Gentle readers, it's time for me to move on...but not from the internets! Just over to Wordpress where this blog will continue as the Sound Princess Diaries. You can still call me G. Or Princess of Sound. Or just Princess. Who doesn't want to be called Princess? Either way, I've grown tired of Green-Eyed Geisha, a name that sounds absolutely ridiculous to me four years later.
I will attempt to transfer all posts and comments but who the hell knows. Y'all know I'm not good with all this technical fuckery and, as it is, I barely know how to publish two words over in my new digs.
I can count on one hand the number of times I've met Baby Mama, mother of my future niece. While she seems lovely and is certainly concerned with getting into everyone's good graces, we know virtually nothing about her. Indeed when we do meet we don't just sit there staring at each other, but I've passed a six-hour evening with her and couldn't tell you at the end of it anything of her schooling, interests, nay even her pedigree. As a result of this, I essentially wrote her off. And then I wrote her back on recently after a sleepover. Look at me, eating my words.
We went back to Saitama despite vowing to never return. I steeled myself for the journey and promised myself an extra beer for my troubles. The Baby (I forget what I have been calling her) is still pretty fucking cute but unfortunately wouldn't let me hold her long enough to get a quick fix on her baby head smell. Conversation was much as it always is and eventually we made our way back to BD and BM's apartment. Since BD is always working when we visit, this is the first time the four of us have been able to chill and GOD (get our drink on). A couple hours passed and it began to dawn on me in an Asahi Super Dry haze that Baby Mama was actually kind of fun. Not go out dancing and laugh about a bird eating my vom the next morning fun, but more fun than the blank personality I had wrongly assigned her. Sure I still think the whole Saitama shot-gun wedding ordeal is a bit tawdry but at least we were conversing like fairly well-adjusted ladies even if it was only about the brothers that bind us (yawn on that conversation topic). By the end of the evening, I decided I quite liked her and we even exchanged mail addresses at the urging of Baby Daddy, who said we should text back and forth and talk about "uh...stuff." I've always liked BD a lot and props to him for trying to cement our sororal alliance, but way to make it awkward dad.
Through a variety of circumstances, the Baby ended up in with the beau and I, and slept right through the night (bet you didn't expect to get such exciting content on GEG!) like a small sack of warm sweet-smelling potatoes. The next morning, however, we had a most rude awakening. She awoke slowly and sleepily but as soon as she looked over and saw me started screaming bloody murder. Is it my big nose?
Baby Mama and I have since been in touch a couple times, which, yes, I am admitting in public is kind of nice, although I'm still on the fence with how I feel about her calling me G-chan instead of Older Sister (refresher: she is a year older but as partner of the eldest son, my position trumps hers). Just as I thought we were really getting somewhere, BM is feeling the need to up the competition and has gotten herself pregnant again. I don't know exactly what put her over the edge, my kimono dressin' skillz or the promise of tangible career success in the future, but she is obviously getting antsy. What does this mean for me, her younger Older Sister? Insinuations at the dinner table over the New Year's period, that's what. We may even be facing direct orders to get married. Or perhaps a reiteration that it wouldn't be so bad were I to fall accidentally on purpose pregnant myself (できちゃえ!). Either way, it's ON.
I ran to meet Mavis outside my office today only to discover her front tire was deflated. On closer inspection, I found the black cap on the tire valve was missing and I spent a couple minutes searching the concrete to no success. I compared it to the back tire's valve and finally realized the inner valve part was also gone. The inner valve part that is secured by screw nuts (harrr) that were still intact, meaning the parts didn't pop off while I was riding but were taken.
You may ask, what kind of depraved individual takes the valve from someone's bike tire? A royal asshole of the highest fucking order, that's who. In Vancouver if you chain your bike to a post by its wheel, your bike frame and the non-chained wheel are likely to go missing. In Japan, where small acts of passive aggression are everything, I guess they just steal the valve part, which still leaves you fucked.
After practically carrying my bike to the nearest bike shop and getting new parts, I managed to eek out a couple of hot tears as I rounded the imperial palace, feeling betrayed and angry at Tokyo. Had my transgressions while seated on Mavis's brown throne amounted to being stranded with a deflated tire and was this my bike karma? I wracked my brain to think of any altercations I'd gotten into in the Kaisha's vicinity but came up blank. I tend to be particularly careful in the blocks around work and save my one-phrase admonishments for idiots closer to home...
I tried to picture what the person who messes with someone's bike in broad daylight and in a populous area looks like. I came up with an ill-fitting suited man with a mosaic where his face should be. Like footage from a cop show.
