Where is the line?

My eyeballs need cocaine

The line that is not to be crossed.

It’s interesting, this notion of a hard limit. Every time I think, “I would/could never _______,” I am proven so, so wrong. I think the universe must have many a field day as I eat such rigidly constructed mantras on a regular basis.

I said I would never live in the South.
I spent eleven years in Memphis, TN.

I said I wasn’t into women.
I was in a lesbian relationship for ten years.

I said I would never, could never cheat on someone.
I cheated.

I told my ex-girlfriend I was not heterosexual, bisexual because of my history but totally gay from here on out.
I haven’t chosen to date a girl since we broke up.

I said I would never join finances again.
Of course I did.

I told her, “No way,” to open relationships; that’s a deal-breaker.
Totally tried it in hopes of making the relationship work.

I will never live in Japan.
Yeah, like that didn’t happen.

I didn’t think I would date a transsexual.
Best thing I’ve done yet.

At this rate I should be living in Los Angeles, practicing yoga on the daily and equipped with a station wagon full of kids in the next five years.
And a dog.

random love

This is not crossdressing…

Truth or tact

or is it?

Some men wear bras.
In the everyday.
They say for physical and psychological comfort.
I think the psychological comfort in the vein of security and safety trumps the physical.
In short, they wear them because they want to.

Here’s my source.

On the one hand I think, so men wear bras…and?
Who cares, right?
Except anything that defies the majority thinking regarding traditional gender roles is fascinating to me, especially since my most recent relationship witnessed crossing gender boundaries and then some.

Someone said in the JapanToday article, “…this shouldn’t be a problem since men and women are supposed to be equal.”
I couldn’t agree more and yet I’m still curious as to the why.
Perhaps it’s because I’m completely cisgender (I so identify in my physical female self) that I’m very interested in the male processing.

But as I think about it, is it any different than the underwear women who aren’t so cisgender choose?  I’m not so fascinated when I know a woman prefers boy shorts/boxers/briefs and avoids underwire, padded, push-up, lacy, satiny ‘torture devices’. Yet men in bras fill me with curiosity and more than a few questions.

And it’s not a gay thing.

There’s still that annoyingly inaccurate and immediate ‘must be gay’ shout-out whenever anything remotely deviates from traditional gender roles.
Gotta love that insistent mentality that is so dismissive, ignorant and dated.
Get with it, people; meaning- think smarter.

So is it any more or less different?
Not really.

Then why do I get the feeling that when it’s found out that a guy wears bras, it’s a deal breaker?
IS it a deal breaker?

When my BF turned into GF, that was a deal breaker because I’m not so much a lesbian.
But if he just had a thing for bras would it have been?
I don’t think so.
Well…if he bought his own.

relationshipping, trans talk

How The Two Became One or Sorry I Can’t Tell a Short Story

(Guest post written by Seralyn for Rumi’s 50th post!)

We awoke to a rather auspicious sunrise, at the far-too-early hour of 7 a.m.

“What manner of person rises at such an hour?” I thought to myself. It didn’t help that I had only fallen asleep a mere two hours before. Bleary-eyed and stumbling, I made my way to the shower room to take what, in hindsight, felt like the Fastest Shower Ever. I believe the shower totaled something like 4 1/2 minutes. You see, a goodly portion of my normal routine had been omitted when the need to cross-dress for this event arose. Can you imagine the legal necessity of cross-dressing for such an occasion? I find it difficult to believe myself. Upon exiting the shower, I’m greeted by an unusually bubbly and perky Rumi-chan. Seeing her demeanor and flippant disregard for the unseemly hour brightened both my mood and my consciousness.

Without thinking, I began to form outfit options in my mind’s eye.

“Oh, right. Boy clothes,” I remembered.

