Monthly Archives: July 2013

I am a bad anthropologist

I’m totally behind on updating this, but when given the choice between starting to pack (and where am I going to even put the open suitcases in this apartment?) and writing a blog entry, blog entry it is!

I also made coconut pudding and updated my Amazon wishlist. I should shower But no! No! No! I will write this first and stop allowing my attention to hop around like a monkey.

I have this constant fear with my fieldwork that I’m not doing enough. Anyway, I’d been attending a workshop related to my project for months, and on the last day I presented my group with their thank you gifts. (Really, this embarrassed everyone involved, apart from the Sensei, who apparently gets so many thank-you gifts that she practically chucked mine in the corner as soon as it was in her hands.)

Sensei (I’ll call her S-san) had announced that we were to all go out drinking together after the last workshop. But at the end, my group made for the door-  I assumed they wanted us to go drinking, just the 4 of us. But I hadn’t given S-san her gift yet, so I said “just a moment” and took a minute or two to hand it to her, babble on about my gratitude etc. Then I hurriedly announced that I was going to tag along with the rest of my group, and excused myself.

Flinging open the heavy metal door, I expected to see them waiting there for me. But the stairwell was empty, and it was raining hard. And I had no umbrella.

Still, I just knew they were nearby, so I dashed to the intersection at the corner of the building, and saw …way…. in … the … distance, the three of them under their umbrellas, walking in the opposite direction from my train station.

Feh.

I retreated back to the covered stairwell of the building, and stood there. Well, now what? I AM AN ANTHROPOLOGIST. I AM SUPPOSED TO BE BUILDING RAPPORT, I told myself. Oh well, I could go home. And so, holding a paper shopping bag-as-umbrella over my head pitifully, I started towards my station.

Then- “argh, no, you idiot.  You should be drinking with the rest of the crew”, came a voice in my head. I stopped. I looked back. The rest of the workshop was all still in the office. But… going back would be awkward. I started toward the station again.

“NO! WHAT KIND OF RESEARCHER ARE YOU?”

I wavered… literally turning in circles in the street. I walked back to the front of the building. I stopped. I walked a few steps back towards the station.

“GAHHHHHH”

I stood there, staring up at the office. 5 minutes passed. One step back, one step forward. I’d try to leave and then think of a good question to ask everyone once they were good and hammered. I envisioned the part of my dissertation in which I’d use it to… something. Make some important point I’d come up with later. After we’d all gone drinking.

Tightening my face in a childish expression of determination I said out loud “That’s IT!”, startling a salaryman walking nearby (who, not knowing me, didn’t expect me to exclaim something odd out loud in public. To myself).

I marched back up the stairs like a super-hero, and flung open the office door. Everyone inside looked up, pausing from their conversations. I felt the expectation of an explanation. “I, um, forgot my umbrella.” I mumbled, rubbing the back of my head like a manga character.

It’s a small office, so it didn’t take long to conclude that there was no umbrella belonging to me there. “Ah, uh, must have left it in the train then.” I announced. Everyone nodded. It had been an awkwardly long amount of time to justify a return-to-check-for-lost-items scene. I quickly glanced around for signs that everyone was about to go drinking.

Nothing. They were just sitting in their groups chatting. Shouldn’t have left to chase my group, but, well, I couldn’t help it now.

In English I might have just explained the situation and laughed at myself, but in Japanese I’m horribly shy, and tend to become mute when embarrassed. Which I was.

When I met up with T I talked him into going to a 270 yen izakaya and drinking cheap, cheap wine with me to take the edge off my anxiety. I regretted this plan when I couldn’t sleep a wink that night and had a splitting headache for 24 hours after that as well. Oy.

There’s a Gaijin Bleeding in Aisle Three!

So I went to get round two of the color put into my tattoo- today was the rest of the sakura, but also the momiji (Japanese maple leaves), which were to be tinted a lovely combination of autumnal red-orange-yellow. I do love my tattoo artist; she’s a huge sweetheart. But I digress.

We bandaged my arm up tight when I left, as per the usual. I was wearing a tunic, and my plastic-wrapped arm was visible in places, but nothing alarming. So I prepared to go on an errand after that to buy some お礼もの~ (thank you gifts) I need to hand out tonight.

