An American Geisha

In one month Christina and I will be in the land of the rising sun – Japan. We will be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Hiroshima, Osaka, and Yakahana; all of this in 15 memorable and most likely exhausting days. Several city tours are scheduledalong with days for relaxation and days for cultural experiences. One of the most quintessential components of Japanese culture is the Geisha. When we are in Kyoto – the cultural center of Japan – Christina is going to get to experience what it is like to dress up like a geisha. She will get to pick out a kimono and wear the traditional white makeup and black wig. I almost even signed up for the “samurai” experiencebut thought $150 was overkill to hold a sword and wear a robe.

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It’s funny to see pictures of white tourists dressed as geishas – it’s like a culturally insensitive Halloween party. Even though it looks odd for a white woman to be a geisha, there was actually an American woman who entered this veiled world back in the 1970’s. Liza Dalby was the only foreigner ever to become a geisha, and she details her experience in the Nonfiction/Memoir-Geisha. Dalby became a geisha as an anthropologist researcher; she wanted to accurately understand and dispel the myths associated with this secretive world. If you ever go to Japanread this book because the world of a geisha is a microcosm of Japanese culture.

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The first geishas appeared in the 18th century and were actually male entertainers. Eventually, men were replaced by women and by the beginning of the 19th century, the job of a geisha was seen as a female occupation. Geishas were revered in society as fashion forward and socially influential, like we see celebrities today. The role of a geisha was to entertain male patrons through witty conversation, dancing, singing, and instrument playing. The white makeup that a geisha wears initially accentuated their expressions and performances in dimly lit rooms before the advent of electricity. As time went on, the geishas maintained their makeup and kimonos because their traditional look was a sacred treasure to a nostalgic Japan. Before WWII, it was common for rural families to sell their daughters to geisha houses. These young girls would apprentice for several years before mastering all the artistic skills of the profession.

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With modernization, this practice stopped and the geisha of today join the business in their 20’s – the artistic requirements are not as strenuous due to changing tastes of clientele. The geisha’s job is to provide men (sometimes women) with a relaxing atmosphere where they can laugh, discuss, and enjoy picturesque entertainments. Japanese culture is very different from western culture in respects to the role of the wife. Wives in Japan are seen as modest mothers who are masters of the house – interactions with husbands are usually more serious and formal. The role of the geisha is to provide the other side of femininity – gracefulness, joking, and innocent flirtation. Geisha are not prostitutes and rarely have sex with their patrons. Of course, geishas can have sex with their clients, but it would be like visiting a bar expecting to have sex with a bartender.

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Geishas usually live together in a tea house which is led by a “mother.” The mother is a retired geisha who trains, mentors, and organizes the various patron requests. The profession of a geisha can be lucrative and long lived for women in Japan – geishas can work for decades if they choose. Many Americans see the career of a geisha as demeaning towards women. In reality being a geisha in Japan allows women the rare opportunity to run their affairs and escape the restrictions associated with raising a family – when they interact with men they are respected to a much higher degree compared to other service jobs. Geishas are revered as talented artists, stewards of culture, and educated conversationalists.

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There is no equivalent occupation in America. An American style geisha would probably be a well-educated woman who lived in a sorority house and entertained (maybe with a fiddle) while wearing high quality “wild west” garb. Making comparisons is impossible, but it allows one to understand the true idiosyncrasies of the profession. While in Japan I want to see a geisha, and hopefully, we will witness some walking in the streets of Kyoto; it costs $450 per person as a tourist to be entertained by a geisha. I’ll just try to sneak a dance with Christina after her transformation 🙂

Pride and Prejudice

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
-Jane Austin Pride and Prejudice

There are some books out there which never seemed imaginable for my reading list; one of which was always Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin – my 6th classic. Jane Austin always seemed like the ultimate kryptonite to male ego. No man could dive into a Jane Austin book and come out with any remaining masculinity. It’s like accidentally using Vagisil Body Wash when taking a shower and then going through the day questioning the existence of your gender; requiring a impromptu Civil War reenactment to reverse any damage. I actually bought Pride and Prejudice at Barnes and Noble which was a big mistake. Buying this book was kinda like buying a dirty magazine – eye contact at checkout being a nonnegotiable. What made matters worse was the fact that I had to ask this little old lady to find a copy for me. Like a scene in some twisted comedy, she had to announce over the intercom, “I need help finding Pride and Prejudice for this nice young man.” We ended up spending the next 30 minutes navigating the store to find a copy that didn’t have a cover designed specifically for hipster feminists. I finally settled on a bright blue copy which was the closest thing to a “manly” version – the old lady quickly ruined this triumph with the words, “oh how cute, my daughter has the same one.” The shame I felt climaxed at the counter when the clerk asked me why I was reading it – my answer was that it was for an “all-female book club.”

