“All the ALTs are invited to go to an onsen.”
You can only imagine what type of horrors went through my mind as I perused the internet via a google search with the phrase: “onsen etiquette.” Onsen is Japanese for a hot spring, or a resort that has developed around a hot spring.
Now, I am not your characteristic Japanese woman. In fact, I’m not really your characteristic American woman either. For one, the average height of a Japanese woman is 5’2. Of course, even for U.S. MEN it’s only 5’10…I’m STILL taller, but only by about half an inch. Aside from being taller, I am, lets all just face it like adults, a bit rounder too. I’ve been self-conscience about my weight since I realized I was…for the sake of NOT being hit later, fluffier than most girls, and boys, my age which was around fifth grade.
ANYWAYS, I’m sure you can now grasp my moment of absolute fear, at least to some degree. Being a foreigner in Japan, I already get dirty looks, confused looks, concerned looks, non-committal looks, and of course happy looks…lets just say lots of looks. How was I going to sit on a stool, butt naked, and wash my MUCH longer, MUCH rounder body, and THEN go sit in a bath with MUCH shorter, MUCH skinner, PEARLESCENT PERFECT Japanese woman? Of course in my mind, this is how they all look.
Aside from my stranger danger senses tingling, Hayley and Angela were both going as well. I see these girls everyday. What would they think when they saw all the things I carefully hide with my clothes and a sweet smile? Would I be able to look them in the face again without feeling awkward? How many of YOUR friends have YOU seen naked?
I was freaking out. Seriously. I must have spent hours dwelling on the horrendous possibilities from being kicked out because I was a foreigner or because I had a tattoo and therefore MUST be a yakuza to being pointedly asked why I was so fat.
As one of my favorite books by Bujold goes, “the unknown breeds dragons in map margins…” And of course, all of these dragons stayed as they truly are, fantasies. I think the Japanese have a few things going for them, and onsen are one of them. While reading articles and blogs about how I should act, what I should or shouldn’t do, and horror stories of baths gone wrong, one blog writer spoke about the way an onsen allows the younger generation to see what the older actually look like under all their masks and costumes. It allows them to see the bare bones of femininity as it were, even makeup is not allowed in an onsen.
It’s a refreshing thought.
The only bodies we see in America are the ones plastered on TV ads and movie sex scenes. All plucked, prodded, lit, makeuped, airbrushed, fogged, and angled. Even though I know, as an adult woman, that these woman are a finished product, I am often made aware of my ‘failures’ at that which is the so called ‘desired woman.’ It has been, probably always will be, an uphill battle for me. A battle of what I am suppose to look like, what I want to look like, what I am capable of looking like, and what I in truth look like. Can you imagine living your life, since fifth grade, as if you knew things would always be this way? The thoughts of, “I’d never date me so why would I expect someone else to?” “This is as good as it will get…” “There’s no way he’d ever want to kiss me.” “No one will ever want to kiss me-” “-marry me.” “-love me.” Can you imagine thinking these things? Can you imaging feeling this way? Trapped in your own body? Locked in a mindset that though you want to change, feel you have no willpower to accomplish it?
Maybe I’m just a fat girl, whining. Maybe I’ve got a lot of excuses and blame. Maybe I’m just another number in some statistic.
But people suck. They hurt one another. They break each other’s confidence. They prey on one another. They do nothing at all, and isn’t it true, that this is all it takes for evil to succeed?
I may never look in the mirror and find beauty accept in momentary snatches, in madeup stolen glances. No one can truly repair the damage done to my self-image. No one accept myself. If I ever make it up that hill, it won’t be because I met some man who loves me at the midway point. It won’t be because I lost a hundred pounds and workout seven days a week, twice a day for three hours. It won’t be because I wear makeup or do my hair and wear only name brand clothes. It will be because I looked in the mirror, everyday, and told myself it is so.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
You should write a book about your experiences in Japan. It would sell like crazy! You are beautiful, my dear. You and me, we can’t help we were supposed to be born in ancient Greece or Rome with our voluptuous figures. (I’m plump, just in a compact form.) Girl, just strip everything off and act like you own the place. Degas did not paint curvy women bathing for no reason – he did it because they’re beautiful.
Man I miss you! It would be a lot of fun to hear stories if Boston from you and listen to your opinions about Japan. Who knows, maybe I’ll gather all the posts together one day and see what I can get. Thank you Arielle. You are a lovely woman as well. I always thought so. 🙂 I’m going to check out Degas! Maybe he was onto something!