On Being a Woman...
Obviously, I live in Japan. It's the land of beautiful women. It's 95º and 80% humidity and the woman standing next to me on the train looks flawless. Her skin is dry and bright. Her make-up is flawless. Her clothes immaculate. It's almost like she teleported from station to station, and she never stepped foot outside. Meanwhile, I am not wearing any make-up, and I'm wiping the visible sweat from my brow and fanning myself with a small handkerchief. I don't understand this phenomenon, so I went to an expert on the subject: my gay hairdresser.
"I don't understand Japanese women," I said. "Like they always look perfect. Aren't they ever hot or sweaty?"
I was still trying to cool off after an hour in the chair.
"I think they carry make-up with them. They are always going to the bathroom for touch ups," he said.
"Why don't they ever sweat?"
"I think they are the opposite. The women I know are always complaining about being cold. I think there's something wrong with them. Poor circulation due to dieting all the time."
I think there's a lot of pressure in Japan to be beautiful. I buy fashion magazines. There are some with ads for diet pills in the back pages. I look at the before and after pictures. I can't seem to see any problem with the before pictures while the after pics look emaciated. I look at the population of women around me. It's very easy to see which ones are young and unmarried. They are the girls who are very fashionable and always look pristine. The "moms" (married with kids) always dress super casually. These are the only women in Japan I see wearing jeans. It's like they have succeeded in "catching" a man and no longer need to paint on their beautiful faces. Every single Japanese girl friend who I say looks beautiful vehemently denies it though. You do. You look beautiful. Maybe it's modesty. Maybe they think they are still not beautiful after all that work.
The Land of S
Shopping in Japan is a real pain especially for America girls who are not a size S or M in America. If you're an L or XL or bigger than that, shopping in Japan gets tricky. There are many stores here which only sell one size. That size is Japanese S which is about an American XS. Even the stores here are telling women they need to be skinny. This is terrible because I see women of all shapes and sizes. I wonder silently where they buy their clothes. I hate this trend in Japanese stores. Maybe it's a sales strategy. Maybe that size sells and larger sizes won't. Maybe the larger sized women are sitting in a corner eating cabbage and crying and therefore aren't shopping until they can fit into that size. Okay that last part was an obviously exaggeration.
I always thought I was fat even when I wasn't. I look at pictures of me in high school and think "My god what was I thinking?!?! I wasn't anywhere near fat! I was so so skinny!" There must have been someone or something telling me I wasn't though because that thought of feeling fat crept into my brain and never left. When I started my career I was 23 or 24 (that's a little over 10 years ago). Looking at pictures of my then, it's the same thing. "My god what was I thinking?!?! I wasn't anywhere near fat! I was so so skinny!" Then I got bronchitis and the doctor put me on a steroid medication as a means of treatment, so I ate. And I ate. And I ate. And I couldn't figure out why I was so hungry all the time. By the time I figured it out I had already packed on pounds. Oops. But even then I wasn't at my heaviest.
On Moving to Japan
I was pretty ecstatic when I moved to Japan. I mean, of course, I was. It's my favorite place ever. The first 6 months were really hard. I was super depressed. I didn't leave the house much. I didn't have friends. I was incredibly homesick. I had left 30 years of my life behind. I had heard all the stories about people lost so much weight when they moved to Japan embracing the Japanese diet. I was excited for that. I could lose weight effortlessly! However, I didn't account for the Japanese diet not being vegetarian friendly at all, so I cooked things I would cook in America since I'm definitely not an expert on Japanese cooking, and I drank with coworkers every Friday night. Also, I ate a lot of bread because well bread is delicious. I tried to shop at trendy stores, but I couldn't because I couldn't fit into any of the clothes. I am definitely not a Japanese S. Maybe I was when I was 10. My worst experience shopping was needing a skirt. I went to many stores and tried to squeeze into skirts with elastic waists. I couldn't. I felt horrible and that I hated shopping (something I had never ever felt). I've always loved shopping. "Why isn't there a Kohl's here?" I lamented.
Then I got a boyfriend and he loved me just as I was, so I became happy. Sometimes when people are happy they tend to gain more weight. Fat and happy. That boyfriend became my husband. I felt really lucky because I wasn't a skinny Japanese girl (who are literally everywhere here). I would never ever be a skinny Japanese girl, but it's okay because I didn't want to be. One thing I didn't understand though was that I was phenomenally more active in Japan than in America and I never lost weight.
On a Period of Inactivity
Maybe you remember this post. It's where I fell down the stairs and was a hobbler for like 2 months. I couldn't walk as well as I could so I hobbled slowly. I stopped riding my bike and took the bus and never used the stairs because I was afraid. I became a slug. I hated it. I hated every waking minute of being so unfathomably helpless. Because of this I gained more weight. I had an unpregnant pregnant belly. It was ridiculous, and I was embarrassed when I stepped on the scale and saw what my weight was during my health check. I didn't feel very good about myself again, so now I'm taking steps (sometimes literally) to try and feel better about myself. It's a slow, slow process, but I don't expect miracles.
On Being a Woman
This is my story. It's one of many. I've experienced how difficult it is to be a woman in two countries now, and I can guess it's not any easier anywhere else in the world. What I want to say is we need to support our sisters better. The media doesn't help us at all ever. It's constantly telling us we are too fat no matter what size we are, so it's up to us. Real people of the world. Not the media fallacy. We need to support each other. I'll go first.
I support you. I want you to be happy. If you're happy with yourself, then I am too. I don't care what size you are, what blemishes you have, and your stretch marks or scars don't bother me. Love your skin. It's the only one you'll ever have. If you want to change your body, I support you. Just don't hurt yourself. If you want to stay as you are, I support you. Just don't hurt yourself. Please eat. Don't starve yourself to live up to someone else's standards. Have something sweet once in a while. You work hard. You deserve it. Your struggle is real. You are strong. You are smart. You are beautiful. Love yourself.