Friday, February 2, 2018

Exhaustion and Foreign Opinions: A Rambling

My kid is sick, but it is just a cold with a bit of a fever. It will be okay. We already got a checkup and medication yesterday, so at least that is taken care of for now. We'll see how it shapes the coming week. On the upside, I did get to work yesterday so my paycheck won't be quite as screwed as otherwise.

Also, this gives a better reason for our delay in setting up the Girl's Day dolls, a yearly Japanese tradition that I suck at preparing for as it requires an entire house deep cleaning session and I am a hoarder.

I've been working toward the clean house goal over the last few weeks but failed to take out the recycling this week so I am still staring at a large box filled with compacted cardboard boxes. I know I am supposed to see a pile of garbage or at best a pile of recycling waiting to go out. Instead, I see raw materials for any number of great projects, and just looking at it, my mind starts to wander. If I could get my hands on a small jigsaw, wood glue, dowels, and appropriate fabric coverings, I could build a massive, wall-sized dragon-shaped shelving unit and it. would. be. beautiful!
And the good thing now is that I have been around long enough to know that the vast majority of these massive project ideas are not possible for me to realistically accomplish. I do not have the time or space required for this task, much less the rest of the materials. In the end, this would wind up being yet another box of rubbish taking up more space than it should be allowed to in the back room of my apartment until one day I get fed up and take it out finally or die and someone else takes it and everything else to the curb.

So there's that. Despite being in a bit of a slump, I managed to get 5 blog posts written last month and will work toward getting nine out this coming month. I'm already toying with ideas for this month's incentivized posts on my Japan blog over at City-Cost.

The other thought I had today with some level of interest was in regards to whether or not we're "allowed" to have opinions about foreign cultures and customs and how our unique position changes that. Specifically, someone mentioned how weird Groundhog Day is and I responded with the weirdness that is Setsubun, which happens this week in Japan. Today actually. Then someone told me that that was why we should respect foreign cultures and that she thought my custom was interesting.

That was a fine reaction, and there was nothing wrong with that except that it isn't my custom. It's my husband's and his culture's and just really not mine. In Japan, I am essentially Jack Skellington in Christmas town, if he'd decided to just live there after he passed through the tree in the forest. Nothing here is really allowed to be mine and yet it is. It isn't my culture but it is my life and the course of my experience.

And this goes back to a debate from ages ago that isn't really worth commenting on except to get it out of my head. I was told by some random-internet-white-chick that I was a bigot for using the term Engrish to describe mass-produced products with English errors. The point she had was it sounded racist to her, having visited some parts of Asia a few times in her short life, and Asian languages are hard so we shouldn't make fun of others for not knowing English. I agreed that we shouldn't make fun of people for not knowing English and further explained that as an English teacher and expat living in Japan, I have to say that companies that employ copywriters can easily get these things checked by a native English speaker for a small fee. Instead of doing that, they assume their grasp of a language they refuse to note the complexity of must be good enough to forego that small charge. Then we wind up with weird bits that I think everyone should have a chance to laugh at. I'm not knocking down the doors of the copywriting office, accusing people of speaking "Engrish" but instead buying the products and sending them to people who will enjoy them all over the world. So the companies are still getting paid for their sub-par work and the patrons of my second Patreon get to enjoy silliness. Me calling it Engrish doesn't seem to hurt anyone's feelings, not even those of my Japanese husband.

What bugs me most about this interaction is probably that the woman refused to listen to me and just kept calling me a bigot. Her methods were flawed but when I tried to work with her to better our mutual understanding anyway, she revealed that she wasn't capable of operating at that level. I thought she was giving a corresponding theoretical analogy. She was actually just trying to accuse me of being a bully like some real-life bullies she once knew. When I pointed to the errors in her logic, her responses became even less logical. That was the day I learned that it isn't just the conservatives who plug their ears and ignore whatever makes them uncomfortable. Liberals do it too.

I'm not saying we should all engage in hate speech or that Engrish itself is a universally OK term. It is in a gray area, as it could conceivably be used to hurt others, so it depends on how it is used. The way I use it is not racist, as confirmed by my Japanese husband and multiple Asian and Asian-American friends. The companies that produce these products have a chance to fix these errors and not assume lingual superiority despite their inadequacy. They do not. Either they do not understand the nuances of language, as almost any foreign language media should be checked my a native speaker to ensure quality, or they do not care. Either way, it is their failing, and an easily correctable failing, so we get to laugh at the results. They still get paid for making the silly things. Who is losing here?