Where did I even put that stuff? After rummaging around in the back and bottom of a drawer, I discovered my sole forgotten pair of guy jeans. At least they turned out to be skinny jeans. It could have easily been the case that I ended up with those denim harem pants that guys call jeans these days. I found a black T-shirt and went in search of a reasonable top shirt. I locate a military-style button up that hasn’t been worn in over a year. Being that it’s literally the only option, I toss it on top of my bag. “There’s no way I’m wearing this any longer than necessary,” I think to myself. Perhaps it seems I’m being over-dramatic in my distaste for such things(It’s only clothes, right?), but I can’t help but feel strange and at odds with myself as I put it on. At least it’s a simple affair.

Shoes? This is normally the most fun part of getting ready for me. I happen to be addicted to fun shoes, you may or may not know. Straps, platforms, wedges, booties, heels- yes! Gimme, gimme, gimme. Hum… pumps with this outfit are a no-go. Hi-top leather sneakers it is. Once again, my only choice.

Time for hardware. Even as a guy I was oft bespeckled to what was considered a reasonable, if somewhat flowery degree[by some]. I break out and dust off the metalwork rings and fabulous Swiss armpiece given to me by Rumi two Xmases prior. How that particular watch came to be in my possession is another fun and interesting story, involving a trip to Brooklyn from Philadelphia and an extremely trusting Hasidic Jewish man; one we’ll perhaps relate another day. At this point, I’m fully ready and it’s been all of seven minutes post-shower. I glance over at Rumi, who is still working her eyeliner like a champ. I release a sigh. She can read me like a book after these years we’ve been together, and quickly senses that I wish that I too could get glamified for the occasion. She comforts me with meaningful and poignant comments along the lines of, “When we do this for real, you’ll have the most fabulous eye-make up imaginable,” and “We’ll get you some serious heels and a killer dress for the actual thing”. She makes me smile. She always could.

Once she’s finished the primping-stage she retreats to the tatami room and proceeds to finish getting ready while I poke around on the computer. She asks for my opinion, so I turn around and find myself in awe of how beautiful she looks. Resplendent in a white day dress(that was my idea, thank you very much!) and some vintage wooden platform sandals, she stops me in my tracks. After I ogle her for what was probably an indecent amount of time, we decide that we are ready. Documents gathered and in-hand, we do what any self-respecting couple-to-be would and shoot some whiskey before heading out the door. We’re getting married after all.

On the way to the train station we complete the necessary steps to procure the guilty pleasure that will supposedly counterbalance the trail of paperwork we’re about to attempt to surmount and get some McDonald’s Egg and Cheese McMuffins. While waiting for the train, I catch myself in the mirror and somewhat startle myself. I really haven’t gone out in public like this, dressed like this at all, in so long. I shrug it off and decide to start shooting video with which to remember this historic occasion. Rumi and I talk into the iPhone camera, blabbing nonsensically as our whiskey takes effect, in what we’ll later regard as a silly and endearing way.

Train ride- 3 minutes.

While waiting for our two witnesses,  we discuss exactly how far away from the pile of trash bags waiting to be picked up we should stand and I greedily consume my McMuffin as Rumi enjoys her whiskey buzz. Our witnesses arrive. They seem surprised to be given McMuffins as well. This pleases me. We walk to the Toshima Ward Office. Directly outside the building I pull my pants’ legs down and put on my shirt. Inside, we go.

Once inside, after locating the appropriate counter, we’re served up nearly immediately, only to realize that we need more time to fill out parts of documents that we previously needed guidance with. Four more groups of people go in front of us as we try to get our witnesses’ information filled in, in Kanji, in the appropriate spaces. It is all very confusing. We finally manage to achieve a state of seeming harmony with the application and approach the counter. We hand the lady the form, our passports, secondary forms, a copy of Rumi’s Family Registry(think Birth Certificate) and a few other peripheral documents. They ask for the original Family Registry. I of course brought it, but think there must be some mistake, because she’s implying that she wants to take it and not give it back. “But this is the original,” I explain to her. She insists that she understands, and that’s how this works. Rumi and I are baffled, and somewhat concerned but figure that this is just how this is to go down. Little did we realize that they’re permanently taking this document away that’s been in her possession since the 70’s, because she’s being un-registered from her family, that she’s creating A New Family Registry. This was a little scary for us.

