Friday, November 21, 2014

「そろそろ結婚の話しとかない?」 and other unwanted advice

I have a friend whose wedding I attended some years ago. I feel very happy that she's happy but every time she emails me these days, there are these unwanted words of advice:

"I've just had a second baby! You know, you should really have children soon. There is only a limited amount of time that women can have babies, and I can tell you you, you really don't know what know happiness is until you've held your very own baby in your arms."

And, today:
"Look at my kids! They are so rambunctious and cute. Hey, isn't there talk of marriage for you yet??"

I think I responded to her last email with a heap of compliments to her cure kids and a note that there are many different forms of happiness in the world (not all of them involving "your own baby", jeez), and I'm pretty happy being career-oriented. She never responded to that message and stayed out of touch for a whole year.

And yet, here we are again. 「そろそろ結婚の話しとかない??」

Implicit throughout her whole (otherwise polite) message a hidden sense of "I must save her from the dreaded fate of becoming ineligible to bear kids!"

What to say? Does she ever stop to consider that being unmarried (or technically in a common-law marriage) is not the worst thing that can happen to women? I've never once dreamed of donning a white dress or walking down some aisle in a church. How does she perceive divorcees?

I just don't know how to respond, aside from "good for you" and "things are actually great on my end, even though it may not look that way based on your idea of success". 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crazy eccentric cool - Vancouver thrift store

I bought an old sweater from an eerie thrift store today. Inside it's all the smell of incense, the sounds of music from decades past. The store owner was a beautiful, odd-looking thin woman with long, wavy white hair that flowed past her shoulders in open defiance of convention that older women must chop their brittle grey strands after a certain age.

She was constantly humming, calling her clothes her precious 'darlings' and 'treasures', musing about the awesome items she'd picked up. My sweater, she said, was a rare find -- 100 % wool (who knows what it was really made of, there was no label), washed and worn, high-quality -- you can't find that for such a low price ($12) anywhere else in town, she said. Despite my leaving the store once to stop myself from spending, I caved within a record 15 minutes while walking toward the SkyTrain and ended up returning to purchase that 'treasure' for a 20% discount. Because she seemed to love old clothes so much, I fell in love with that old, "obviously thift-store" sweater as well.

They say eccentric people are happier than average and she looked to me like somebody totally at peace with who she was in this world. With the gift of eccentricity, the individual no longer cares how others may judge them, and are totally in line with their inner compass of how they wish to exist. I hope I can reach that state of bliss one day, sans the strong smell of incense in my second-hand clothes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Short-haired diva

Every now and then, there are people who don't really stand out until they chop off their hair. This is just  fast sketch but someone who looked more feminine and attractive after getting what was effectively a boy's hairstyle. Never mind the squiggly lines, it's hard to draw on a touchpad.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bright eyes

A quick sketch of a friend and former colleague. I still vividly remember when she came to work at the tv station. She was half-Japanese, tall, had bright, intelligent eyes, a friendly manner and was lightning quick at catching on to the new work environment. Even in front of the camera, she was totally composed and always looked like she enjoyed what she was doing. She's now a news anchor at the public broadcaster in Japan, and watching the show for the first time in a while, it was great to catch up.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rat Chronicles: Socks

So I bought socks for the first time in as long as I could remember today. It sounds really shameful but I do get a lot of socks as gifts, and I never really thought anyone ever even noticed my socks....except my partner (obviously I don't wear socks with holes to fancy Japanese restaurants and places where the things can be seen, but generally as long as they cover my feet, I don't really care what colour or style they are). I am scrupulous about a few things, though you wouldn't know it from my socks. Pardon the roughness. Busy work weekend. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

La Vida Fujoshi

I actually had no idea what a "fujoshi" was when the term first started popping up around books and the internet. After stumbling upon a book called Kuragehime, I found out pretty quick...and was astounded when I was lumped once into the category of women who broadly live outside the realm of ordinary woman pursuits (e.g. shopping, hair, makeup, being fashionable, baking, nails) and have become otaku of certain things that fall outside that. Not sure what to say about their other interests, but I think not having any interest in being conventional is not a bad thing per se. I actually know no one like the below two, so this one is more or less imaginary...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hijab Beauty

Religion aside, I admire Muslim women's fashion because it's not about "does this make me look fat/tall/skinny" it's all about the fabrics and the accessories and the clothes.