The first annoyance was me realizing I’d forgotten to put more cash in my wallet. With my parents sending me the money I need to live on, I’ve been dolling the monthly lumpsum out to myself in halves. I don’t really trust myself enough to carry around an entire month’s worth of cash every day, and beyond that, it makes people think I am rich.

So, I’d not even brought enough money to pay for that tattoo appointment. I realized midway through the tattoo that I was going to be 3000 yen short and spent the better part of the next hour silently panicking, hating myself, and running through solutions. It was indeed awkward, but mostly because I was feeling so awkward I kind of flailed and overexplained to A-san and apologized some more and then fled.

T told me to come over to Daikanyama and he’d loan me 1man yen to pay for the thank you gifts, and maybe even a little can coffee to get me through the afternoon (and by can coffee I mean beer chugged in a grimy ally behind a Shibuya convenience store… just kidding…. ) I thought, cool, okay, while I’m in Daikanyama I can go to Lush and buy that salt scrub J requested.

They know me in there, because I’m an addict. But also they know me as the gaijin with the Japanese boyfriend with a shop up the street. So they grilled me a bit on him, and the neighborhood bar (Cheers) and then… then suddenly at once, the girls’ facial expressions changed. From friendly and open (re: nosy) to…  totally freaked out. They both kinda went non-verbal.

“Eh…eh…” one pointed “Dai…daijoubu?”

I followed her gaze to my newly tattooed arm, where in the muggy heat the red-inked leaves were bleeding into the plastic wrap, creating big red blobs on my arm that looked like stab wounds (I think, I mean…at least wound wounds). I started waving my hands in dismissal

“Oh no, no, I got tattooed an hour ago. It’s not blood, it’s ink.”

The other girl jumped in, pointing “Ano….”

Mortified, I looked again, this time at the back of my arm where her gaze had settled. Through a gap in the bottom of the bandage, red ink was running down my arm. Not a stab wound, but a gunshot or an… arrow… or…

“Oh!” I exclaimed, fumbling in my bag for some shower-wipes.

They had a paper towel ready first, and I dabbed at my arm while blabbering “Not blood! Ink!”

Checking out was unpleasant, as they were all still staring at me like I was going to eat them. I was so flustered, I didn’t put J’s stuff on our card, but used the cash T had given me for the presents instead. Fuck.

Fully nonplussed and pissed in the train station, I felt another trickle start down my arm. As I dabbed at it, a business man passed me, looked at my arm, then at me, and shook his head.

A reasonable girl would have gone home and put on long sleeves, re-wrapped the bandage, etc. But I hate wasting time, and I’d already wasted too much of it, so I was absolutely going to go back to Shibuya and buy those damned gifts.

By then I was naturally paranoid about the arm, and found myself walking around Loft holding my Lush bag in one hand and a shower wipe in the other, tugging at my sleeves to try to make them longer. But it was Shibuya, right? Half the people in that shop were foreigners who understand tattoos. Right?

I soon became engrossed in which pretty linen handkerchief to buy for each of the people who’d been helping me with research, putting aside my wipe so I could look each one over carefully. It wasn’t long before I heard someone gasp. I whipped around to find a little old woman staring at my arm in horror. Yep, I was dripping again.

Sigh.

It happened again on the train-ride home. Middle aged woman was trying to stare at me, but I kept interrupting her by looking back. Mind yer own business, bitch. I’m trying to bleed over here.

Common sense told me not to go to the neighborhood grocery store, but I really needed groceries, was no less stubborn about time-wasting than I’d been earlier in the day, and was feeling a bit defiant by this time. If I wanted to walk around Tokyo looking like I had a massive multi-sited dripping wound I would, by God.

Except I thought perhaps  I might do a little origami and tuck some paper into my sleeve so nobody could see the mess. Yeah. A folded piece of paper would do the trick.