I'm tired of biking, love it though I do. I refuse to go back to the train but with the increase in bikes after the earthquake and Tokyo's generally piss poor accommodations for bikers, it's exhausting to constantly come up against pedestrians, cars and other bikes. Earlier this year as I was riding across a pedestrian crossing, a salaryman (sorry, no better word for him) came riding along in the car lane not bothering to stop and see if anyone was coming out from the curb (and, ahem, ignoring the red light he should heed if he wants to act like a car). He blindsided me and banged into the side of my bike, somehow managing to stay upright, and pedaled off without a word. I was so taken by surprise I didn't have time to shout anything at him but have since come up with a few choice phrases, naturally. I later found that he'd hit the part of my bike where my light's mechanism is and I couldn't turn off that light for months.
I'm the victim in these stories, in case I didn't make that abundantly clear, but what about my own wrongdoings? They are not nil, try as I might to be a considerate person on the road and sidewalk. Last night, in fact, coming home on my usual route I was coming up a wide one-way road that expects two-way bike traffic judging by an intersection light only bikes can see. I feel that if you are going against the car traffic by bike, you should not make bikes going in the cars' direction move for you - you are the one who can see the oncoming cars and to force an oncoming bike out into that is not very nice. On a number of occasions I have come to an almost chicken-like state with bikers who want me to move into the car traffic so they can bike down the street against it. I sometimes can't be bothered enforcing my superior biking etiquette but it's begun to fuck me right off as of late. It's very similar to the issue I've had as a pedestrian with men in particular, who want me to get out of their way and will come to a complete halt until I do so. It makes me unreasonably stabby when this happens, mostly because I want to know what the hell went wrong with these people to cause them to act with such uninvited hostility (and to a woman no less, feminism be damned) that I have yet to find elsewhere.
So last night I slowed my bike to a halt during one of these cock size competitions and told the guy it was a one-way street (admittedly weak argument but points for flawlessly remembering and executing the word for "one-way street"). As I pushed off he tried to rebut this charge by telling me my light should be on (it normally would be but had been out of order for 24 hrs). I rode off feeling very pissay.
Go on and tell me I'm a jaded foreigner who should just shut the fuck up or get out. Don't worry, I'm working on one of the two. I love you ardently, Tokyo, but these "encounters" (not to be confused with what you can arrange on Craigslist) turn me into a high blood pressured bitch on wheels who secretly says really nasty stuff about this host country's people without moving my lips. I don't like feeling this much anger.
I don't know what will lessen the stress of commuting by bike in Tokyo other than designated bike lanes. You're either in the gutter being hedged in by cars or on a crowded sidewalk feared and resented by pedestrians. I hate pedestrians when I'm biking and I hate bikers when I'm walking; we weren't meant to co-exist on the sidewalk and I will just throw it out there that places like China do it (god forbid) much better with huge bike lanes in their metropolises. I don't want to be the bad guy on a bike scaring people who think I don't see them or accidentally grazing arms when a walker suddenly changes course.
As for the lowest of the bunch, the people who steal bike valves and leave trash in bike baskets (too numerous to count), I will try to quash my anger and trust that the Karma of Mavis will work its magic.
The people of this island chain really are charming bitches. Ask any tourist or short-stay visitor and they will inevitably fall over themselves to tell you how nice everyone is in Japan. This is where I usually get tight-lipped lest I betray myself as a so-called "bitter lifer" minus the lifer.
People love to comment on your appearance here and like other countries in Asia, weight is not a taboo subject. Girls are not brought up believing that their partners should never ever comment on their weight or that they should tell others they aren't fat even if they are. I'm hesitant to even bring this up because it opens such a floodgate for me of a great number of things, so I will have to just promise you, dear readers, that I will dedicate a much longer post to this in the future.
As a butter-scented barbarian, you get used to the comments about how big you are (which in my experience tends to refer more to height but I suppose you never know) but how small your face is. And don't forget your tall (=big) nose. On a positive note, I've come to love my nose, which appendage I hadn't given much thought to before. I am totally rocking a tall nose and it's all thanks to uninvited daily commentary on my appearance.
When I spent a few months in China right after high school, I endured a comment from a nosy student who was twice my age in which she told me how perplexing it was that I was so "this" (as she spread her hands wide) and my boyfriend was so "this" (close up that gap). I told her I was sorry to have perplexed her so. She also asked me how much money I was making teaching English in the stix. At the time I wrote it off as an amusing cultural moment to be shared later with Westerners who would act appalled on hearing of it.
On the same trip, I ran out of a family dinner after my best friend, a gorgeous girl of Chinese heritage and with the biggest natural breasts you've ever seen on an Asian woman, fled from the table in tears upon an aunt's disparaging remarks about how fat she was getting in Canada (if slim is the new fat, then yes, I suppose she was right).
