Conversation with a recently married female private student at a cafe in Yokohama.
Me:…and I came across an article from a American magazine from the 1950′s about black soldiers marrying Japanese women.
Student: Really? From the 1950′s?
Me: 1953, to be exact. It was amazing! It had pictures of the couples and everything.
Student: Wow! Sounds awesome! What did the article say?
Me: Well, it asked the question, “Do Japanese women make better wives?”
She laughed. A guffaw, really.
Student: Are you serious?
Me: Yep. So was the article! And, you should here some of the things the Japanese women said. It was so crazy! Sounded like they were paid to say this nonsense. I mean, it was beyond stereotypical. They were practically caricatures.
Student: Eh? What’s that?
Me:A caricature? it’s like a ridiculous exaggeration. Like anime characters.
Student: Ah, I get it. So, what did the women say?
Me: I’m almost embarrassed to repeat it.
Student: Go ahead.
I cleared my throat and spoke in my best “dumb blond” voice.
Me: “I think it’s my duty to do my husband’s bidding,” this one woman said. Another said something like, “I think only what my husband wants me to think! Nothing more, nothing less!”
She laughed loudly. Everyone in the cafe was watching us.
Me: Crazy, right? You gotta see it! I’ll send you a link later. (back to “dumb blond” voice) “I don’t have any friends here in the US! I just can’t understand American women. What can be more important than making your husband happy?”
Student: (ha ha) That is so old-fashioned.
Me: What do you mean?
Student: My mother is just like that.
Student: I know…but it’s true. It’s not a…what did you call it? Caricature? Not a caricature! It’s more like a portrait.
Student:Some women are still like that even now…but not so many in Tokyo and Yokohama. But, inaka (in the country) is very different.
Me: I’ve never really met women like that in my eight years here. Most of the women I’ve met have been pretty modern. By Japan’s standards, anyway.
Student: It’s changing but very slowly…because of Japanese men. They are so useless. I am so lucky. My husband doesn’t want me to quit my job and be his maid and have babies. But some of my girlfriends, not so lucky. Japanese men are mostly helpless. Their mother’s took care of them until adult, so they never learn to cook or clean or anything. So they just look for a young replacement mother.
Me: You sound like an American girl. They say the same thing.
Student blushes and smiles and grinds her fist against her palm. The sign for (お世辞) oseji or apple-polishing flattery.
I hadn’t meant it as such.
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