They finally felt satisfied with what we gave them and disappeared and reappeared intermittently to have us scratch through errant pen marks that could potentially be misconstrued for some other character or to add things they felt should be there. My favorite was when they brought forms back just so I could circle a character. They knew exactly which character needed to be circled and yet they had to make sure I circled it.

Fast forward a bit and we’ve finally sent the witnesses off and get ushered to two other counters. We’re filling out some sort of Certificate of Official Confirmation of Residence(if I can read the characters correctly) when the woman at the counter asks us for our insurance information.

“Yeah, about that…” we say, “we don’t have any.”

She misunderstands and thinks that we mean that we are one of those odd and rare people who pays for private health insurance when the National Health Insurance works just fine and is cheaper.

“No, we don’t have any insurance at all.” we repeat.

“You’re not …in…any insurance program?” She seems somewhat taken aback.

“Actually, we are not.” we inform her.

She asks us to go and sit down and wait for her to call us back up. Rumi and I go sit down and begin trying to guess what the other people around us are there for.

“Those two….getting married, y’think?”

“Maybe…or maybe she’s translating for him. Hmm…” Rumi opines.

They sit down near us. I use my uncanny stealth-spy skills to try listening to what they’re saying. The Japanese girl pulls out her phone and I see a picture of the two of them on the front, faces close.

“They’re totally getting married today too,” I whisper to Rumi. She nods sagely.

At this point our whiskey buzz has worn off and I’m acutely feeling my lack of sleep. I doze intermittently and only vaguely recall the woman coming back over more than once asking, “You really don’t have any insurance?? You’re sure?” A few more noddings off and head-jerks awake we get called over and are told that we’re done here and to go upstairs for insurance registration.

Fast forward through insurance registration, yet another counter, yet another consultation and form, the meaning of which we only vaguely understand- maybe?– and we’re finally done. Actually done. We share a series of curious and utterly unique, yet entirely familiar sequences of facial expressions, and although we desire greatly to go directly to a bar, Rumi has to go teach some Japanese people how to speak English for a few hours. We part ways.

After a quick jaunt through a cookie store, the subway, and a nap which was entirely too short and perhaps more disorienting than if I had stayed awake, she returns and I kidnap her for a string of establishment-hopping. After another shot of whiskey, of course. First, I whisk us to a Yakiniku place on our street that we’ve always wanted to go to, but never have been able to. Yakiniku literally translates to “grilled meat”, but it’s one of those little charcoal braziers with a vacuum tube over it where you grill your own marinated meat and eat it right off of the grill. Next is a stop at our neighborhood Okonomiyaki pub, which is especially delicious in the way of these things. This fellow employs more than the standard Japanese flavors and ingredients in his savory dinner pancakes that are full of chopped octopus, garlic and ginger. Finally we try to go to a sushi place, but decide after we see the line that perhaps we’re not still hungry.

It was time for sweets.

I then lead her to our new artisanal western-goods import store recently completed over our train station and we get a healthy wedge of Roquefort and a couple of pastry cream-filled chocolate eclairs.

We stumble back home. What happened after that is none of your damned business.

IMG_3381IMG_3384 IMG_3385 IMG_3392 IMG_3394 IMG_3398 IMG_3405 IMG_3406

about Japan

My eyeballs need cocaine.

My eyeballs need cocaine

I have been fighting this horrible sinus infection for a few days where not only am I congested and suffering from rough-grit sandpaper throat, my eyeballs have been snotting green mucus.  It’s pretty terrible because if the mucus clouds aren’t sporadically rendering me blind, they are leaking out the corners of my eyes and making me wear hurtful crusty eyeliner as a result.  Gross.  And ouch.

