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Nihon de: The adventures of Maggie » Skin-Whitening?

Ups and Downs

Posted by maggie on May 15, 2012 in In Japan

Today on the Yamanote line, Katie pointed out an ad on the wall. It was for skin whitening cream, I think. Or some sort of process like that. I thought that was interesting because in the US, girls usually want the opposite. To get bright orange tans, like giant oompa-loompas.

If you think about it, it’s a culturally relative thing. In the US, it used to be only laborers would get tan, because they worked. It was like a status symbol to be pale for a while; indeed, you can see evidence in England, with that poisonous powder stuff they would put on their faces to look white. Laborers got tans, and wore jeans. Something like that. And then (sorry for the vague details here, I heard this in SCOM 242 before but forgot some of it) someone famous accidentally got a tan by, of course, being in the sun too long. Suddenly, people decided she looked good, and slowly began to seek tans themselves. Now, especially in the burg, there are a multitude of tanning salons, and on a warm enough day, the quad is covered in towels and bikinis, which I’m fairly certain pleases most of the guys.

Through a much more complicated process than I’m making it out to be, the tan became what we as a society chose to have as one of our ideals of desirability. Now, ironically, if you have time to spend lounging on a beach long enough to get a tan, or spend enough time and money at a tanning salon, I guess, you’ve got yourself a high status symbol. You are, at least partially, beautiful and wealthy, says America.

But if you think about it, being pale is probably healthier. The more you spend time in the sun, the more you risk things like skin cancer. True, some sun can be good for your skin, but the amount the average college girl gets is probably going to have serious repercussions later in life. But who cares, right? We’re young and pretty now, right? Who cares, because it’s so far off before we see those problems.

Then again, as we grow older, we might find ourselves feeling bitter and angry, as the world we live in focuses more on the younger, prettier people. Once you pass age 40, your age group appears less frequently in ads and T.V. all of the sudden. What will we do then, when we’re spoiled and raised ego-centric for now?

Food for thought. Feel free to start up a conversation in the comments if you want. I love to ponder things like this.

Anyway, sort of a down day. It was cool and rainy, which is usually fine with me. I think it’s the combined stress of constantly trying to speak/read/understand another language + jet lag + I didn’t sleep very well last night (your day) + the weather a little bit. A lot of stuff contributes to mood. It felt a little long today (no offense meant, Morgan XD). I hate my short attention span I have at times. I got on the train today and I was stressing about something I’d said earlier, and all of the sudden I felt myself tearing up. I felt like an idiot, and I didn’t want to feel like more of one by crying on the train.

This is where I talk about that overanalyzing curse again. I’m very self-critical. I worry about what others think, when they probably have forgotten about it already. I stress about looking or sounding like an idiot to someone else, waaaaaayyyy long after they’ve stopped caring. Not as long as I used to. I’ve gotten better about it in recent years, but it’s a habit rooted so deeply in my personality that it’s hard to break completely, or cleanly. I haven’t been stressing as much about saying or writing things wrong, which is good, and I find kind of surprising. But ┬áhonestly, I feel more stressed about hanging with my fellow Americans, and making a dummy of myself in front of them. I think it’s because I’ve accepted that I will screw up in Japanese; it’s not my natural language, and I’m willing to be more forgiving to myself, especially if my Japanese friends are. On a base level, to get all technical here, it’s all about a sense of control. I’ve accepted that those language screw-ups are sort of out of my control. They will happen regardless of anything I try to do to prevent them. At least for now. I just can’t accept when other’s perceptions of me aren’t within my control. I feel like I should be able to control it, by being nice and amiable, but life doesn’t work that way.

I need to relax more and learn to laugh and let go. It’s easier said than done, but I want to work for it. I know it will make me happier. It’ll annoy my friends less, worry them and my family less. It’ll give me more confidence. I know everyone’s got there issues. No body is perfect. But I think recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and working to improve the latter while playing to the former can separate the people who flop from those who go far in life.