Despite often feeling like a big clumsy elephant when navigating certain Tokyo spaces, no one has called me an elephant. While remarks about my appearance coupled with unwarranted petting of my hair can wear thin at times, people are remarkably nice and I've allowed myself to feel vainly flattered even when the words received probably fall in the "empty compliment" category of stuff that comes out of Japanese people's mouths. When people praise the beau for finding such a pretty whitie, I am secretly pleased. Why am copping to all this? I'm starting to regret it. For starters, none of you lovely people know me and so questions of whether my compliments are deserved or whether I am an elephant will have to wait. For now.
It came to my attention several weeks ago that the beau's boss and one of his customers thought they should make comments to him on my weight. In short, they told him I had gained. I spent a painful week after that crying and trying to let it roll off my back. Full disclosure: I have recently gained 5 pounds give or take (possibly more give) and was already painfully aware of it. That they felt it was their duty to comment on this to the beau makes me incredibly spiteful. And yet, their conversation was perfectly normal in their eyes and I find myself not faulting them for it (his boss has also commented directly to me when I've lost weight). By way of reference to the actual conversation, they had been discussing the customer's wife's weight and I guess felt it would only be right to include me in the topic of conversation. For further reference, the wife and I are the same age while the customer is probably 15-20 years older, she hasn't worked since they married, has no children and stays at home all day playing some Internet computer game and polishing off two bottles of champagne by herself. Now there's a charming bitch.
So I've snuffled over Skype (hi mom!) and cried to friends in the middle of a fucking club, which for one of them must have been a flashback to our Waseda days except I was crying over a guy, not a piece of shit Japanese woman. I don't make it a habit to cry in night clubs but with some people you can't help but let your guard come all the way down. I also knew this particular girlfriend would have some snappy things to say (when I was crying over that boy, she told me I was a poodle during an elaborate analogy of dog pedigrees).
The hurt has now been replaced with mostly anger and resentment. I practice in my head what I want to say to the boss the next time I see her and she hopefully asks me if I've lost weight. I'm going to calmly and with light notes of shittiness tell her that I could hardly not lose weight after she had so kindly brought it to my attention that I had been overeating. I may then grow some real balls and let her know, sweetly of course, that it's considered rude and inappropriate in some circles to tell someone that their partner has gained weight, especially when one has so many flaws of their own.
I feel like I've run out of steam on this and no longer know why I even began penning it. I have so much more I want to confide in you but I can't just yet. In the meantime, chin up and eyes watchful for all the charming bitches up in here.
I eat my words. The check-out lady who frazzles my patience has been temporarily removed from my shit list. The other morning I was in there early buying my beverages for the day and as she handed me my change she pointedly chirped out, kyou mo ganbatte kudasai (try your best again today!). I had taken to wearing sunglasses in the store like some affected teenager or simply avoiding eye contact with her so as to help block out the constant barrage of commentary, but this was so unexpected it broke my steely concentration and I had to smile and thank her. And I meant it.
The longer you live here, the more of these you will experience. Rather than count my years using their assigned calendar numbers, I look back at my time here in eras marked by the friends who helped to make them what they were...in addition to those not mentioned here, there was the Tokyo Cowgirl Era, the Other Whitie Era. As of late, another era has passed and let me tell you, redheads are hard to get over. My work husband also recently terminated his relationship with me and the Kaisha, so things are now a little bit lonelier even for me, the perpetually Lonely Whitie.
One of the first questions I will inevitably ask when sizing up a new friend is how long they will be in Japan for. It's not that I won't pursue a friendship with them if the answer is shorter than one visa renewal, but I like to know around how long I've got with them before the inevitable Break Up. Once the Break Up comes, it can be crushing. Long distance relationships are fine but when you are suddenly physically bereft of a friend, it's akin to standing alone in an empty room that's been packed up for a move. What used to be lived in is now just a space that remembers nothing.
Some might call the Break Up "relocating", "returning home" or "leaving Japan" but I call it as I see it: neither Japan nor I was good enough, so we've been dumped. What is particularly tragic is the friend who promised to be with you until the end (=your own BU with Japan) who breaks up with you way ahead of schedule. To put the bleakness in perspective: by the time I get off this island there is going to be no one left to break up with. I sometimes fantasize about farewell parties for myself where the only guest is, yes, myself (cheers!). Like I said, bleak.