And indeed I found my tomatoes and broccoli and flavored soy milk in peace. But in the bread section things broke down. As I reached for the bread, my paper came loose and fell onto the inferior (white) bread on the lower of the tiered shelves. A nice obaasan reached for it. The paper was already in her hand when she realized it…. seemed… to have blood all over it. Her eyes widened, she hesitated. She looked at me. I gave her my best “hehheh oops, I’m bleeding” facial expression, one I think my dogs would recognize as the international signal for “I submit to you, obaasan, please don’t bite my nose.”

She handed the paper to me, glancing at my “wound” and backing away. Human nature dictated she had to do one or two cursory glances over her shoulder.

Fuck it, I’d run out of ways to terrorize Tokyo. I could go home now.

Two days later my momiji look lovely. T, who was warned about the ink and heard this whole story when he got home, commented “It really does look like your arm is all bloody doesn’t it?”

Sigh.

***

Retraction by the editor: I need to learn not to complain here about anyone other than myself. After I wrote the annoyed money post the other day, T paid for our groceries (“because of the pizza the other night”), and lunch (“because of my cigarettes the other day”), and beer etc. “because of the Indian food the other night”.

So maybe he does read English. He was probably just at the end of a paycheck and didn’t want to say “I’m broke.”

So mea culpa, I understand now and it’s okay and I take it all back.

Two sides of the… boy?

I was thinking today (now that I am a bit more stable and not at the same risk of balcony-jumping I was a few weeks back).. how can I give up T? We have conversations like this, which I’ve wanted to have with a boy since I was about 9

(He had sent me a link to a shoe shore that had opened near his own store):

Me: その店の靴、全部を買いたいよ!それから世界の一番かわいい女性になる。

T: でも、世界で一番リズは今でも可愛いよ♡

Translation: I want to buy all of that store’s shoes. Then I’ll be the cutest girl in the world.

T: But you’re already the cutest girl in the world ♡

I mean.. c’mon. I led the witness. But because I’ve never had a boy say something like that to me in my entire life, I wasn’t prompting (really!) and I was genuinely all “oh shucks, me?” when I read that.

Also, I think I have a separate personality in Japanese…. I don’t say shit like that in English. English-Liz is far more jaded, sarcastic, and wary. Maybe it’s a facet of the language? Interesting…

So just when I was thinking “He’s such a sweetheart”, he f*ked me off royally. We met up at Shinjuku San-chome station, and neither of us could decide what to do about dinner, as it was nearly 10pm and we were both exhausted/hungry. “Indian food?” he suggested. I agreed instantly because, dude, Indian food.

He ordered the most expensive set on the menu. We went to pay and it came to around 3000 yen.

T: I only have 1000 yen on me, so here.

Me: ?! (Thinking “We could have gone somewhere cheaper/you could have ordered less etc.”)

I was pissed because this was after Pizza Saturday. I should just paste in screen caps of the Japanese Line conversation the way C did in this entry, but I’ll paraphrase instead.

T: What do you want to do about dinner?

Me: I was going to check and see if there’s a good pizza coupon tonight.

T: Okay.

Me: There is! 1100 yen off! Plus I have a 210 yen credit. So a large comes to….. only 2500 yen! What do you think? Should we order it?

T: Yes, we should order it then!

Me: What toppings do you want on your half?

T: You can pick!

Me: Let me know if you wanna fork it over for that chicken appetizer with fries thing you like (the Wafu Chicken Combo… bastard wafu chicken combo)

T: I love that combo

Me: I know. So should I order this? Let me know. I’m really really hungry as I skipped lunch. Is this okay?

T: Sure.

So I ordered and then the next exchange was:

Me: Pizza’s here. When do you think you’ll get to the apartment?

T: Soon, but I don’t know what to eat.

Me: ….. ???? You could eat…. pizza? Or… the chicken combo?

T: Really? Oh thank you so much!

Me: ….. ?????

(We’d ordered pizza 1000x before, and had the same conversation before, and always split the bill…. so I was thinking “okay, this is weird, but of course if he eats more than half he’ll give me half of the money…”)

Nope. Not a dime.

****

So tonight at the Indian restaurant I was -pissed-

We then went to a kombini (convenience store). I bought a banana and some bran-biscuit crap/non-food item for breakfast tomorrow. Just as I was paying, he said to the cashier: “Oh and Marlboro Menthol Lights.”