Pride and Prejudice was written in 1813 and was a critique of the “Sentimental” novels of the mid-18th century. The Sentimental novels usually focused on the power of emotions over reason – many times in relation to marriage. Austen, in Pride and Prejudice, questions the advantages of marriage and questions the “pride” and “prejudice” between different classes of people. Early 19th century England was all about social distinction, manners, and status. The main characters of the novel continually are judging themselves in relation to others and questioning the proper ways to interact. Marriages are based not on love but rather upward mobility – women with small dowries seeking rich men and poor handsome men seeking wealthy-spinster women. The novel starts out like an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians but actually ends up being pretty captivating by the end; the journey to becoming married is not straightforward and not always a sure thing. Many times, I found myself rooting for a couple but then being surprised by plot twists which totally changed my outlook – highlighting my own prejudices. This novel is not just about romance but rather our human nature to judge others. It also speaks to our stubbornness to accept wrong doing and the barriers that pride presents in our daily interactions. It was actually a great novel that dissolved my long standing pride and prejudice towards Jane Austin. We always need to be reminded to not judge a book by its cover – maybe I’ll go back to Barnes and Noble for the more feminine cover.

 

Is 27 Old?

Today’s my wife’s birthday and she is turning 27 years old. The last few days have been interesting because she has been obsessed with health documentaries on Netflix. Along with the documentaries, I started to notice her piqued face during wrinkle-cream commercials. My wife is like a small-skittish bird that needs to be closely observed in her natural habitat. I started to put the pieces together and put on my explorer cap – diving into the quagmire of the female brain – I discovered that she feels OLD. To better understand this thought, I tried to step into her shoes. The world as a woman sucks – plain and simple. Men have it easy for a million reasons. Men never have to worry about wrinkles. No man ever put on wrinkle cream. Most men embrace their wrinkles as a badge of honor, “I like those forehead wrinkles…you look like Clint Eastwood.” The same goes for the gut. The gut on men is standard practice and usually denotes some state of maturity. When a guy doesn’t have a gut you usually wonder if he is sick or has cancer. Men also don’t have to put on makeup or do weird things to their hair. I literally wake up 15 minutes before work, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and slither into my car half asleep. Christina’s morning routine is similar to the preparation needed for Good Morning America. There are lights, fans, and I swear ten people in the bathroom getting her ready for over an hour. Men also don’t have periods, don’t have babies, and don’t have to wear bras.

Society is too harsh on women. When I watch TV there are so many commercials of beautiful women advertising some “must need” product. Do you have split ends? You might as well be Chewbacca. Is your moisture barrier crap? You might as well be a human lizard? Are you five pounds overweight? You might as well be on My 600 Pound Life. Marketers are very good at making up products for women to buy. Does anyone really like whitened teeth? Who in their right mind is comparing the brightness of their teeth to a napkin? All of these social pressures make for a bittersweet birthday experience. Christina is not old and shouldn’t feel like her beauty is diminishing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think my wife is sexier than ever. If you are a woman, please take a moment to give yourself a compliment. Don’t focus on the negatives because you want to know the most attractive trait? Confidence. There is nothing sexier than a woman who owns her age, her body, and her personality. To all my women readers, I’m going to tell you a secret about men. We don’t care about split ends, arm fat, black heads, or even wrinkles. In respects to sexual arousal, men care about the big picture – boobs and butt. In respects to general attraction, men care about confidence and personality. Just be you and don’t let society push you around. Once you embrace your true strengths you will never dread another birthday again – or even a wrinkle.

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The Two Income Trap

What happened to the idea that a wife would stay home and care after the house while the husband would be the bread winner? Well, feminism extricated women from their historic-domestic role and starting in the 1970’s women began to flood the workforce with fervor. I am all for women getting equal rights and being allowed to strap on the business suit and sit in a cubicle all day. My nagging question is why the reverse scenario wasn’t afforded to men? Sure, men can technically stay home and let their wife be the bread winner but I find it not nearly as socially acceptable. In the US at least, I find that woman are supported if they desire a career or a domestic title. A woman in the workforce can still be feminine and is viewed as strong, ambitious, intelligent, etc. A woman who stays at home, to take care for her family, can still be feminine and is viewed as strong, caring, nurturing, etc. How is a man viewed who stays at home to take care of domestic manners? I would say that he may be looked at as less masculine, lazy, lacking ambition, and weak. Sure there are exceptions to what people believe but I am talking about the general societal views that are brought up behind closed doors. The reason I bring these points up are two fold: firstly, I think it is important to identify that we do not need two income households, and secondly, we need to rethink what true masculinity represents.