Which reminds me of working with my Japanese friend at Toraya* (a fancy-schmance Japanese tea room) on the Upper East Side many, many years ago.  I don’t know how we started talking about cocaine but we did.
And his take on the drug:
JF: It can be really helpful.
Me: Really?
JF: Ya, eye doctors use it all the time in Japan.  It stops pain very fast.  It’s very good.  You don’t have that in America?
Me: I don’t know…I haven’t been to the eye doctor for really bad eye pain.  I haven’t heard of anyone getting cocaine eye drops; most people here use it to get high.
JF: nodding pensively…Ya, in Japan too.

So I’m sitting on my tatami floor, squinting at the screen through swollen eyelids and thinking those coke drops would be really useful about now.  Actually, any Japanese eye drops would do the trick; they are marketed like Jolt cola was back, back in the day.  Working your twelfth hour of overtime this week, and it’s Monday?  These drops of liquid menthol and speed will carry you through hour 32, no problem!

My current state of misery might trump my childhood memory of wanting to claw my eyeballs out from the very wrong burning sensation caused by said drops.  My uncle promised the drops would give my tired, red eyes soothing relief.  Said uncle also survived on three hours of sleep, woke up every morning at 5:00 without fail to start his exercise routine and worked seventy hours a week at one company for his entire work life.  Why would I trust this crazy person?  Well, I was nine.

The hypochondriac in me thinks I’m growing cataracts as my vision won’t clarify, no matter how many times I blink.
Yep, time to revisit that memory and see if this time I won’t welcome the fiery, mentholated sensation of crack drops.

*Sadly, post-9/11 Toraya had to shut its beautiful brownstone doors.

about Japan

You are a slutpuppy

You are a slutpuppy

if you show your condoms.
That’s what Japanese guys think.
(This is strictly hetero as people here aren’t too open about sexual gay politics on the real but I’m working on honesting that relevant and interesting part of Japanese life).

Yeah, they don’t think you’re responsible. They aren’t appreciative of your efforts to prevent STDs and pregnancy. They think that you’re a total slutpuppy, regardless of how darn cute you are or how much they want to do you. As my fiercely independent acquaintance succinctly summed it up, “They don’t like it.” And if they don’t have one? Then there’s (usually) no sexing. Apparently, the guys are okay with being 100% responsible for the condoms, which is simultaneously sweet and sexist to me.

On a side note, 1 in 4 women (or 3, depending on your stat source) have had abortions here because that’s way more socially acceptable than being on the pill (which was legalized in 1999). Wanting a birth control script isn’t as difficult as it was a decade ago but not all doctors will write one and all are low-dosage. Heck, prior to 1999, the pill was only available for menstrual disorders, not birth control, which meant they were extremely high hormone doses that were probably proven to feed and cause cancer.

Weird, right? At least to an American who’s used to abortion being such a reliable hot topic and waaay more stigmatizing than taking birth control.

If you’re the type that like facts and figures, check out details here.

Many Japanese guys also sum up having a girlfriend in a word: 面倒くさい (めんどくさいor men•doku•sai)
Literally it translates to: annoying, tiresome, troublesome, you get the idea.
Really what the guys mean is this: bitches be hi-may so no thanks.
And the ladies are none too impressed with their attitude as they think guys these days are emotionally weak and immature.

This plays a huge part as to why folks here aren’t getting married so much or not until way later in life and they sure as hell aren’t having kids.

about Japan, random love

I own this bitch, y’all

I own this bitch y'all

and she’s purtier and easier.

It’s makeover day, which means I have a new header and domain, which is: (faster to type than with that wordpress thing in the middle).  

This domain is mine…hooray.  Y’all are really fucking sweet and encouraging so I thought, hell, might as well own this for real.  So let’s see what kind of trouble and embarrassment I can recollect and get into over the next 12 months.  I guarantee shenanigans that meet various degrees of disapproval, foreign discomfort, some more emotional paralysis (and growth) and some plain dumb shit because I have a knack of doing some really dumb shit.