I whipped around like he’d grabbed my ass. My look must have been one of fire and brimstone as he said quickly “I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”

First he has me pay for his meat, and then his cigarettes? Two things that in conversation I’ve told him I am unwilling to use my money for? To contextualize, he knows that my financial situation is really dire right now. Yeah, I’m ordering food and not cooking…  I’ve been doing
research in the evenings and not getting back until late so it’s just wound up that way. Ok, ok, I still hate cooking too. That’s a part of it.

Bastard had better pay me back….  I can’t be the cutest girl on the planet if he keeps sponging my shoe money off of me (kidding! too broke for shoes). And I don’t forget money issues  between me and other people, which is why borrowing money genuinely upsets me.

Owning the giant cliche that I am

1. It’s raining down sheets of what looks like solid grey, and summer-thundering. I’m tempted, as most of us are, to think that this is because I put my bed laundry outside to dry just a short time ago. My laundry made it weather!

2. I accidentally find myself listening to elevator music. I’ve been requesting any music CD with the word “stress” or “relax” in the title from my Tsutaya Discas service. This has resulted in some of the worst crap ever to be composed on a computer arriving in my mailbox. And lots of bird sounds and waves.

For dinner I am making boxed Japan-style curry, his-and-hers. Mine is vegetarian, of course, and his is spicy. I still hate cooking.

Today, thanks to the generosity of J, I got to go to the Lush spa. They used to be only in Tokyo and London, but I hear they’ve gotten around a bit lately. I got the Good Hour (I’ll link to the English page) massage. The site brags about it being “an experience like no other”, and though a Lush fan, I’ve had me some massages and I was simultaneously thrilled to be going and expecting it to be fairly predictable.

But shazam, it wasn’t. The whole theme of my massage “experience” was nautical, so the massage itself was supposed to resemble waves. It actually did. The massage was a lot better than any I’ve had before, and not just because I was being massaged with Lush bars… I did feel as though maybe, perhaps I should have mentioned that my shoulder area where most recently tattooed had scabbed over (for the first time!), and it was unsightly enough that I’d been too self-conscious to wear yoga clothes on the way to yoga yesterday.

I mean, good lord do I feel like enough of an eye sore half the time in Tokyo anyway without waving my tattoos in people’s faces. (If you’ve been to Tokyo but just done the tourist circuit where other foreigners are-a-plenty, you may not “get” this. I totally AM saying this to be a snot about being more familiar with the city than tourists, but also because I can’t be an elitist about most places in the world, or around most people I know here in Tokyoland.)

Anyway.

Point is, one should warn another person who is about to rub down their body about scabby areas, right? There was even a handy little person diagram on which I could have written it beforehand, but I’m in such a deep stage of “don’t give a fuck” that I just sat and sipped my lemon-mint water and smiled.

The blue-lit candle filled room with its basin of ocean scented misty dry ice was its own phenomenon. But the music… weeeeellll old sea shanties? I nearly giggled a few times, and kept oscillating between “this is cool, I’d play this in my house while sitting with a friend and drinking mojitos” and “yo ho ho this is not relaxation music”.

After the massage I was left in the room with a glorious steamed towel, body dusting powder, and some cream-in-a-pot that  (oh bastard, the ice in the cup of iced tea I’m drinking just surged forward in a daring attempt to conquer my face, and brought half the cup of tea with them and down my shirt).

So, um, after ^^^ that part, I was taken to an area with lovely vanities and the whole Lush skincare and makeup line to play with freely. Which, ladies, I did. I was wearing at least four scents, and five facial products by the time I wandered into the main room for my “English tea” and shortbread.

Booyeah. I wanted to move into that spa.

I think I might be ruined for other spa experiences now. A lovely, lovely plight to have.

So, if you couldn’t tell, this did cheer me up a bit. Unfortunately for my sense of myself as an enlightened person, spending money usually does.

I was feeling so much like making out with the earth afterwards that I brought T lunch at work, and generally made a nuisance of myself in his store for a while before heading home for a glorious nap.

