When the world is telling you to be alone

image

I was sitting on my bed per usual stroking my cat Lily when she decided enough was enough and swiftly jumped off my lap. The rejection stung for a mere 20 seconds and I got on reading my book. That’s something I’ve always respected about cats, when they want to be alone, they make it happen. No worrying about people’s feelings, no second guessing.  I used to be like that, when I wanted some alone time from the bustle of my life I took some time away from it. I would travel alone, climb a mountain, read a book, anything that allowed for those precious moments on my own.

Don’t confuse being alone for loneliness. I enjoy one but not the other.  Breaking up with friends, even if you haven’t fought, or splitting up with a boyfriend can leave you feeling lonely. I was rebounding from both. The problem wasn’t necessarily either, but this overwhelming obligation to go finding new friends and a partner almost immediately. You see being in my late 20s I’ve heard the phrase ‘you’re not getting any younger’ a lot. Despite my reluctance to ever be tied down by a husband or children, those words start to wear on you. The worst part is you start to believe that you should be following what society is ordering you to do.

However society and the world are not the same thing. As I aimlessly went from date to date, the world was giving me strong hints that I wasn’t ready to settle. Job offers from abroad started to appear in my inbox.  Friends living in different parts of world extending invites, my father at almost 82 reminding me it’s my life and telling me diligently on his hospital bed about his regrets for not experiencing more from life. I kept ignoring the signs, until one day lying in Bloomsbury Square appreciating the London sun while listening to The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, a final attempt to elevate my spirits, a student from South America asked me for directions. He was meeting friends at The Museum Tavern, I directed him the best I could with my broken Spanish. He thanked me back in English, not before saying ‘everyday is an adventure in London’. That’s when it hit me, I had lost the adventure in my life. My depression, lack of self esteem and excitement was down to my routine, the shear boredom of repeated days. When I got into that routine, I felt the time slip through my hands and it frightened me. No. It terrified me.

Then I went back to the library, opened a tab up and started searching for interns abroad, cheap plane tickets, field schools, anything- just adventure. And when I do find it, I’ll make sure to make the most of it.

Advertisements

Forget your balls, and grow a pair of tits

Image

During my young adult years, I had never really felt any oppression for being a woman. Throughout my years in university I never understood the strong stance feminists in my halls took against the opposite gender. Lecturers, fellow students all talked to me on the same level and valued any opinion I brought forward. Now, let’s fast-forward 5 years, I present to you a very different person, someone my 21-year old self could never hope to understand.

It really is hard out here for “a bitch”.

I don’t believe you are a born a feminist, your experiences mold you into one. You start off walking through life quite care-free, and then you start stumbling over the barrage of injustices that occur from being a woman. The only mistake you made? Being born the “wrong” gender.

Gender debate aside,  one can’t help but wonder what had happened along the way for me to turn into such an ‘aggressive feminist’. Was it the constant need for validation from the opposite sex, since all my bosses had been male?  Or was it the constant objectification I experienced when I wore dresses and skirts on a hot day?

Moving to Japan, enlightened me a fair bit, I was constantly subjected to a number of males who had no real respect for women, their shock when they found out that “I wanted a career” and had no real desire to get married were all initially quite amusing, but quickly became tiresome. But, then I became complacent, I started to think that England was a country filled with men who understood and wanted equality for women, a dreamland some would say for equal opportunity.

When I arrived back in England, it was quite the wake-up call. The equality paradise I had fooled myself into believing in whilst I was in Japan had been nothing more than a fantasy. Dates, formal arrangements and even friendly discussions had all become archaic and a little derisive. If I had an opinion it was quickly shutdown and there is nothing worse than feeling stigmatised for airing how you feel, especially on matters that you deeply believe in.

Friends of mine know I am a deep ecologist, and a biocentrist. I believe in, and attempt to live within the borders of the basic laws of ecology. I’m not here to be liked, I’m not here to make friends,  I only want to be taken seriously.

That’s been the one saving grace, my male friends who haven’t fallen for this whole “misogynistic” view that women’s opinions don’t really matter. Fortunately, I seem to attract well-rounded individuals, who don’t dismiss people’s ideas or views, because they’re simply different.

Is Chivalry Alive in Japan?

I’m from a country that most Japanese women like to associate the term, “gentlemen” with; England. No, I’m not going to go all patriotic again, and discuss how British men surpass the Japanese man. This post is merely to ponder over the question, “Is chivalry alive in Japan?” I’m exclusively referring to the behaviour associated with courting and not the knight’s code of honour, – or samurai seems to be more appropriate here-.  I’ve heard contradictory opinions on the matter.  Unfortunately, I have a rather obscured view on the matter, so most of this post’s sources come from;  friends, students, acquaintances (and sometimes from myself).

