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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friends - Tomodachi

One of my friends has been married for over five years. She has hid her marriage from her relatives. Her father was very ill and she didn’t want to shock him with the fact that she was married to an American. I understand her situation. She often traveled to Japan from the U.S to take care of her ailing father. Her father’s past away. I think her husband was very understanding to have allowed her to go to Japan so often and for such an extended period of time. Now, she goes back for her mother who already knows all the facts of her marriage. She has a closer relationship with her mother. When I heard the news that her husband was going to accompany her to Japan, I said, “That would be great. He deserves to learn more about the country where he is going to retire.” She, however, said that the marriage was still a secret because her mother wanted to have it that way. There are relatives, friends, and neighbors that don’t accept the marriage.

I was surprised to find that her husband will be required to remain undercover. The situation makes me feel uncomfortable…to know that her husband’s position is disrespected. I hid a relationship with an American when I was single. I understand how conservative Japan can be. Society can judge you and jeopardize your future, but it’s the 21st century and the marriage has been happily supported by her husband. I wonder what George would say if I did the same thing to him for several years. He would probably be very unhappy and doubt if he was good enough for me to be proud of or to stand up for.

When I had a war between my mother-in-law and myself, not once but three times, George was always on my side more than 200%. When the first war started, I had been trying to be more than the best Japanese wife by pretending to be very feminine, polite, smart, and obedient. This was a struggle since those characteristics are far from my natural character. Under stress from my mother-in-law and the American culture, I just became associated with, I screamed the B-word at her for the first time. George laughed at me and was so proud of me for showing guts by saying, “That’s my wife!” instead of being upset. I don’t cuss and I don’t allow anyone, including my husband, to use cuss words in my house. When the second war started, my mother-in-law said, “Erika, I didn’t yell at you, but at George. Why are you mad at me?” I said, “Remember, he is my husband at the same time he is your son. If you humiliate George, you humiliate me and I will back my husband 200%.” I don’t argue with my mother-in-law anymore. I just keep a safe distance until the conflict cools off. It took me one year to cool off from the third war.

I believe my friend and her husband respect each other, but it’s hard for me to picture the husband hiding in her hometown. He cannot be proudly introduced as her husband. I am sorry for him. I told the story to George and he asked, “Why don’t you tell her?” I said, “It’s none of my business as far as their relationship is okay and they are happy.” “Then why are you bothered so much?” he asked. “Because it seems disrespectful. When you call your friend a FRIEND, don’t you respect him/her as a friend?”  George said, “That’s why she can live in Japan, but you will have hard time there.” It’s very true, if she were my American friend, I would definitely open my big mouth.  

I had suffered for a long time when I was growing up in Japan. I was different from most Japanese children. I rebelled against the silly and outdated rules of Japanese society. In the U.S., I found I could be myself. I could speak my mind freely…sometimes too free. That’s one reason why I could get along with my mother-in-law, sometimes better than George. She speaks more freely than I do.  If my friends still keep me as a friend, I think I should appreciate them.

My verdict is that it’s not worth arguing about my friend’s decision. I’ll respect her way and worry about my own future in Japan.


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