The Clampitt Clan has returned from the annual family vacation and I find myself in an awkward, and long-lasting, position.
I am the center of attention.
When I board a train, all the ladies look me over from head to toe, purse their lips, elongate their necks as they exhale their breath in exasperation and surprise, and covertly attempt to whisper shocked exclamations of horror behind waving fans to the closest friend.
Is it my star-spangled afro?
My broken Japanese?
Boyfriend jeans I`m too old to wear?
No- none of the above. It is….
I have a tan.
A deep, dark, coconut colored hue to the skin. I can`t help myself. I grew up in the 70`s. Malibu Barbie was my primary influence. She and Ken drove their purple Dune Buggy all over my sand box. If I could have changed my name to Susan, lemon juice would have colored my black hair blonde, and I was able to sleep on the coke cans I rolled in my hair to straighten it, my transformation would have been complete.
A tan. Anathema to a Japanese person.
I know this to be fact based on one discussion with an expert. My dermatologist. He enlightened me on the topic of skin concerns by background. Western women tend to be worried about lines while Asian women draw the line on age spots. Just so you know, my visit was for neither. A gaggle of excited, elderly Japanese women recently accosted me demanding an autograph. They were confused by my mustache, mistaking me for Tom Selleck.
The good doctor was an expert in laser hair removal.
I should have known sunning was an issue- the signs were there.
Exhibit A: Umbrellas used rain or shine.
Exhibit B: Umbrellas on Bikes- in the sun
In a culture where millions ride bikes every day, this just seemed to be the evolution of the car visor.
Exhibit C: But there is a biking visor.
Exhibit D: Cab drivers wear these- and not to check for dust.
Exhibit E: If one is wearing short sleeves, wear these:
Exhibit F: Even driving, one is not safe from the damaging impact of the sun. Shoulder length gloves and the visor protect just in case. As with all photos taken when in stealth mode, they are grainy, blurry, and meant to be delivered in a manilla envelope without a return address.
Andretti-san pulled along side these people, slowed down until my cell phone actually fired the picture, and then screeched off before they had a chance to call the po po. He`s very talented as this is difficult in bumper to bumper traffic.
Exhibit G: During our first trip to the beach I realized that people are truly serious about sun protection. Daily temperatures were similar to those on Mercury at this time of year yet people wore sweatshirts with hoodies drawn both in and out of the water.
However, according to Dan Levin for the New York Times, no one is as militant about sun protection as the Chinese. He outlines the new look certain beach goers are sporting in his article, “Beach Essentials in China: Flip-Flops, a Towel and a Ski Mask.” Read Article- and see other pictures HERE.
Reminds me of the time my sisters and their husbands went fishing and were told to meet the fisherman at the dock. Upon arrival, there was one boat bobbing in the marina. Sitting in the boat waiting was a lone man, holding a machete and wearing a stocking pulled over his head. Wouldn`t you be afraid to share space with that? On the flip side, imagine the fun one could have scaring all the kids popping out of the water unannounced while wearing one of these Chinese neoprene masks….
In the end, yet again, this experience has left it`s mark. My diet has changed and exercise a firm commitment as every day I watch people 85 to 90 years old walk to the grocery store and carry bags home. 70 year olds pass me hiking up Mt. Takao. There is no way to tell the age of a Japanese woman unless you know the age of her children and the age at which she got married. From 20 to 40 and 40 to 75- people could be any age. Plastic surgery, botox, and fillers are not popular in this society. Just a healthy life style.