But this also speaks to my time abroad. I no longer consider anything that could theoretically in some way be considered somewhat racist as definitely racist and unusable. There is more to it than that and at the end of the day, any Caucasian American person deciding what other cultures and races can consider offensive is inherently wrong. We don't get to say what they must or must not consider offensive. Some terms are patently offensive while others are currently considered innocuous, and those definitions do change over time.

One must have an informed opinion, and no one speaks for an entire race, but calling someone in an interracial marriage with an Asian man racist against Asians shows a level of willful ignorance I am not comfortable with engaging. And I shouldn't feel bad about leaving the conversation after the one Asian person in the conversation confirmed that Engrish as it is used by me is NOT racist.
Some part of me keeps bringing this back up though, like I need to feel constantly under attack by strangers who know nothing about me. I think it's the inner-teacher-brain, wanting to have better taught this person about the realities of the world around her despite the fact that she would never have been able to understand them without living them.

But that leads me back to my point for today, which was along the lines of this: Living in Japan means I get to have an opinion about some Japanese things. I'm not a tourist, fresh of a plane, gawking at the maid cafes. Nor am I an expert, fluent in the language and well versed in the content of every newspaper. I know some things from classes I took in college and some things from my personal experiences in living here long term. In a few months, I'll have been living in Japan for a decade. Ten years of watching these seemingly bizarre cultural elements and figuring out some while others continue to baffle me; ten years of changing inside and out while struggling to find comfort in a country where I will never be allowed to own property or become a citizen; ten solid years of studying this culture from the inner outside and analyzing the living hell out of it...Yeah, I'd say I get to have an opinion.

And those are my thoughts for today.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year people of the internet! I hope 2018 brings you some wondrous and awesome things and alleviates some of the crap that may have been dealt to you in years previous. Whoever you are, I wish this for you.

For us, it has meant one day of hanging with my in-laws at their home, with me catching more of the conversation than usual, but most of that was about my father-in-law correcting his father-in-law's word choice for fear of Julia using weird old words at kindergarten and getting laughed at. Now I know another (weird, old) word for using the bathroom. Huzzah!

I did take some time scouring the advert section in the newspaper, searching for a good washing machine. Our old one is semi-functional. Still an upgrade from the first one I had in Japan, which was so old and small that the load had to be transferred by hand from the soaking area to the spin dry, which would also be rendered noisily ineffective by the slightest variation on weight. I called it a communist washing machine as it so earnestly believed in the redistribution of filth.

Har har. No really, I still think that's a little funny.

Anyway, the current machine is six years old and past its warranty and we've been looking to upgrade to a fully functioning model for a few months. First, we were waiting for our anniversary, so we could save up for it. Then it was put off for the New Years Sales.

New Years in Japan is sales time. Many shops put together grab-bags of the previous season's goods and shell them out cheap. Others just offer a discount on certain models in-store. Others now offer the same sales online, which is new to me. In any case, I had been waiting months for this opportunity and we had even gone out to 3 shops the other week to check our options and get an idea of what is available in our price range.

To replace our previous model exactly with its new variation would cost twice what we can afford, so we were planning to scale down on size and ability. The current machine has more than a dozen options, and I have only ever used 3 of them. What we know we need is a 5 year warranty and free delivery with a drying option. It may sound impressive to say our washing machine is also our dryer, but the drying function is not 100%, even on a brand new, top-of-the-line model. The best I have seen or experienced is a 70% drying rate, meaning you could fill 70% of a full load to wash and dry and have it come out dry. On our machine, it was closer to 50%, which still isn't bad. It seems you are meant to hang up most large things, drying mostly underwear, towels and socks. Fine by me.

I found an ad for a machine with better capacity in both washing and drying, 5 year warranty and free delivery at one of the electronic stores we had checked out before. The ad said they only had five machines offered per store. I suggested we might go early to my husband, who blew me off, saying it wasn't necessary.

These things always seem like Black Friday to me and I forget that our largest close city, Sendai, has about the same population as Dallas and Fort Worth averaged out according to recent google data. that said, we're not shopping in Sendai, and there are several of these stores around the area.

Still I was surprised today when we got to the store, were ushered to a parking spot by friendly parking attendants, found the machine with 4 sales slips still attached, waiting to be taken. Tomo snatched one before talking to the staff about the various machines and their performance factors. I caught more of it than I thought I would, but Tomo clarified anything I didn't get afterward. Then we bought the nice cheap one I saw in the advert and we headed off to lunch. We wound up having a curry buffet at Namaskar near Sendai station followed by The Last Jedi at the movie theater in the same building and a little bit of game center mischief to pass the time between the two.

