Reading a 1960s literary book by last century’s most celebrated Japanese to English translator, I was struck by his use of charmingly out-dated English. Famous North American translator describes how famous Japanese Meiji writer turned his attention from geishas to “slatterns.” The setting was the start of the 20th century, and the fiction writer was making the impossible biological transition from young man to middle age.
The context made clear that the “slattern,” lacking the art of the geisha, was a barely obscured word for prostitute. What a now quaint word to denote lack of sophistication, slovenly hair and costume, and inadequate hygiene.
With this delicious new word in mind, what did I see in the JR Metro but white plastic heart-shaped high heels? Yes, the heel itself was in the shape of a valentine’s day heart with the point serving as the base of the heel. Below is the closest approximation I could find on Google images. And, trust me, somehow the white plastic was even more slattern-ish than the lucite model.
My only question is why, even in Tokyo on a hot evening, can men not signal slattern-iciousness the way ladies can and often do? Step it up, herbivores-ladies danshi-gyaruo-otomen!
As many of my readers know, I am maintaining two blogs: this one about personal interests (ranging oddly from flowers to pottery to male hair and female geeks), and another about a public policy research project sponsored by a prominent foundation and corporation. I have purposely not linked the two blogs, so as to provide more freedom for me to write candidly about my thoughts and interests in this blog.
Prior to moving to Tokyo, I have always been out. Youthful activism and a hostile academic environment shaped my professional career in unexpected ways. It is ironic that the elite academic department that blacklisted me is one that claims a dedication to cultural relativism and openness. I have no regrets, and have been able to reclaim and re-purpose my academic training into a career first in industry and now in public policy.
Creating a new life in Tokyo presents new challenges to a queer identity. With no threat of anti-gay violence in Japan, the flip side is a complete expectation of heterosexuality. And, for the first time, perhaps because of middle age, a new environment, a desire to “be harmonious,” and the sheer quantity of new people I meet every week, I feel an unfamiliar hesitation to challenge conceptions when I am asking new contacts for help and orientation.
This has led to some awkward situations for me. Continue reading long post