For instance:
It’s hot here.  Really fucking hot.  It’s the equivalent of 95+°F, I haven’t stopped sweating for 13 days (and counting) and the oppressive heat is literally suffocating me (I crane my neck upwards on the sardine trains to catch air- not exaggerating) and killing old people.  Which is why weather-appropriate food is de rigueur here.

Cold-on-cold foods like cool soba or somen dipped in refreshingly chilled broth (freshly grated ginger is an especially nice addition) is typical summertime grub.  Noodles here are seriously delicious; the texture is amazing and Japan has probably destroyed my standards for the rest of the world.

So my friend and I are moaning about the heat, looking for a place to eat…
My friend: Oh, look at this.
Me: Oooh…pork shabu-shabu?!  I’ve never had that…
MF: Well, that decides it then.

I am so excited.  I’ve had beef shabu but not pork because America is scared of serving beautiful, paper-thin slices of raw pork cooked tableside in a vat of boiling water with herbaceous veggies and tofu.

We sit, order beers and my friend’s body temp has mysteriously risen for being inside.  Strange.  He immediately asks the server to turn down the AC; I can tell from the eyes that are cut that it’s not going to happen.  I feel bad because he’s dressed all Tokyo proper from fancy-pants work meetings.

And we are stupid.  Because shabu-shabu entails sitting nano-inches away from a steaming hot-pot where we boil meat for hours.  Wait, that sounded weird.  The meal takes hours (and the veggies are simmering the entire time) but the individual slices of pork-cook only lasts a few seconds because the gorgeous cuts are sliced so pretty-skinny.  Once it’s cooked to your preferred doneness, get you some delicate greens and dip in yum sauce/broth.  Basically, shabu is quality ingredients at their best…mmm.

My friend asks the server to turn down the AC again and annoyed dude is looking at us like, are you for real?  You’re eating cold weather food in the middle of a heat wave and we’re still in energy-conservation mode from the earthquake, fuckers.  He is so not turning the shit down.  I point out the words I see in server’s head and my friend is like, right…we’re the ijiots who have chosen to subject ourselves to a pork steambath.

Yes we are.

But these are my people: damn fools who, in their excitement to share a new experience with me, abandon foresight and suffer sweating balls for hours.

I love when I find my people as they are the best.  Like y’all.
Seriously, thank you for the love and support.


about Japan

This is my brain

This is my brain

not on pot.  In Japan.

I guess my brain art doesn’t really indicate a sober state.  It’s some emotional hormones, whiskey, fried bird wing and…what the fuck am I writing?

THIS: Pot is seriously illegal in Japan.

Here’s what, according to Japan Today:

Japan’s marijuana laws are not their own. The Cannabis Control Act, implemented by the U.S. in 1948 to legitimize its own anti-pot legislation, is in direct opposition to hundreds of years of cannabis use in Japan. No, the Japanese weren’t sitting around, red-eyed and playing Ben Harper songs on a shamisen, but they were making clothing, rope and bowstrings from hemp and using cannabis in Shinto ceremonies. The harsh view of marijuana in Japan is the result of the American laws; it was never the impetus behind them. If the U.S. has so radically changed its own stance on medicinal marijuana, shouldn’t Japan follow suit?

See the complete article here if you like.

So jump backwards to August 2012 and the juxtaposition of a very green Cali (duuuude, pura vida- thank you bra, loves you very much):

cali green

©Seralyn Campbell 2012

with serene and sober Japan:

japan green

©Seralyn Campbell 2012

All of this within a week made my brain go, “Wow.”

So maybe I don’t need drugs to refresh my head-space but lots of jet lag and beautiful scenery.  Okay, why am I even writing this?  To showcase the difference, people:
CA- legal, Japan- illegal.  It’s important.  We’ll talk about Thailand and Mexico later.

about Japan

Women shave what in Tokyo?