There are so many more modes to things like Tekken and basic racing games now and my lack of Japanese ability means I inevitably panic and pick the wrong thing, leading my husband and I to have to waste some extra coins and time trying to play together. I am bad at this thing.

At the end, we raced and had fun and enjoyed the movie and all else.

This year, I am going to get better at Japanese and actually try to study on a regular basis, whatever that looks like. It would be different if the payoff were more obvious or easy or if there were normalized steps between where I am and the complete fluency expected of me. I get why most people with Japanese spouses speak Japanese well. Most of them needed that to get their foot in the door with their intended. Mine sounds fancy in English. I have no interest in speaking to my husband in Japanese. So instead of wanting to show off that I learned a little, I feel more like my Japanese ability and my Japanese husband have nothing to do with each other.
This is lame and I am going to fix it, but not today.

In the meantime, my husband actually really helped punch my depression in the face today, and for that I am grateful.

Happy 2018 everyone!!

Friday, December 29, 2017

This Week of Adventure

This week was full of adventure for us.

Monday was Christmas morning, in which we woke up before dawn and drove for 4 hours south and west to find Edo Wonderland in Tochigi prefecture. It's essentially a samurai amusement park, which was more fun than it probably sounds to anyone not that enthusiastic about Japanese history. I was thrilled that they offered a female sword-master dress up option, as I would much rather carry a sword than deal with everything that goes with trying to look like a small Japanese woman.
And wearing the male-style kimono (with fake hakama pants) was SOOOOOO comfortable. Instead of covering my entire waist and bulking it out to match the rest of my curves then trying to force a flatness upon a rounded shape, they wrapped my lower waist and left it at that, essentially giving me a back brace for the day. It wasn't bad.
Also, my daughter is the cutest ninja ever.
And other tourists took pictures of my husband, believing him to be part of the entertainment. He blends in that way. I mean, it makes sense for a Japanese guy to look kinda normal in a kimono. This doesn't explain why he also looks normal in a cowboy hat, nor why I always look like a tourist in my hometown or anywhere else. Meh.

We planned to spend half a day running around the old-style fake-town but wound up only getting back to the costume place 15 minutes before it closed, so it was a pretty full day. Then we drove to our hotel, which was nice and comfortable near a farm in the countryside. Then came the onsen, which I didn't have energy for but made happen anyway. They had a small sauna room, so Julia tried the sauna for the first time ever. She has a natural fear of the glowing hot stones. If only she were so naturally wary of drinking onsen water.

The next day, boxing day, we enjoyed the hotel's morning breakfast buffet, which I would call continental but I don't know if that applies on this continent. They offered a small assortment of Japanese and western food options, and it was pretty delicious. We bought cheese at their farm shop, even though we were warned that the cheese would be bad before we could ship it home "to Tokyo" the woman suggested, and when we corrected, a short conversation about sushi restaurants in Shiogama ensued, which was relatively surprising.

Then came the alpaca farm, which I demanded and enjoyed. I even stood up to Trump, who happened to be a fluffy and aggressive brown alpaca in the alpaca petting pen. Then came the monkey park, where menstruation, the resilient tail-end of a migraine, and crazy monkey noises combined to make me more stressed out than necessary. Julia enjoyed it though. She got to hold a bottle to feed a tiny monkey, as well as feeding veggies to rabbits and guinea pigs. We watched the monkey show and had a good time overall.

Next we tried to make a run for Lake View, a board-walk amusement park built alongside a municipal overflow pond. We were out of the car, walking between shops near the entrance ticket booth when we realized the paddle boats Tomo had so wanted to share with our daughter were land bound. We weren't looking at Lakeview after all. The lake had been drained during winter for whatever reason. This was Swamp View, and we were not paying to ride a carousel next to a mud pit.

Instead we ran off to the Teddy Bear Museum, which had a huge Ghibli section, with a neko-bus mock up so kids could climb aboard for a photo op and a practically life-sized Totoro as well. There were also vignettes from the movie done up with dolls, some of which moved at the press of a button. It was lovely. Then we headed home.

The next day, Julia and I took it easy and spent some time at home before running up to Sendai to enjoy the Pageant of Lights or whatever they call the fairy-lights adorning all the trees on Jozenji Street. This time, Julia could shate a baked sweet potato with me while we walked. It was lovely.

