Robert & Roberta Adair

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These are un-profound thoughts on an un-profound quote.  Yet, although I read the quote on a friend’s Facebook page over a year ago (who incidentally is none of the ethnicities mentioned in the quote), the memory of it has popped into mind quite frequently.  So…here’s some processing.

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“Heaven is an American salary, a Chinese cook, an English house, and a Japanese wife.  Hell is defined as having a Chinese salary, an English cook, a Japanese house, and an American wife.” (Who is this James H. Kabbler anyway?)

I get that earning potential is, in general, higher in the US than in other countries.  I concur that Chinese food is awesome (I like Japanese food and all, but a lot of my favorite “Japanese” foods are from China like ramen and gyoza.  And, wow, after the yummy food I got to eat last Sunday at a Chinese New Year party…yum).  English homes, or at least my image of them from watching too many BBC specials, look quaint and cozy and have a lot of character. 

Yet the Japanese wife part kind of bothers me – perhaps because J. Kabbler’s idea of “hell” is an American wife (which I am. And proud of it).  I think it bothers me because of the many western dudes who seem to be obsessed with Japanese women (sometimes in really disturbing ways).  I have heard people who live in Japan make comments about the weirdo western dudes who couldn’t find dates in their home countries but who somehow wind up with babes here.  (that said, there are some genuinely great western guys who are married to great Japanese women, too – I recognize that not every foreign dude with a Japanese girlfriend or wife has ”yellow fever”.)

Perhaps I’m bothered because of the social and cultural expectations that I perceive for Japanese women that seem to be so…so unfair (the same is true of men.  true story).  The pressure to look, act, talk, dress, respond, and smile a certain way is attainable for some women – but at what cost?  And those who can’t or don’t behave like the ideal seem to really struggle.  I wonder how this pressure also connects with Japan ranking 105 out of 136 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report.  While J. Kabbler probably wasn’t referring to this in particular, his quote reinforces my view that some men are drawn toward meek, submissive, calm, perfect women – all good qualities (except for the perfect part) – but expected or desired in unhealthy ways can lead to abuse, to exploitation, to power imbalances, and to lots of sadness…

Just yesterday I spoke briefly with my teacher about what I perceive as an incredible lack of confidence among the young women I know from church (some in their early- and mid-30s)– confidence to share their faith (or an opinion), to lead a simple Bible study, to meet with a younger girl to listen and pray with her, to lead…what seems to be about anything.  My teacher’s response?  “Mmm.  Typical Japanese.”  (sigh.)

The next part of the quote – that of Chinese salaries and English cuisine – I don’t have an opinion/clue about either (okay, shepherd’s pie is pretty great).  Of Japanese homes, well, this week I would have to agree (just not to the degree stated in the quote).  Waking up to sub-zero temperatures inside our house, drafty windows necessitating sleeping with a hat, shivering getting out of the shower, dry skin from using gas heaters, and poor plumbing contributing to frozen hot water pipes for a few days is kind of outweighing the “character” and “charm” of living in a traditional Japanese-style house.  (It’s a bit colder in PA than here – but I look forward to spring much more here after living without insulation.)

As for “hell” being an American wife…I hope that a lot of husbands (well, one in particular) would disagree.

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