Let's get it straight

Their faces.  Their arms.  On the regular.

It’s true.  It’s culturally unattractive to have hairy arms (meaning any hair) and anything less than smooth-as-whipped-butter faces (read: shaved, exfoliated and perfectly moisturized).  I’ve shaved my face before (what?  I was curious, I try shit out and there are special teeny, tiny razors specifically for this purpose, in an array of pretty pastel colors) but I haven’t done it since moving here because I’m lazy.  

Actually I’m not lazy but Tokyoites will absofuckinglutely deem you lazy if you don’t wear makeup.  Believe.  Like, don’t subject the general public to your unmade-up face.  You’re not even going to make the effort to look like you put forth an effort?  How rude.  My American mindset thinks, jeez, judgmental much?  But here, it’s viewed as having consideration for others; make like you give a shit, don’t make it hurtful for others to look at you because they have to look at you.  Thirteen million or so of you.  Everyday.  So, shaving your face and arms is part of the cultural ideal for a Japanese woman.

GF told me I should try shaving my arms (of course she would and thus keeps proving how much more with it she is at being a woman than my bio-femme ass).
Her: It’s not going to grow back hairier.
Me: I don’t know…
Her: Trust me, you’ll like how it feels.
Me: But it seems like more maintenance that I’m not sure I want to commit to.
Her: By the way, women here are not as hairless as you think they are.
Me: What are you talking about?  They so are.
Her: No. They’re not.  I saw a woman on the train today who had leg hair matted down by nude hose.  In fact that’s why so many woman wear nude hose (with sandals, by the way, which is a pet peeve of mine), to hide their hairy legs.
Me: Seriously?  I thought it was because it’s considered a tad indecent to bare your legs.

Oh Japan, yet another cultural aspect that I don’t understand…hose in the hot-and-humid-as-fuck summer to cover beast legs coupled with meticulously shaved faces and arms, arms that are covered with anti-UV ray arm warmers, by the way.

Oh, and the perfectly made-up faces?  The makeup itself might be questionable but the skin?  Fucking astoudingly beautimous.  Like the stereotype.  Like porcelain.

about Japan

Is it legal?

Is it legal

Prostitution, that is.  In Japan.

Well…yes and no.  Such a typically Japanese answer, meaning one that begs clarification, especially for the individuals who have asked this question upon my moving to Tokyo.

Ok, here’s the breakdown:
If you are one of the few houses that were granted a special certificate from the government waaay back when (serious generations ago), then you are legal to offer coitus, which is the one act that is deemed illegal in Japan.  No new certificates have been issued since said way back when and these establishments are serious family businesses.  Even people who have prominent and demanding careers will maintain the family business (oh the ¥ value); for example, the individual conducting obligatory new prostitute interviews at night might very well be an accomplished engineer/researcher/doctor by day.

If you are not fortunate enough to have one of the carte blanche certificates then your employees are legally allowed to provide any service other than coitus…which is a considerable number of acts and scenarios.

How strictly is the law enforced?
Depends on the establishment, who owns it, location, what ties they have to the Yakuza and where those ties fall on the hierarchy.  Suffice it to say many a blind eye is turned.

And the available channels for service is pretty astonishing: soaplands (think waterproof mattresses and lube), fashion health massage parlors, health delivery services (seriously convenient), pinsaros (or pink salons, oral specialists), imekuras (image clubs where costumed fantasies are let loose) and so on…Tokyoites and tourists love their kink.

Speaking of tourists, here’s a recent article from The Tokyo Reporter about some complaints among Tokyo prostitutes.

It’s very interesting stuff, the multitude of articles and media coverage that arise when prostitution is mostly legal.  I certainly appreciate the bit of informative light that gets shone on this facet of Japan…very different attitude and tone from the American news (or non-news, I should say) regarding this subject.