So yeah. A bit of a bummer, but hey. It reminded me of the person I don’t want to be, and I had some time to reflect on it with a good, hot bath. Can you tell I like those? XD

Sueko-san’s son-in-law came from New York. Hideki’s English is very good, which was nice because at dinner tonight I got a bit of a break and could communicate things more naturally. I still used some Japanese, of course, for my own and Sueko-san’s benefit, but it was mostly speaking English. He helped me communicate some things to Sueko-san that I couldn’t before, and helped me when I didn’t understand her very much. But I don’t feel less motivated. I’m actually happy to have another partner to practice Japanese with, although he speaks faster and is closer to my age. I’m sensing a theme here. I’m most shy and awkward around people of my age group or close to it. I’ve never quite understood why. Part of mastering Japanese is overcoming the fear to speak it and potentially get laughed at. Or smiled at, as the case often is. Tis the polite thing to do. XD

It’s nice having the option of a sort of translator sometimes, but I can’t have that be an excuse. I have to put myself out there and try (and fail) until I get better. That’s why I’m here, and in particular why Morgan put me here.

Other than that, haven’t gotten too many stares so far. I think there might be an unspoken rule of no eating on the trains. I never see other people doing it. Katie and I did it once. We were careful not to spill, but I still think we weren’t supposed to. The Japanese are very forgiving of “gaijin,” but I try to follow the rules as best I can, so as to not be ignorant and obnoxious. That is where my self-analyzing and awareness come in handy, but I can’t remember everything not to do all the time. Oh well. I try. I still think it was funny; I think it was Josh who got onto one of the “pervert-free” all women trains and no one said anything. I think they should enforce that rule even with foreigners; they can be perverts too, you know. XD

XD is the silly sideways smiley face. I’m fond of that when typing for some reason. It’s like laughing and smiling wide at the same time. Ha. Coming from a low context culture, where everything needs to be laid out and specified, it sort of makes sense that I’m constantly clarifying my moods. It’s harder to tell with text, because some 97-ish% of communication, as a whole, is nonverbal. Body language, appearance, haptics, kinesics, etc. It gives context and emphasis, so without it, for all anyone knows, I could be typing this all intending to be completely sarcastic. I do that because I used to chat with a friend on gmail and practically every time we chatted, I thought at one point or another that she was mad at me. No, I don’t stress that much. Plus, it was just the way she was.

This morning on the train was a human soup. On the Seibu-Shinjuku, I didn’t even need to hold on to anything. The other passengers were my seatbelt. I’ve stopped listening to all the stops on the Yamanote, the second train I have to take, though I like to look at the map occasionally when it pops up. I memorize that my stop going to school is “Tamachi,” and listen for “Shinagawa” because it’s the stop right before mine. On the way home I listen for “Shin-Ookubo,” I think it is. My stop is the one after that, “Takadanobaba.” Say that five times fast.

I’m rambling now. I literally just write what’s on my mind, but I find it’s good for blogs. It’s like a diary, but everyone can read it. Gasp! I ate codfish eggs tonight, knowing full well what they were before hand. Surprisingly, they tasted okay, and I don’t feel weirded out like that time my uncle gave me a friend chicken heart. I swear I kept thinking about that thing beating in my stomach the whole rest of the night.


I’m still refusing to go near the squat pots, a.k.a hole-in-the-ground toilets. I’ve seen plenty of them, but I’m sorry. No. I don’t need to try EVERYTHING in Japan. XD

Was that TMI at all? I can never tell. I have a bad gauge for stuff I should keep to myself sometimes, but only really when it comes to my info. Again, just letting the brain flow out right now. It’s cathartic. Also, I just want to say thanks to Katie for making me feel better earlier.

Nothing much else to say. I miss home a little bit, but that’s natural. I miss driving around with my dad and brother, when we go hoping we’ll see some deer. I miss American T.V. and commercials, although Japanese ones are very entertaining. I miss just chilling with my mom watching T.V., or my boyfriend repeatedly thrashing me at Call of Duty. Simple things like that that just remind you of home and familiar things. Being in another country, especially one so far away, really does make you appreciate your life, and maybe understand it a little better. There are plenty of things I don’t like about America, or as my friends sometimes jokingly dub it “Amuurika,” (note: that’s note Japanese-ish, it’s more of an dumb, ignorant American slur, if you have any idea what I’m talking about) but I remember a lot of reasons why I love living there, even with all of the crap I might have to put up with. Japan or America. Neither one is better than the other, just different. They have different ways of seeing life and people and culture and go about it in their own ways. But I’d be less inclined to live here because I’m a woman, and culture dictates certain things women can and can’t do. I think they try to make up for the inequality with all the cutesy stuff, anime and all that. How else would you make sense of a highly masculine, collectivist culture with so much girly, cutesy stuff? XD

But yeah. A lot to think about. I think I’ll stop for now before I jump around anymore. Sleep time is now. Got to be up bright and early for the Tsukiji fish market tomorrow. Jane! (bye for now!)


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