going to let strange fully-clothed men draw all over on my naked body with a blue marker. The surgery never happened for me.
Needless to say, my mother was addicted to plastic surgery and endless beauty regimes. I watched her go through a facelift and a nose job. For two weeks she slept sitting up in bed, her entire head and face wrapped in white cloth. She looked like the Elephant Man.
Yet, it never occurred to her that eating well, getting 8 hours sleep, abstaining from several glasses of alcohol and pots of coffee every day might make her beautiful. (To be fair... does that occur to anyone?)
When I was eleven, she pointed out to me that my "boobs were already droopy". In my mother's eyes, my boobs were not "big" but "old". From the age of eleven to twenty-five, I believed her. I thought I had " Granny Boobs". I also believed it was my fault. "I should have never ran so fast down the yard to catch the bus, I've ruined the elastic in my boobs already..." I thought.
When I was twenty-five, I performed at the Melbourne comedy festival In Australia. There I saw a novelty t-shirt in a tourist gift shop that had, "Tits around the World" written above various cartoonish representations of boobage.
From that shirt I learned that I did not have "Granny Boobs" at all. As a matter of fact, what I had was found under the category " Porn Star Boobs".
It was like the ugly duckling discovering she'd turned into, not a swan, but a stallion. I walked out of the store a little taller, though it did hurt my back a bit.
Just another train ride home...or is it? (not for kids!)Read More
I travel alone a lot. It's not that I don't like traveling with other people, I do. I just hate worrying about whether or not other people are having a good time doing things I like to do. People may assume it's Japanese culture rubbing off on me but I think I've always been this way. In my experience, there are two types of traveling people: people who care too much about whether everyone is having a good time or not, and people who are determined to have a shit time no matter what. My first year in university, I went on a two-week road trip with two Japanese exchange students from Kansas City to San Francisco and then up to Vancouver. Three days into the trip everyone hated each other. The trip wasn't cut short because we all made a commitment to doing this trip and somehow believed the trip was so bad it could only get better. How wrong we were.
In hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea to go on a road trip with people I didn't really know all that well; but, one could argue that you don't really know anyone until you've been on a road trip with them. In the end, one exchange student and I decided we hated the driver more than we hated each other and took the greyhound bus from Seattle back to Kansas. It was a three-day, shower-less funk fest of a bus ride, but it was paradise compared to sharing a car with that prick.
It turned out that the driver had invited me because, as an American, I could be his personal tour guide of the great American west. He was very upset when I couldn't fill him in on the details of exactly where John Wayne took a dump in Utah. When the other exchange student ( who was invited on the trip by me and could rightfully hate me) landed in the hospital due to all the stress this vacation was causing, the driver chewed him out for being weak.
Since then, I've pretty much travelled alone. I meet up with friends when I travel; but, I always plan plenty of, " in case this all goes to shit" escape routes, so that, by the end of the trip, I still have friends. That said, it's not easy traveling alone as a woman. I meet foreign men, like I did tonight, that believe all American women act the way women in American porn act.
A man from Pakistan followed me to the train platform when I returned his " Hello" at the ticket machine. ( I was on my way home from church and was feeling happy and carefree, sue me) At the platform, I realized that when I returned his, " Hello", what he heard was, " Hey there big boy, why don't you come back to my place?" I then went on and on about my wonderfully big, strong, imaginary boyfriend...a Navy Seal. The Pakistani man promptly shook my hand, wished me a happy life and took off.
I wish that I didn't have to lie about such things but I just didn't have the energy to explain I'm single, not a lesbian and not in need of his sexual services. I had a feeling that if I did try to explain that, all he would hear was, " single, available, open to girl on girl action and in desperate need of your sexual services" So imaginary Navy Seal boyfriend it is...
Tokyo taxi drivers come in two distinctive types, the silent Shunsukes and the chatty Kentaros. I don't have a preference for one or the other. I just hope they don't overcharge me or try to pass off a one yen coin as a one-hundred yen coin when giving me my change. ( that's happened to me three times and I've called them on it every single time.)
One late night, coming home from a party after all the trains had stopped, I got into a chatty Kentaro taxi. He asked me the regular questions, " Where are you from?" " How long have you been in Japan?" " Why don't you go home?" He also gave me the standard compliments, " You speak Japanese very well!" and " I'll bet your parents miss you. You should go home."
Then the driver asked me if I ever went to any of the U.S. bases. I said that I had been to the bases a few times for special events but hadn't been to any in a long time. The taxi driver went on to praise the "open mind" of Americans and how wonderful it was that they brought it to Japan. " Sure. OK." I said.
He went on to describe how wonderful restaurants and clubs near the base were. " I wouldn't know." I replied. When the taxi reached my apartment, he didn't let me out. (Tokyo taxi drivers have control of the back seat doors and are supposed to open them as soon as you reach your destination, giving you the light you need to find you wallet and pay the driver.) The driver turned to me stared into my eyes and informed me he was going to go to an S&M club that weekend and waited a minute for me to invite myself. I panicked, in other words, I smiled the biggest smile I could muster and said, "YOU HAVE A GREAT TIME! I'M SURE IT WILL BE FANTASTIC! " I stayed in my frozen smile for a few seconds as the taxi driver realized I wasn't going to go with him and that not all blonde American women act the same as the ones in all the porn he's been watching. He deflated a bit, sighed and opened the door to let me out. It's not the first or the last time I've gone Pollyanna on someone's ass to get out of a jam. I just hope I don't run into anymore creepy Kensukes.