Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Disorganized American in Exile Rant

"Personally, I don't think very well about things that I haven't actually touched. For example, I can't enter into conversations with philosophers when they're talking without examples. I have to say, "Give me an example of that concept," and then I can get inside and think. And that's just a drawback of being me, maybe."

- Anne Carson
What is the drawback of being me? The bad PR of being an American woman. In Japan as an exchange student in college this meant a lot of attention from drunk businessmen in their late 50s. Who had watched too many American films in which the lead female role goes to bed with the first man she meets on camera.

I had never been around drunk people before. I had never been accosted by anyone. It was appalling to me. Embarrassing. "Hey baby. Blonde hair." I have brown hair. I could understand what they were saying to each other in Japanese. Once I told them to shut up using a very direct colloquial language. It scared the crap out of them.

No. Those weren't the old men. They were boys on bicycles, not the old men. The old men were never scared. Everything I did was exotic.

The drawback of being me.

I joined the music club at college, but I quit after one day when I found out that the band, which had old dented crappy instruments decided to by a new beer refrigerator with their surplus funds. Also one of the boys in the band made me very uncomfortable by trying to get his girlfriend to admit that western eyes were so much more beautiful than asian eyes and then naturally he wanted her to say that my eyes were so much more beautiful than hers.

A seventeen-year old boy in the English class I taught developed a crush on me. I had no idea until the week I was leaving. He never said anything in class. I mean he never said ANYTHING in class. Which was awkward becuase it was an English conversation class.

In that final week he had his mom call my host mom to ask if he could see me off. I thought, fine. He can come wave at the train. I was taking a train from Osaka to Tokyo and then flying home to Minnesota.

But no. He planned to take the train with me to Tokyo and from there he would fly home. Very odd. But by then I had already agreed. He still said nothing. All the way to Tokyo. But he carried my luggage, which was nice. He sent me a few creepy letters about visiting the states.

Exotic foreigner.

A drawback of being me.

I'm so not used to being exotic. There's something very freeing about being of Scandinavian descent in the land of the Norse in Exile. I can blend in. I am not approached on the street. I am unremarkable. These are not drawbacks. In my introversion I enjoy the annonymity.

My relatives left Sweden to come here when my grandparents were children. I have been back to Sweden with my mother, who is now taking Swedish lessons. When she travels, she is one of those people who puts a Canadian flag on her lapel. We live in Minnesota. We can pass.

I nearly grew up in Canada, but my dad had high blood pressure and an extra bone in his foot which they discovered when he went in for his draft physical.

My mom was at home packing her bags for possible flight across the border. They were in Ithaca, New York at the time.