I believe the boy who engaged me in the following conversation was just trying to waste time to avoid having to present in front of his classmates. Or maybe this really was a pressing issue for him. Who knows. Anyway, this was all in Japanese, so there’s a possibility I misunderstood something, but I’m 99% sure I got everything right.
Boy: Eri, Eri, what’s your real name?
Boy: How old are you?
Boy: Are you married?
Me: No. Why?
Boy: Why aren’t you married? Are you so busy? You don’t have time.
Me: *WTH face* Wow, if you have the courage to ask me those questions, you should have the courage to present in front of the class!
(At this point my co-ALT walked by apparently wondering what was so funny, so I explained to him the hilarious conversation. I thought that would be the end of it but…)
Boy: Today is nothing but English! Hey, hey, you don’t have time…
Me: *WTH face once more* My standards are too high, that’s why! Do your work!!!
^_^;;; Of course, it would’ve been inappropriate if I’d voiced the snarky answers I was thinking: “Why? You got an older brother dying to get that hot American citizenship through a sham marriage?” LOL
In the moment, I interpreted his 「時間ない」(“you don’t have time”) as meaning “You don’t have much time left to find a husband [given your age],” but thinking back on it, since he asked if I was busy, I guess he could’ve also meant “Is it that you’re so busy you don’t have time to find a husband?”
Amusing as this is, I wouldn’t post about it if it didn’t really strike a chord. It’s not that I’m particularly worried about being a “spinster,” but in general, even though I’ve wanted to do JET since I learned about it, because I AM older than the average participant, I feel perhaps even more than they do that I’m putting my life on hold by being here (since other JETs say that too). Sure, I often use my free time to study Japanese, or read the news, or otherwise be productive. And that’s great for my professional life, but my personal life? I’m sure there are people who’ve made lifelong friends on JET. But for the most part, this is a job where people come and go and then they’re gone. As for my student’s quip, especially if he did mean it as “you don’t have much time left to find a husband,”…well, my snarky inner answer was “That’s right, and it doesn’t help that I’m in a country whose population by and large wouldn’t dare to marry outside their own ‘race,’ especially not one of the ‘lesser’ foreigners i.e. non-white.”
Now, maybe I made some people cringe with that one. I know many people don’t like to talk about race and racism. They think, “Oh, let’s just ignore it, then it’s not an issue.” WRONG. Scientifically, race doesn’t exist. But we made it exist. So we have to talk about it.
Let me first clearly say that I’m not bashing Japan. Racism exists in the States. I’ve been discriminated against and made to feel uncomfortable, even in danger, in my own home state. I don’t like going to suburbs like Livonia or Novi because I get the You-Don’t-Belong-Here Look. But the fact that racism exists in the States doesn’t negate that racism exists in Japan. I’ve yet to feel in danger because of this racism, but it’s there nonetheless, and it doesn’t feel any more nice than white people giving me and my family the Death Glare because we’re speaking in Spanish.
Anyway, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that white men have Japanese women throwing themselves at them the moment they step off the plane. A guy that would be just a plain ol’ white dude in the States has an unspeakable appeal here. Every straight white guy I know who wasn’t already in a relationship when he came here, is or at one point was in a serious relationship with a Japanese woman or an Asian woman who was also working in Japan (not necessarily on JET). But female foreigners have it harder. I’ve been told that Japanese men think foreign women are pushy. Okay, that’s a challenge. But if you’re a woman of color, well! You better know how to run some major game. Nothing illustrates the preference for white women better than something that happened to me back in November.
I wrote about the first time I visited the blind school in this post, but I left out the following incident. As I wrote over there, one of the classes was with adult students. One of them, obviously a young man into fashion and picking up women, commenced to hit on me. Then he asked me if I was blonde. Well, what he said was “Golden hair?” since he didn’t know the word “blonde.” I simply answered no, but in my mind I was thinking, “You’re BLIND!!! What does it matter??!!?!?!” If that wasn’t enough, his flirting decreased rather suddenly once he found out I wasn’t blessed with locks of gold. What a disappointing foreigner I turned out to be! Granted, this is just one incident. But if you compare the way white and non-white foreigners are portrayed in Japanese media, you clearly see that whites are treated favorably.
So yes, (getting back to what sparked this post in the first place), as more and more of my friends back home (and some on JET) tie the knot, or otherwise proclaim their commitment to someone, I can’t help but feel that I’m falling behind. I planned from the beginning to do JET for two years, but I’ll probably be here for three. I’ll be nearly 30 years old when I go back to the States (read: have a chance of finding Mr. Pretty Much Right). Pop culture tells me that it can be hard being The Single One once all of one’s friends are married, but at least in the States women don’t have this doom counter ticking over their heads (unless they’re Hispanic. Whoops.) and they don’t have teenage Japanese boys telling them they need to get married ASAP.
Shout out to my Ma, who told me that one of her friends asked her, “y que si se trae un chinito?” (“What if she brings home a Chinese guy?”) *FACEPALM*