Yesterday came next, and we woke early for a run toward toe cat island with a friend from Sendai. We got there, and I learned what I had done wrong before. I know where the cats of cat island hide when construction takes over the port side. We ran around, fed and took pictures of many cats, and enjoyed the lot of it. It was exhausting but good. Julia was so tired by the time we got on the ferry that she fell asleep on me and would not walk off of the ferry, meaning I had to carry the 4 year old off of the boat, meaning I could not see my feet nor the position of the board connecting the boat to land.

So I tripped, and smashed my kid into the metal slats of the board, and bruised myself most terribly. Julia appears to be fine, but I'll have background fear of a subdural hematoma for the next few days. I now also have scabs in unfortunate places on my palms and fingers, limiting my manual ability for the time being. I cannot even uncork my wine, but we're making things work. We even went shopping today, not that I wanted to but that we needed to.

Today, we slept and talked to family in Michigan. If we can get through a week without another reminder that I am a terrible failure as a parent, I'll probably find a way to forgive myself for dropping her.
I mean logically, I can't fault myself for not seeing something I could not see, and not predicting the placement nor height of the thing I tripped over/onto. Still, none of it matters if Julia is hurt. If she died of a brain bruise I had a part in causing, even by accident, I do not know how I could survive that.

So now, to rapid GISHMAS and running about like mad, changing what we can of the world for the better if we can manage it.
In the meantime, relax. Count down to the end of 2017. Try to find a way to overthrow the godawful in power in 2018.
And sleep.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Things and Happenings

Things are looking up, overall.
I did get to 50,000 words in my NaNoWriMo manuscript, though around 5,000 of that is blog posts. Still, spending more than 40,000 words with Turing and Tesla was kind of awesome. There are some great scenes in there I think, though I am entirely unsure about my characterizations right now.
Also, I would like to further condemn my high school physics teacher for being slightly pervy and scaring me away from physics as a subject. Now I feel really stupid trying to write about two geniuses explaining the mechanics of time travel to each other when I barely have a grasp of a lot of the basics there, but I think it's okay. I did NOT do the stupid make-a-loop-with-paper-to-show-overlapping-timelines thing, which has just been overused in scifi. None of that crap at least.

Honestly, I am kind of proud of it, and I think it is the most editable of my manuscripts.
That also means that I need to get on that soon if I am going to and turn it around while I still care.

I might do it that way-- work backward from this year, doing each NaNo novel until I get back to Occupational Hazard and finally get it sorted. Next November, that unedited manuscript will be a decade old.

I made a self-promotion post in a facebook group and wanted to share it here, in case anyone is asking themselves what I am up to when I am not teaching.

Want a care package of weirdness from Japan on a monthly basis? I've got a Patreon for that, starting from just $10, shipping included:

Want the chance to win a creature-of-the-month that I make myself? Check out my other Patreon! One patron a couple months back won a sock-cloth-geisha. I'm actually super proud of that one.

My mom has some cool Stranger-Things themed Christmas things, as a printable from her patreon:
They are also available on some website, but I forgot the address. Message me or her for details.

Also, I blog about my life in Japan here:
And my normal whine-of-the-month posts wind up here:

Follow me wherever! And if things are sucking for you right now and you would like a holiday card from a random stranger abroad (me),PM me an address and I will make it happen.
The card offer stands for anyone who wants one, not just the random people I don't know in that Facebook group. Anyway, in other excitement, each of my patreons gained at least one patron last month, which is nice after I had lost a few and was starting to feel like I wasn't doing anything too productive.

This month's goals include getting all the holiday stuff for people outside of Japan done and sent before the 14th, taking out the fake tree on the 10th, taking a holiday trip with husband and child at some point when each of them have a 2 day vacay (which happens twice but we lack the funds for 2 trips, and honestly the energy), getting ready for Julia's 2 week holiday from school, writing around 14 blog posts on my other blog, and figuring out what to get my husband. Also figuring out one of a number of fairly complex card games that I am excited to play and finding a way onto one of Tohoku's Joyful Trains. Alas, my husband and I still have to go and get our anniversary present, which may well wait for the New Year's Sales.
What is it supposed to be, for your 6th wedding anniversary and your 9th year together? I don't care. We're buying a washing machine and going halfsies.

I might have married a man who went to boarding school in England, but his wife and budget are firmly middle class or below, so we're sticking with the basics this year.

