Japan has a thing for telepathy, emotional intelligence, what have you, and they call it reading the air, the 空気. I had two very blatant gaijin-esque experiences with it today that I hope to tone at some point while I’m here.
The first was with a student. I had seen her at the local summer firefly festival, but didn’t bother to greet her, as I’ve found that kids, especially the not-so-extroverted ones, tend to keep to themselves, or avoid attention, and they do this by looking away. I don’t want to inadvertently embarrass a kid in front of their friends, so I tend to just give them a hard look, as if I’m trying to recognize them, and when I catch their eye, respond accordingly to how they respond. An advice columnist on NYT calls this the “candy bar rule“: One person breaks the candy bar, and the other gets to choose. This (hopefully) guarantees fairness, although I usually choose the smaller piece because I only want a taste. Anyway, I’m sure she saw me at the festival, so in class today, I looked at her, smiled, made this knowing face, nodded, pointed somewhere random, just stupid body language that she responded positively to with a broad smile, a nod, a giggle. Her friend, in the meanwhile, is like, “huh?” and I complimented her on her braids.
The second time today was with the school nurse. A couple days ago, I’d brought up a picture of a poster that’s been put up next to the nurse’s office at some schools in Japan, and it explained how a person can like boys, girls, either, or no one at all, regardless of their gender. Basically, it made LGBs on par with heterosexuals. I told the nurse I thought this was really progressive of Japan, although it’s no surprise for me in America. I followed up with her again today during a free period, just had a conversation about a bunch of things before talking about the poster again, about some students going through some gender stuff, some hiding it moreso than others, and then finally about me because she asked if I was bothered by anything. I told her I don’t have any hang ups and life is pretty normal. I didn’t directly come out, but I did say, “you probably know that I am,” and that “I hid it from my parents for a long time.” The school nurse was great, and said that these things have recently been talked about, so people definitely know about it. I’m glad she didn’t say something like, “Well, please don’t talk about this with anyone else,” or “This is something you shouldn’t tell anyone.”
I feel like the telenovella man in the bee suit in The Simpsons.