Certainly this isn't an accurate drawing, but there were quite a few women in Turkey and Jordan with this kind of style. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Power of Weakness

I stumbled upon an elderly man today while following the avalanche of people running down the Joyce Skytrain station. Like water avoiding a rock while flowing downstream, all these people were detouring to the side a little bit as they went down---I peered and saw there was a hunched over figure in a blue jacket and baseball cap, sitting in the middle of the stairs.

"Are you OK?" I asked, stopping. A man behind me was also asking the same thing. "Do you need help?"

The old man shook his head and insisted he was alright, but the stately-looking middle-aged man behind me looked at me and said, "I think he needs some help."

The man took his one arm, I took the other, and lifted him to his feet. He was so frail. He couldn't even stand up straight, his spine bent backward as if he were trying to review the sky.

The gentleman was able to guide him down the stairs, slowly, and I stuck around to ensure it would be OK. Then when we got to the bottom, the old man said he was going to be fine. But he really didn't look like he'd be able to walk home.

He teetered like a tree about to fall, and was swaying backward the minute we let go.

"Where do you live?" I asked.

He pointed with trembling, thin fingers at the condo across the street. The man with me suggested we walk this elderly man home.

I took his shopping bag, which was astonishingly heavy---somehow, this old man had carried this heavy bag full of milk cartons and cans and bread all the way to the SkyTrain and collapsed midway.

We walked, slowly, slowly, across the street. He looked too frail even to get to the crosswalk, so we crossed despite the heavy traffic in the middle of the street. Normally, when I jaywalk, it's a frightening ordeal -- cars zoom by, appearing not to see me, and I always run to avoid being hit -- but this time, I strode slowly, holding my hand up, and all the cars halted immediately to see the tiny old man, bent over backwards, struggling across.

He was 90. Perhaps Chinese, perhaps not. He kept saying, "Thank you sir, thank you" in a ghost of a voice that sounded so far away.

We arrived at his house, where he held out his jangling keys.
"This one?"

I pulled out the large gold key. He shook his head.

"This one?"

He shook his head again, and with trembling fingers, held a tiny key. I put it in the lock, and lo and behold it opened.

The middle aged man was talking on his phone in Arabic now. I could recognize a handful or words but knew so little I couldn't even start a conversation with him.

We left him, and his grocery bag, after he was home, but I can't help but wonder if we ought to have stayed longer. On the one hand I felt crippling sympathy for him, especially after seeing the awkward black stitch marks on his old, blue, cheap-looking jacket. But then, I felt gladness for him. At least someone in his life is there to sew that jacket up, perhaps a wife, perhaps a daughter with a clumsy hand. On the one hand I felt deeply sad for him that what was once probably a robust young man was now so fragile. On the other, what a great thing that he has a nice roof over his head, unlike many unlucky elderly people in Vancouver. How great to be in a home and not a senior's care facility.

On the one hand, I felt bad for him to not be able to make it down the stairs alone. On the other hand, what a power this physical weakness had: it forced people to stop, pay attention, help.

By contrast, I may feel like a seething wreck on the inside, but being relatively young and physically able, no one would ever help me -- a young, physically sound person is unqualified to ask strangers for help. Weakness forces distant, standoffish Vancouverites who normally never say hi, never talk to one another, to hold a stranger's hand and ensure he arrives home safe.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Writers and artists: private image versus public image.

I have no idea why writers (or artists) are portrayed as glamorous people sometimes in fictional novels and movies. To my knowledge they are some of the most slovenly, depleted-looking people in the world, especially when on deadline.

One of Japan's most famous manga artists, who draws impossibly pretty and fashionable high school girls and their equally fashionable and attractive boyfriends, had herself a lifestyle that was as far away from glamour as you could get. She hadn't bathed in a week at the time she was submitting her comic to the editors, and hadn't slept properly in her bed for days. I'm not sure how she was able to conjure up images of fabulously dressed girls on paper when she herself was wearing the same ratty T-shirt she slept in for two or three consecutive nights.

Thus I never trust author bio photos. They may look dressed up and made up for an interview or profile pic, but I'm guessing generally, the image on the left is more representative of what the creative person looks like at home during crunch time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014