But we are making it work.
And I am writing.
But for now I am watching old episodes of QI. Old for anyone in the UK. New to me as I only discovered the quiz show a few weeks ago. Sometimes, one needs the joy of randomness and comedy presented in a quiz-style series.

Also, FIGHT THE FCC! Net Neutrality must be a thing! I need to call my senators and everyone I am supposed to call, like the chairman of the FCC. Also, if you're out there and reading this and can find a way to do it, lodge complaints with your congress people over the ridiculous budget they concocted. Somehow in the year since the election, I have managed to stop fighting fascism and started instead to just get by. I also had a tough couple of months in there, so it is what it is. Now it's winter, and I am going to fight my hatred of everything due to cold by actively fighting the crap going down in Washington and sending out holiday cards and packages.

Whatever you are out there doing, do it well.
Adios Muchachos.
(my daughter thinks muchacho = "cho cho s" with chocho being the Japanese word for butterfly, with English pluralization rules.)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

NaNoWriMo and Such

I am so very tired.

Yesterday was my birthday and things went well. I didn't do anything big but I did meet up on Thursday with some friends in Sendai for cake at a new place that I thought would have nice cakes. They did. We had fun.
I got spoiled with gifts even though people did not have to do so. Even my daughter gave me a little letter saying the Japanese version of Happy Birthday, love Julia, which she wrote herself (no doubt at the behest/coaching of my mother-in-law). It was kind of magical.

My husband managed to freak out a bunch on the one day off he had before my birthday, going back and forth about what we should do and where we should go until it was too late to do anything but go to Sendai and check out the Pokemon store, which we did. He did later figure his stuff out and get me an electric blanket (my first ever) so that I can stay cozy and warm while writing, which I will admit was a thoughtful gift.

NaNoWriMo is going well. Not as well as years past, most of which I won before this point in the month where today I am limping along at 41,700, not sure where that extra 9 thousand is going to come from but determined to put it into the current story somewhere.

Other than that I have small whining that should not be necessary yet kind of is. The morning of my birthday included classes at the kindergarten where I teach a few weeks a year. It is seriously like 9 lessons a year or something similar. Not a lot. There is a Japanese teacher who picks me up and drives me there. Then we go in and use whatever materials she brought. We differ on a few points but usually get along well enough. After the last class before this (2 weeks ago), she told me that we were getting there too early and should meet at 10:10 instead of 10:00. I agreed and set my scheduled alarms accordingly. This week a wander around an extra five minutes before going out to meet her right around 10:07. She gets us there, saying that we will get there just barely on time, but when we get there, she still sits in the car and chats with me instead of charging into the school, so I am completely confused. I don't really know what she wants and Japan does not lend itself well to being understood in this way, so I am just going to show up at 10:00 from now on. We only have a few classes left for the year anyway.

I also was annoyed about trying to have a meetup with my fellow NaNoWriMo writers in this area. I wasn't going to do anything because I've tried a few times over the years (before Julia) to hold write-ins and I can honestly say that I have had 2 that went moderately well. My last one had a group of 4ish people as I recall at a Starbucks in Sendai. The last successful one before that was when one preacher-guy showed up at a different Starbucks in Sendai a year or two before. That said, I have held a couple of "events" where literally no one showed up and it bothers me a lot to put time and energy into trying to see people who aren't going to be there anyway. So I don't just post on the NaNo forums that I will have an event, because I cannot personally handle the stress of waiting in a public space with my daughter for hours on people who will never arrive. I need assurance that people are genuinely interested and willing to come to the event.
Apparently, all the people doing this in major urban areas just make events and hope for the best, so when I posted to see if anyone could do anything on the last 2 Sundays of the month, the mod for the area posts that I need to put my event in the proper format, indicating factors she thinks are key so she can share them easily. She doesn't know me, or that I've done this before, or that I have been doing this in this area for 7 years, or that I have just enough social anxiety that even posting the suggestion that a meetup might be possible feels like a taxing commitment. All she knows is that she needs facts and figures, which I deliver to her when two other people say they will come and we have a time and date nailed down.
And she shortens the meeting time and location, which probably wouldn't suck in other metropolitan areas, but means something to me. Saying to meet at Shibuya station-- everyone knows you mean to meet at Hachiko, the dog statue. If that is Shibuya? Like I would know. I do not live near Tokyo and never have, but if you're meeting at the station with the dog statue, that's where you meet people.
If you're in Nagoya, you meet at the big golden clock, but if you have only been living in the central Japanese countryside for a year and don't usually meet people in Nagoya, how would you know?
You wouldn't. And this woman is taking for granted that of course everyone in the surrounding area totally knows where to meet in Sendai, which is a smaller station, but not so small that you are likely to know all of the foreigners in the station at any given time. So instead of "Meet at the stained glass windows in Sendai Station and move to the AER building" we get "Sendai Station and AER" which basically means "Good luck, idiots in Tohoku. You don't matter enough. Other cities can have half a sentence for their locations. More than a sentence sometimes. They deserve it. They're in 'real' Japan. You're not."