You are probably thinking, “Jon what the frick, we need all the money we can get and are scrapping by with two incomes!” You probably are scrapping by, but that is because of spending habits and the life you created more than the actual amount of money you need. The two income trap is that you end up spending most of the money you make and hence build a lifestyle that corresponds to your dual income level. Think about if you had your pay cut in half. You would change your spending habits and adjust your lifestyle. I challenge both women and men to think about how they can cut the amount of time they spend working and readjust their lives to do the things they truly love to do. Men, I am reaching out to you and asking to rethink what masculinity truly means. Masculinity is not defined by the amount of money you make or the amount of respect you receive from a title. True masculinity is being secure in your own faculties so you can be the best lover, friend, mentor, son, and father. To anyone interested in the concept of the why two incomes is not beneficial I would recommend reading The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren. I know I had two points in this post but they are really related. Women and especially men need to let go of perceived societal norms, support lives that tout relationships over greed, and realize that life can be so much more fulfilling then the rat-race. I end with the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” 95% of people I have asked this said they would quit their job’s immediately.

Feminism Inc: Specializing in Sperm and Egg Separation since 1970

At current, there is a tidal wave of Generation X females who are trying to have children but are realizing that they waited too long and are now infertile. This issue is addressed in the book The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Tanya Selvaratnam; I picked this book up because I wanted to broaden my masculine outlook on the world. Tanya is a vagina-wielding feminist who waited till she was in her late 30’s to try to have kids and subsequently had 3 miscarriages and an unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF). She pursued her career through her 20’s and 30’s and didn’t want to sacrifice her professional status for the necessities of raising a family. The feminist movement of the 1960’s/70’s made her, and many of her fellow friends, look at their mother’s domesticity as a prison sentence and men as the guards who got to leave for the freedom of the office.

Now, in 2015, there are a myriad of women trying to have babies in their 30’s and 40’s who are confronted with the fact that their uterus’ are dried up and not working. The chance of conceiving a child at age 15 is between 40-50%, at age 35 between 15-20%, and at age 45 between 3-5%. Additionally, a female has a finite number of eggs with 300,000-400,000 at the first period, 39,000-52,000 by age 30 and 9,000-12,000 by age 40; along with the decreased number of eggs there is an increased number that have chromosomal abnormalities which increase the risks for miscarriages and genetic disorders. So the big lie that Tanya writes about is that women can do what they want on their own time tables. This lie was made popular by procedures like IVF which created the allusion that having children later in life was a realistic possibility. The unfortunate truth is that IVF has a very low success rate; the averages fall below that of the natural conception averages which were listed above. Assisted Reproductive Technology, in general, is usually not covered by insurance (unless you live in select states), creates a huge strain on relationships (women were cited saying IVF was more stressful then their divorces), and can result in unnatural frequency of twins, triplets, or octomoms. 

IVF has allowed countless families to have children but the author’s point is that it shouldn’t be used as a realistic family-planning option. Women need to ask themselves if they want children, and if they do, then they need to seriously think about their biological clocks. I believe that family and relationships should come before a career. Women and men in their 20’s should not preoccupy themselves with the pursuit of money and status but rather the pursuit of finding someone to share their lives with. My beef with feminism is that it created (not on purpose) a negative image of the house wife and of women who chose to have a kid instead of pursuing a career. Taking care of a child or fostering the love of a family is the greatest undertaking a human being can pursue. I believe that both men and women should make their top priority the harboring of relationships-having a child is the great example of this. There are compromises to be had, and I think that you can have a career and a family. A man can stay home and raise the kids, a woman can work remotely from home, a couple can downsize expenses and both work part time, etc. If you are in your 20’s, and you know you want a baby one day, get your finances in place; the latest I would wait is 30 to start trying to conceive. If you are older or do not have a spouse, look into freezing your eggs as early as possible. Go on eHarmony or match.com and stop waiting for someone to fall out of the sky. Put the pursuit of relationships first and foremost in your life because you will never find satisfaction in the pursuit of power, money, or status.

What are your thoughts on feminism? How should people plan for their future family? What values should we put as our top priorities?