Thursday, March 03, 2005

Let's Asking Originally!

I've spent the last six days reading through the comments on this post on Chez Miscarriage.

Wow. For two reasons, wow. One, that people dish out flak like that. Two, that I actually read through the whole thing.

I was going to post a comment of my own, but since it was somewhat off-topic, I thought I'd just post it here.

Some people commented on the distinction between a true "drive-by" and insipid questions or observations. By the time people had started bringing this point up, I was already noticing the trend myself. While some suffered at the hands of egregiously insensitive people, others complained about nothing more than hearing the same things over and over again, and getting sick of providing the same answers.

Story of my life. Or, at least, the last eight years of my life.

When I was finishing high school, conversations always seemed to go,
What college are you going to?
What are you going to major in?
Oh, physics! That's hard. I could never do that.
... Okay.

When I started college, it was,
How do you like college?
I like it fine.
What are you majoring in again?
Oh, physics! You must be smart. I could never do that.
... Okay.

When I was finishing college, it was,
Are you going to grad school?
Not right away.
What kind of job are you looking for?
I'm not sure yet.
You know, I'll bet you could teach.
Yep. I bet I could.

After I graduated from college and was working part time, it was,
So, have you found a job yet?
Not yet. Promise I'll tell when I do.
You know, I'll bet you could teach.

After I found out I was going to Japan, it was,
Tell me again when you're leaving for Japan?
July 24th I fly out of JFK.
You're going there to teach physics, right?
No... they have their own physicists there.
You must be excited.

When I arrived in Japan, it was,
Do you use chopsticks?
[brief demonstration]
You are very good at using chopsticks.
Thank you.
Are you accustomed to Japan?
A little.

When I went home for Christmas, it was,
... What?
Ah. Ohayou gozaimasu.
How's Japan?

The problem with the curt answers I sometimes give, out of sheer boredom with the conversation, is that they turn people off. Sometimes that's okay, as most of the offenders are friends of my parents and I feel no obligation to maintain anything more than a superficial relationship with most of them. But during the holidays I met up with people I liked whom I hadn't seen in months, and the only thing they could come up with was, "How's Japan?" I think some of them may have interpreted my Emilyesque "Japanerrific" reply as a desire to end the conversation, but closer to my true motivations was that I was simply trying to reflect the nature of their question in my own answer.
How's Japan?
Okay. Economy's good, but the birthrate's down. Koizumi's brought in an entirely new cabinet to boost his party's popularity.

And I'm sure that's not what you want to hear.
Work with me, people! Ask specific questions!
Before I flew home, I was reading on BigDaikon about how most JETs who had moved back home had learned that it was best if they didn't talk about their experiences in Japan unless asked directly—I'm sure this goes for anyone who has lived overseas. Most of their friends and family were curious at first, but quickly lost interest because their experiences over the last few years had had so little in common with the JET's experiences in Japan. So, for the most part, I tried to keep my mouth shut unless I was asked. This was a big mistake. I was only home for three weeks: I should have blabbed about Japan non-stop until everyone was sick of my company. The thing is, I don't know where to start, because everyone's curious about different things. That's where you come in. Wanna see my visa? My foreigner identification card? Some Japanese cash? I'm happy to play show and tell.
But please, for the love of heated toilet seats, don't resort to, "How's Japan?"


Anonymous said...

So Emily, how's it like being a girl?


Oh, that must be hard. I could never do that.

(apathetic affirmation)


(It's OVER!)

vanlal said...


So. Is Koizumi ever going to cut his hair?

Emily Watkins said...

Koizumi had better leave his hair JUST THE WAY IT IS, if he knows what's good for him.

I heart Koizumi's hair.

Jason H. said...

Em -

First - how'd you get the nifty visitor counter at the bottom of the page?

Second - damn! I thought I was bored some nights... You read all 300+ comments about Mommy drive-bys??? I say again, Damn!

Third - I feel you on those questions. I'm really hoping I can cope with the barage I'll get when I first go home. Of course, I have my own list that deals with being a JET over 30-years-old - I'll have to post them sometime soon. Good post!