And the day after I got all of that as sorted as it would go on Monday, my husband freaked out on Tuesday over having Sunday off, so I canceled all the plans including that on Wednesday, only for his Sunday off to be canceled that evening upon his return.
So here we are. I could go to the thing tomorrow, but I will not go to the thing. It is not worth my energy at this point. It would not be bad to meet other writers in the area, but they aren't really in the area. They both have to drive or ride in from other towns, not too close to Sendai. Further from Sendai than I am. Maybe I would like them, and we would get along and be friends, or maybe they would see me for the slightly off-kilter weirdo that I am and reject me outright. Or maybe they would latch on and get clingy and scare me half to death.

I don't care. I mean, obviously I do care or I wouldn't be whining about it, and I feel bad about letting them down in a way, but I cannot do this thing now. And I am unlikely to bother attempting to host another one again.

Oh, also, this is likely the most homesick I have felt on Thanksgiving. I bought frozen ground turkey meat on Amazon and made a meat loaf. It was alright. We had it Friday as on Thursday we had retained an extra pizza from the night before.

So that's most of what's happening with me.
Now back to writing my increasingly wacky science history fan fiction adventure!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

My Vague-ish #MeToo Response

Lots of little things have happened and I legitimately did not write anything longer than an email, paid or unpaid, in the better part of a month. now I am back into it though, churning out content on city-cost and gearing up for NaNoWriMo. This year, for the first time ever, I am using actual historical figures instead of people I make up. It's essentially science-history-fan-fiction and I am excited about starting this bizarre journey. Let's see where November takes us!

In the meantime, the #MeToo thing happened, and I found it awe-inspiring to see so many people coming out of the woodwork and sharing stories, bringing light to the fact that these things are a problem and far too frequent occurrence, but I also think it's hard to find a grown woman who has never been sexually harassed or never had an experience that anyone else might classify as harassment even if the would-be victim may not see it that way.
That said, shit has gone down in my life by more hands than I want to count, and while it sucks that those thing happened, and I wouldn't wish them on people, I'm still alive, and that's pretty awesome.

But when I shared my #MeToo tweet, it was only that, the hashtag, because there are stories, plural, more horrific than the asshole on the train in Nagoya who shoved his hand onto my upper thigh while feigning sleep and did not move it or "wake up"even when I shoved a cold soda can on top of his hand and pushed down with significant weight. A woman sitting across from me looked at me with disgust, which I still don't need to understand. The best thing that happened was that I got to steal her seat when she left and Mr. Grabby McAsshole was left alone. I stopped exploring Nagoya as much after that, staying in my little mountain town where no one tried to touch me. I took a sharpie with me so the next time something like that happened, I could draw on the face of the fucker, telling all the world what a dickhead he was. I never had to use it, though, which is probably good because I imagine the train-cops would probably have fined me for assault and told the asshole in question that groping is totally okay and would he like to press charges to send me packing. These things are different when you're an immigrant in a politely xenophobic country.

That story alone is hard to describe in 140 characters or less. The public is not owed more of my horror stories than that.

But I do want to add, just as a side-point for other survivors of serious shit, that there is a special hellish quality to abuse at the hands of people with whom you share a family resemblance. What do you do when your mirror is a trigger, eh? Well, if you're like me, you apparently get fat and keep your hair long to distinguish the reflection from anything that might repulse you. You wear glasses even though your eyesight isn't that bad. You pledge to dye the living shit out of your hair the moment it starts going patchy gray because fuck off are you not going to look like someone who doesn't understand how to not traumatize others with their libido.

And then you swear a lot and rejoice in the fact that you found someone with whom you actually want an intimate physical relationship, and that they felt the same, and that they married you.
And despite your partner and your adorable offspring and your fancy digs (that you've hoarded into chaos), you battle depression, which isn't new and didn't start with being slightly destroyed by a person sharing a significant part of your genetic structure, but still. It didn't help.
And you move on. And you don't. And it comes back to you.
And it's been more than a decade. And it wasn't the first or last fucked up thing to occur, but to this day I can't stand anyone breathing on my neck. It brings it all back, and I have to force my mind clear of the physical sensation of revulsion.