The thought occurred to me today actually, when I was discussing the matter with my university students.  It was clear that there was a strong divide  in the room, some agreed it depended on the man, others flat out refused to believe that there were men in Japan who would hold the door for them.  In my own experience, I can’t recall a man ever holding the door for me in Tokyo, but that can be largely blamed on the urbanite’s way of thinking. I’ll be honest, I haven’t had much experience dating in Japan, but I won’t mention so much of my own disasters at dating (maybe sometimes).  I have, however, had a lot of interaction with Japanese men, partly due to my job as a teacher and also my experience attending a Japanese university.

Some of my students told me, they were surprised to hear that in Europe a lot of men paid for the women’s meals. Though, to be honest I thought Japanese men were renowned for their generosity, or at least that’s word on the streets in London.  In Europe, this is true to an extent, in all my time in the U.K, I only paid for a meal a couple of times, when in the presence of male friends. This could be attributed to the fact that the company I kept was always older than me, by at least five years or so. I’m not here to discuss if men should pay for women; frankly that’s a sexist attitude, which is clearly on its way out. Though one could argue, since women haven’t been endowed with full equality, (women still receive 20% less salary than men in England and it’s far worse in Japan), is it not proper that maybe a man with higher earnings -not because of his skill, but because of his gender- pay for the woman?

I have to share one of acquaintance’s  nasty experience on a date in Japan, so much so that she wishes she could extinguish it from her memory. When one is invited on a date, you expect that person to pay -regardless of gender- not only did she pay for her share -she also paid for his (smack face!) Later, when she was invited to karaoke and had run out of money, he told her nonchalantly that he would pay for her this time, but next time she would have to pay him back, (Mind you, this was after she’s paid for his dinner). What an assumption!  As if there would be another date;  I was glad to hear that he was unapologetically let down. (I must express that this is the only time I’ve heard about this sort of thing, whilst in Japan; usually the guy -foreign or Japanese- pays for me.)

It might not be the lack of consideration, holding a door, and paying for a meal are all superficial worries after all.  What I have heard however, numerous times, over and over again is that Japanese men lack – romance.  I’m going down a slippery slope here, since I believe it all depends on the sort of man one dates. However, I can’t pretend that this notion is not vital in understanding the problems with dating or courtship in Japan.  One factor that I think contributes to the reason why Japanese women have all, but given up; Japanese men find it difficult to express their feelings to their partners. These are a few complaints I’ve heard;

“Why doesn’t he say he likes me?”
“He always calls me cute, not beautiful.”
“He doesn’t kiss me goodbye.”

In England, most of the time,  despite people’s stereotype of the English being reserved, a boy will let a girl know when they’re interested,  and of course, vice-versa.   This issue could be attributed because many Japanese nowadays grow up with fewer siblings, so therefore lack the social skills to communicate with others, but that wouldn’t be exclusive to just men.  I’ve known very forward Japanese men, funnily enough from mostly the rural parts, where family sizes are a lot larger. Therefore, maybe this sentiment does has some validity.

According to the Japan Times, many Japanese men are now scared of the idea of commitment, or so the Japanese media would have us believe. However, what I can gather from the evidence is that a lot of Japanese men are fairly emotionally shy, some friends have used the words, “emotionally immature.”  But, one shred of proof that backs up women search for more assertive men,  is the rising number of  Japanese women who are on a mission to look for a foreign boyfriend. So the age old story in Japan is that foreign men are emotionally mature in comparison to the Japanese.  I never understood this myself, I’ve met immature and mature men from different countries.  Can Japanese men really be that different from the foreign counterparts, especially since “foreign” in Japan is a very loose term. What is foreign? European? Korean? Chinese? American? And are we all painted with the same brush?

I’ve heard many things of late about Japan’s declining population, many pointing fingers at women for being too career-focused, others blaming the high cost of living in Japan. While some of the blame has been placed on young Japanese men themselves. One prime minister accusing them of not being “macho” enough. I’ve only once been interested romantically once in a Japanese man of late,  enough to try and pursue something and believe me I did. I’m not saying a boy has to do the chasing, but it got to a point of blatant irresolution that I quickly gave up.  It’s like a misconception I have now,  because of the constant moaning everywhere.

Four years in Japan and I can now understand how the phrase “Herbivore boy” came to existence, despite hating labeling . The current question is; have Japanese men got weaker?”  Herbivores are the type of  men who prefer to go holidaying around Japan than go abroad- or even worse stay at home, shocking, (especially for someone like me, who can’t even sit still for ten minutes.)    Apparently Japanese women aren’t taking this sitting down, and a new term has been coined to describe women who actively pursue the guys; carnivorous women, sounds like a group of yokai (ghouls), right?   Although this might not be such an alien concept to most Japanese women.  Unlike the West,  where it’s mostly the male’s responsibility to buy chocolate or presents for their girlfriends, in Japan it’s the women’s job. Furthermore, White Day, which happens in March is the day where the male returns the favour.  So maybe chivalry hasn’t died after all, maybe it has just found a new home. And perhaps it’s better this way…