Had to wake up to meet a girl who was taking everything from my freebies list on craiglist… ranging from items like “giant overnight maxi pads” (normally I wear cloth ones, but.. eh, you don’t need to know)… to “the iron supplements I bought that one week I thought I was anemic but turned out to be just super stressed as usual”.

Seriously, with only 31 days remaining (so, a month) I am trying to get the stuff T doesn’t need out of his apartment and money into my pocket. But half the people on craigslist are flakes, the other cheats, and the third half are my people and should buy my cheap and cute furniture.

Fight, fight.

Image

I rented The Simple Life the other day. Yeah, that horrid old television program featuring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie (which I’ll be farked if I’m going to link to). I had grown weary of turning my extremely critical, judgmental gaze upon myself, and thought I’d give my poor battered self a break while turning it upon those who not only kinda deserve it, but wouldn’t be harmed by my mockery. (And I couldn’t find “19 Kids and Counting” here.)

So, while watching it with T (who definitely -didn’t- need that impression of American culture), we saw some kids eating Froot Loops. I didn’t think anything of it, while T was horrified by the color, proclaiming it to be “not food”. Really, he’s right. Those food dyes are illegal in Japan, and when I consider it and some of the other cereals I pined after as a kid, I’m kinda grossed out. But they’re so delicious, aren’t they? In kindergarten, we wrote our names in Froot Loops once. So badly did I want to eat that cereal that after we took them home (long after they’d become stale), I snuck-ate my name from the poster board it was on– glue, paper and all. I’d stashed the thing in my closet just to gorge on unbeknownst to my mom.

It’s not like we weren’t ever allowed that sort of crap. My parents had a beach house (yeah, I’m that white), and when in Delaware, my sister S and I were allowed to walk down to the little general store up the block and buy whatever we wanted for breakfast, as long as we brought Mom back a newspaper or two. The store didn’t have much, but it did have 12 packs of miniature sized junk-food cereals, and we almost always bought one and then divvied them all up, 6 and 6. Pity the fool who got the lame ones, like the token box of Cheerios or Corn Flakes.

I remember one morning I slept in, and S and my mom went to the store without me. I was pounced on by an excited S later that morning, as she squealed “IT’S A CHOCOLATE MORNING” (they’d bought chocolate muffins and Cocoa Krispies).

***
39 days left here (it’s night, so very nearly 38). Today I experienced my first “oh my god, WHERE is my home now?” freakout. In Houston my house is still physically standing, but my “home” has been ripped away. And Houston was only home because J was there, I think. In Houston there are so many things I will genuinely miss about Tokyo; I love living in a big city, especially one like Tokyo where I am liable to see something interesting daily. I’ll miss walking around, and not driving. I’ll miss a lot of people, although I am horrid at making plans with them… I’ll miss ready access to the Japanese language media -I- like (so… not anime, as a general rule).

I read this article by chance the other day, and I thought …. oh no, that hits a little too close to home… I ended up shacking up with T because I was and am terrified of being alone. I have to deal with that before -I-, like the author’s ex, make a terrible mistake.

And J is the king of boundary setting when it comes to people (or perhaps, in the past, of cutting people off), otherwise I fear we’d get into the same codependent dynamic. I would, but he won’t let me, is the concise way of putting it. He and I both agree that we should have divorced a while ago, but in my case, at least, I was more afraid of being alone than I was being in a dysfunctional relationship. He’s my family. I love him in the same way I love my birth-family… wherein you just sort of work with their faults and quirks and are reassured that they’ll always be there to support you (at least, if you/I let them).

An acquaintance once said that tattooing saved her life. I know what she means. I could easily become covered in them, but I think my research future in Japan will hold me back. When I have suffered emotional trauma in the past, I have cut or dyed my hair or pierced a body part. The hair is already short (though not dyed), and my metal allergy has worsened, so I am left with my love of tattoos. And lattes (nobody needed that last part, me).

Today is Tanabata in Japan. Two summers ago I went to the festivals, but today I was actually busy. I’m not supposed to exercise yet, after being in the hospital recently, but I did some simple yoga tonight, until boat pose proved to be a really, really bad idea, leading to searing full-body pain. Gotta keep my spirits up somehow, and I lament my weakening body, so I keep pushing at the exercise prohibition.