These experiences are extremely awful and unfortunately not rare, not even in the alleged land of the free. I don't know that Japan is better. In fact, I know in a lot of ways it is more backward and strange about the progress of women's roles. But at least here I am 6,000 miles away from the only person to cause me that much trauma whom I still have to know.
That's not why I stay here, mind you. It's also got free healthcare for my kid till she's 12 and a number of jobs I can do with skills I've already acquired and without the desire to set my workplace on fire.
I cannot say the same for Linens N Things, which of course no longer exists, but when it was not an awesome place to work.

But really the point is that finding solidarity with the MeToo thing was cathartic in a way, and I needed to share part of that. Maybe it's a weird thing, but I needed it out.

I also really thought Jim Beaver (Uncle Bobby from Supernatural) had a great response, which was to share his own story but alter the tag. I think anyone could be sexually harassed or assaulted and limiting it to women isn't necessary. Limiting perpetrators to men is also unfair.

There's also a meme going around about that scene at the end of Moana that makes basically a lot of people cry, including me, when the heroine brings the heart of Te Fiti to the island only to find that the island turned into the lava monster when its heart was stolen, so calming the lava monster, saying basically, "I see you. Your pain does not define you." allows her to get close enough to put the small stone heart back in its place and restore things to their natural order.
The meme says that the important part was the genders of those involved-- that only a woman like Moana could understand a fellow female's suffering and help them overcome. If that works for you, awesome. Good for you. Happy to hear it.
But it doesn't work for me at all. Every time shit has hit the fan with these fucked up situations in my life, it's been the men in my life I could turn to, even if it was just the fellow weird kid who happened to have the only phone number I knew at the time, or a family friend and counselor, or whatever. For me, getting help had less to do with the gender of the person and more to do with their ability to listen and attempt to help.
That's not to say that those traumatized by men must seek male assistance. Hell no. Seek the assistance that works for you, whatever that looks like, but telling me that only a woman can help heal a woman is garbage.

And honestly, in the end, you have to choose to heal yourself, and take the steps to make that happen, no matter who is around you.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Today's Little Weirdnesses (and then I swear a lot)

Today was my kid's second day off from school due to illness. As of right now, I am not sure if she's going to the kindergarten tomorrow either, even for the special parents-and-grandparents observation day which I have been somewhat afraid of, mostly because I'm not fluent and don't always know what's going on and my husband/translator will be working at the time.

Many good things happened today. We talked for a bit to a couple of my longest-lasting friends (and their adorable offspring) before I got lunch together for everyone, gave the kid her medicine, and went shopping for dinner stuff. I also scoured all nearby potential sources for eco-safe water-based textile ink, as I REALLLLLLLY want to print stuff from Japanese grating, in the style of the pirate printer of Europe. So damn cool! But alas, no ink. Instead, I ran into a former student from back when  I worked in Sendai. This one took exactly one trial lesson post-baby from me and told me she had some other family medical trouble that she needed to spend her time on at the time. She stopped me to ask if my family was okay in Kentucky. So far as I know, I don't have any family whatsoever in Kentucky. "Actually, it's Texas, but yeah, they're all fine. We're far from the water," I said. She said she had to run as she was on her way to her English class now. We parted ways.

And part of my wonders if I could have done something to make her choose me as her English teacher, but the rest of me is so damned tired that it cannot fathom why that would matter. I haven't been able to keep any pre-baby students because my mind post-baby is not as dedicated to the art of teaching. I still care a lot, but not to the same extent. She would have inevitably been disappointed by this. Good that she didn't lead me on.

I took over a Pokemon Go gym, which got retaken, so I retook it again and put an even-higher-level creature in it. I also managed to smash 5 guys out of another gym and plant one of mine in their place with seconds left before a legendary raid began at that location. That was pretty exciting for me.

I came home to a husband playing video games and a daughter napping on the couch, so I put away the groceries and started again into Fallout New Vegas, which I have been playing for too long and am really ready to get to the end of. I'm in the Dead Money expansion, almost at the end. I die a lot. Oh well.