Each time a friend leaves, I cast my mind back to the time before her era and I can't help but wonder how the hell did I get by without her? My most recent ex came along on the cusp of a year that was shaping up to be a bit shittay and turned it into a golden era. It's hard enough to meet people you can have a decent conversation with and harder still to find someone who shares your humor and affinity for taking trips to far flung places for monkey waiters, getting your hair did in a bouffant just because, and finding dank retro cafes from one of Tokyo's bygone eras.
I still don't know the magic formula for meeting friends here but have been remarkably lucky in meeting a few fantastic friends through my public rantings on here (why that didn't scare them away, I'll never know). Now that another blossoming relationship has been cut short, however, I may have to start going out alone and hitting on people.** I'll be sure to let them know up front that I'm not looking for any one-night stands. Or perhaps I'll install myself on a street corner with a sign that says "friends wanted."
In the meantime, I'm feeling desperately sorry for myself and enjoying some pillow biting, hoping that before too long, I will maybe again have someone who will say yes more often than no and who can muster enthusiasm for tiny dive bars in Golden Gai where discussion revolves around the bartender's protruding chest hair.
**or publishing a personal ad: LWF (lonely white female, natch) seeks funny female companion for possible long-term relationship. Must love bikes, vodka rickeys, cinema both lofty and trashy, eating things off sticks and the fine balance to be maintained between being classy and slumming it. Must not be adverse to restaurants from the early Showa period or leopard print.
Gentle readers, meet summer's hottest must-have accessory for every distinguishing young lady who deigns the thought of a little upper-lip perspiration. Personally, nothing beats the feeling of a small trickle of sweat slowly creeping its way down my ass crack as I try not to let the sheer delight of it all show on my face. Nonetheless, following on from last year's efforts to go native, so to speak, I give you this, the neck fan.
In short, I have taken to wearing a plastic rectangular fan around my neck. Werk.
It started with a ladies-who-lunch lunch with some Semi-professionals, one of whom showed me her, uh, neck fan. Every summer we Tokyoites love to talk about how damn hot it is and this year, thanks to the motherfuckers at TEPCO, we have even more to talk about with people we have nothing to talk about with: electricity saving measures! I could give a 10-minute soliloquy about these measures that would make Hamlet weep. To give you an example, I like to tell anyone who will listen how embarrassed and hesitant I am to use a recently inherited standing fan to rid me of the sweat beading at my hairline. None of the Secretaries have fans but by some strange twist of fortune/misfortune, I am with fan this year (not to be confused with "with child," something that would send me running for the hills). Do I even need to say it? Altogether now: I CAN'T TURN IT ON.
For all that I do to play down my whiteness (including but not limited to hiding the sound of my pee, taking care to rustle my plastic bags quietly, and greeting people with "sorrythankyou"), this would blow (ha) my cover. It would be a huge red flag reminding people that yes, I am still here, and yes, still a lonely whitie. This is not to say I don't use it on the sly. Some mornings I arrive extra early and when no one is around, bask in its cool winds. As soon as I hear footsteps, that puppy goes off. Now that we are deep into super cool biz, I have stopped sneaking around with the fan and have unplugged it and left it in a conspicuous place so my colleagues can see I am in the same hellishly hot boat as them. Yes to conforming!
The first question out of my mouth when my lunching lady showed me her fan was , Do you use it while typing at your desk? I figured if it was inconspicuous enough, I could keep cool guilt-free. She switched it on and let its sweet, cool rays blow gently across my cheeks. Sold.
Bonus points: I didn't even have to go out of my way to get it. While buying something at 7-11 later that evening I happened to glance down at a table near the register laden with all manner of keeping cool apparatuses and there it was. Begging to blow away my sweat. Sold.
The next morning at work I arrive at the same time as most of the Secretaries and am super excited to sit down and cool off on the DL. When no one's looking I slip the fan around my neck and press "on."
Gentle readers, it sounded like there was a helicopter overhead (abort! abort!). I immediately switched it off and thought back to our lunch. I couldn't recall my companion's fan being loud or making any noise at all. I switched mine on again. No, it was definitely conspicuous and if fans could talk, this one would be shouting, whitie over here! whitie over here! It's taken me a few weeks to get used to it, but I now feel comfortable using my neck fan with fairly reckless abandon, even when the office is dead silent. I do still get a little jumpy when people come by and are in earshot of my tiny wonder, but I banish the embarrassment by telling myself they must think the noises are emanating from my computer vents.
Japan like you've never seen it before from the skewed perspective of a foreign (at least to some people) twenty-something living with her Japanese beau in Tokyo. I call Canada my home country despite a slew of passports in my bottom drawer. I work at the Kaisha, a Japanese company that more often than not feels like the twilight zone. Or should I say, the twiright zone?! Welcome to my world.