BTW:  I am a reply delinquent right now, but I am getting back to friends who wrote to me, concerned. I promise.

I am tired

I need to find another source of emotional support… J was it for my entire adult life, and I just feel so guilty putting the weight of everything on friends. So much so that I’d have rather quietly slipped away than reached out.

But I am feeling today and yesterday as though J is trying to force me not to rely on him, to push me far enough away that I have to turn elsewhere. I want to yell that this is not the time, that right now I need to keep myself safe. I’ve never much been able to count on my family for emotional support, and perhaps that’s my own doing. But my father has also spent most of my crisis relapsing into his alcoholism, and sending me drunken and traumatizing emails.

T does not understand mental health issues at all, but perhaps that’s simply par for the course among Japanese men (and women?) over a certain age. When I emotionally reported to him how upsetting I found these emails, and some of my past experiences with my father, he said “well surely it’s okay if he drinks a bit, right?”

I admit I snapped at T that no, no alcoholics can’t drink just a little bit, that in my house it was always nothing or far, far too much. I think T, like so many people here, has an image in mind of the benevolently goofy drunken salaryman, nodding off on the way home from another night of mandatory social drinking. (One fell on my shoulder last night.. a Monday night, for example, while I was riding home.) I get upset whenever I see one of these men, and become unable to stop the flood of speculation and projection.

When I do reach out to people, their generosity humbles me. It’s not even that people know I am hurting financially, it’s that they want to help me when I am clearly in such emotional pain. I do want to explain everything to everyone, because when I do, the justification for my breakdown becomes clear. No, it’s not just having a severe anxiety disorder and history of depression combined with moving to Japan and losing my husband of 15 years. That would be enough to tweak most people, I think? But it gets worse and worse after January… and it’s extremely painful to recall how desperately I tried to reorder my life like a frightened animal scrambling for safety. Like my dog when he panics at something, and I cannot calm him down.

My poor dogs. J hates them, and he is convinced they deliberately do things to get revenge on him. I gave up on explaining to him that dogs are not malicious. They don’t do things out of spite. They just do what they think they’re supposed to do and what they want to do (what they think they can get away with). If the dogs are using the house as a toilet, there is a reason, and it’s not because they hate him… I suppose when they’re back in my hands, even though they’re 9 years old, I am going to have to work hard with them to break this cycle*

T seems to think we’re not breaking up when I go back to the U.S. I thought that conversation was clear, and now I’m just confused. I have tried to explain my trauma, and the trauma I associate with him, and my need to be single while I nurse myself back to mental health (45 days… I didn’t think I was going to make it back to the U.S., actually… some days I still don’t). I hate wondering if it’s a linguistic, cultural, or some other kind of communication breakdown.

J wants me to talk to the priest of his church when I get back. One of the rifts between us was his conversion to Orthodox Christianity and the accompanying “convert” enthusiasm for it, in awkward contrast to my ambivalence/wishy-washy uncertainty about religion. This particular priest is indeed a very good person, but my self-hatred is bad enough without being exposed to people to whom J presented a version of events in which I cheated on him. Even if in this story he blamed himself for “driving me to it”, I am not comfortable being around people who think I would ever go outside of my marriage. The idea of a me that could cheat is an idea that horrifies me. But he doesn’t want anyone in the church, or his family to know we agreed to an open relationship, and I certainly would never interfere. I love him more than anyone in the world, and I do want him to be happy even if it my heart aches knowing that my in-laws, who I thought of as my own parents, believe I responded to J and my problems by having an affair. I can’t talk to them, probably ever again, as a result.

So yeah, I need to find my own therapist.

Feh, I am too tired to continue writing now

*If I even can; I thought I was good with dogs before I met these two…. Mei’s bean brain does not seem to grasp housebreaking, and London just does whatever she does. Advice welcomed. They’ve seen 2 trainers about this, and I’ve read several books on different approaches to house breaking. I’ve tried everything from physically attaching them to me, to crating them (London panics in a crate though and injures himself severely so I’ve had to refrain from crates with him), to taking them out every 30 minutes, etc. They’ll come inside and then immediately go on the floor. We keep them diapered, but still…