Then, after about a week's worth of thought, I un-followed a friend on Facebook. It was the least harmful (also least interactive) of potential options. Part of me had wanted to talk to her about a recent share-- a declaration of mental health awareness. It was basically a memo stating the half a dozen reasonable reasons she would cancel plans with people she otherwise enjoys the company of. This isn't a bad thing to let people know-- I'm over-peopled, exhausted, whatever today. Sorry I can't meetup.

Here's the thing though. We've known each other for almost 20 years. I can probably count the number of times we have seen each other since starting college on one hand. That was more than a decade ago. The last time I saw her was at my wedding, where we didn't have time to speak. I've been stateside since then, and even bought tickets to a play she had interest in (I had a group of friends going) when she went suddenly incommunicado. Never had an explanation for that. I don't know if there was an apology because after not getting to see her or talk to her at all the one week I was in Texas for likely a decade, I was too disappointed to notice. I do know that she never paid me back for the non-refundable ticket to the play (that she didn't ask me to buy, but fell off the face of the Earth instead of telling me she couldn't go, so it's a small thing and on me, but still shitty...)

Most of our communication in the last 6 years has been her occasionally posting "Let's Skype soon!" as a comment and then never getting online or arranging anything. I can keep asking, inquiring, giving times and options, but it's just me talking to myself. She will just ignore me until I go away.

At one point (pre-2011) she actually gave her cell phone (that I had arranged to call her on at a certain time) to a random friend who apparently had no phone at some point when they had to be apart or some crap. It doesn't matter if their weird story was accurate or utter shit. No apologies. No re-working of times. Nothing but "Oh, I'm girl-you-met-once, not the person you were intending on speaking to, and she isn't anywhere near me..."
And it's just such crap.

The bottom line here is that there are limits to my patience with long-distance, low-interaction relationships. I accept that anxiety problems may get in the way of maintaining contact. That buys you six months of 0 contact, no questions asked. After that, assuming you're not in a mental hospital, I expect a few words of "Hey, sorry talking sucks for me, but I give a shit!" or it isn't really a friendship. I also get that there is some issue with her manipulative roommate, which is part of something completely different and beyond my need to explain to the internet. As an adult above 30, that gets you a few missed chats and forgotten responses, but not 6 years worth of goddamn silence. That's not a friendship.

If it's been 6 years and we have had fewer than 3 conversations outside of "Let's chat!" "When?" "..........." it isn't a friendship anymore.

I hate that this kind of thing is painful and I hate that I am whining about it on my blog. Makes me feel like I'm back on livejournal, being a whiny film-major.

But I think college is part of it. I think she is likely re-initiating her narrative, telling her life story from a happier beginning, which I can't blame her for. I know enough of what went on under the roof of her childhood home to know that shutting that door may well be necessary for sustained happiness or even just non-despair.

The shitty thing is that her narrative seems to now begin after she moved away to college. After we stopped being close. It erases one of the most important early friendships of my life.
And that fucking sucks.

But I guess that's life.

Hell, I'm lucky to have the friends I do, because the ones who do think I am worth more than 12 seconds of their time every couple of years? They are amazing.

If you read this, you're probably one of them.

So thank you for being you.

The other major thing on my mind these days is a few frustrations with an employer that doesn't seem to share my concept of professional behavior. If things don't work out, that's that. We won't starve for it, but I also can't bend over backward to please people who seem to think that I am a simple, uneducated and unskilled house-woman with all the free time and nothing to do but wait for them to summon me on an hour-long journey each way in the hopes that perhaps this time they will elect to be present for the agreed-upon meeting time. This summons also came with no apologies or mentions of our previous (missed) meeting time, for which I scheduled and emailed and prepared and arrived to find no managers present.

I don't think it's professional to whine about this shit on a blog either, or to swear so much when you do, but fuck it man. I worked for GEOS, which gave us a bullshit video-chat-meeting where the woman talking to us couldn't remember what camera we were on and wound up showing us her butt for 20 minutes. This was a day before the meeting where they told us that we didn't have jobs anymore and our last paychecks were toast, eaten by the great corporate machine.

When people can't be bothered to treat me with respect, I start looking for the door. I've been through too many eikaiwa gigs to do otherwise.

Also, as of last month I've been teaching for 10 years. That's right. A decade ago I walked into several classrooms at Southwest High School as Ms. Fleming, the SAT prep teacher, 6 periods a day. I worked my ass off, and every once in a while, I miss those kids. I am happy that I came to Japan and have had the ensuing adventures, but there was something particularly bad ass about teaching kids at my high school. So weird, but pretty damn cool.

Glad I don't have to wear suits anymore though.