Baby Bumps and Showers: The ‘horror’ of being voluntarily childfree

There is something to be said about the care with which clickbait articles are rehashed for…well, clicks. One such favorite of news media in Japan has to be the barrage of declining birth rate articles. Yes, it is a valid concern here but if the articles are to be believed, it is simply something to fuss over every now and then without any practical solutions. Anyone living in a larger city in Japan, gaijin and nihonjin alike, knows about the lack of adequate childcare facilities, the lack of support at work for working mothers (after all, motherhood is a privilege that belongs to women with rich husbands), the lack of support at home for working mothers (because a righteous woman would put her family first!), the unadulterated doses of bullying meted out by medical professionals to ensure the pregnant lady maintains her lean figure – the fruit of her hard-earned eating disorder (your new belly mustn’t weigh more than 3 entire kilograms, young lady), and the list goes on. Within these enchanting circumstances, it is no surprise that the birth rate is declining and will continue to do so. Naturally, a declining birth rate means a declining workforce and the terror of a decreasing ‘Japanese’ population is enough to get the politicians in a frenzy, the latest being the coverage of infertility treatments under national health insurance, while the morning-after pill continues to be sold only on prescription. True story, folks.

From high-profile celebrities flashing their baby bumps to your high school classmates posting artistic black and white pictures of baby hands holding theirs, chances are if you are a woman in your prime reproductive years, you have been subjected to all kinds of direct and indirect pregnancy propaganda. Baby Bump? Aww. Belly Fat? Eww. Celebrating your body and weight gain is only acceptable if you’re pregnant. But in every other situation, we say – ‘Hey, look who got tubby!’.

Having a career and an opinion is all great but a true woman only unlocks all levels in the game of life after she becomes a mother. Or so society would have us all believe. And even if you succumb to their schemes, you aren’t a real mom until you’re a supermom wearing a cape. Magazines are full of interviews with celeb supermoms, and the kid with the cute panda bento comes from a ‘better family’ because his mom ‘sacrificed’ her career/life to raise him and woke up at 5am to make her son a decorative lunchbox. The socially acceptable choices are self-sacrifice or being a multitasking superhero. Nothing in between.

What if you’re a woman who doesn’t quite like children, feels no maternal instincts, would rather spend your life chasing your own dreams and passions as opposed to raising another human being because you don’t feel like it? Well, then society will find a way to convince you that you are simply too young/not ready as of this moment and there will come a time when you will ache for little people to come out of you. Too graphic? The point of this ramble – why is it controversial to dislike childbirth/the theatrics of motherhood? Why does my worth as a person depend on my ability and/or willingness to make another person? We live in a world where women still don’t have complete autonomy over their own reproductive health, otherwise known as ‘please bring your husband (Master) along to get your tubes tied’. Choosing to go through the drill is that – a choice. So why isn’t choosing not to go through it not a choice but confusion/naivete/juvenility?

I can think of reasons besides confusion. An unwillingness to spend time and money on children? Reducing one’s environmental footprint because of existing overpopulation and climate change? Perceiving motherhood as a thankless gig? Not depending on children to satiate loneliness later in life? Recognizing that a marriage does not equal children, and a marital unit can also be an adequate family? Or maybe just an unreasonable fear of vomit, something children do all the time? The fabled biological clock may never tick and it is certainly not an obligation to rattle the foundations of one’s beliefs just in anticipation of the ‘someday’ that may never arrive.

I’d go into how much easier men have it but I’ll save that box of happiness for another day (or should I say bundle of joy?). All I can say in conclusion – I’ve never been gladder to be a brown gaijin woman who cannot produce a 100% Yamato heir for Japan without clouding the child with her foreignness. Phew.

On Fatal Non-Commitment and the Weight of Being

Hello World. It’s been a while.

After very nearly abandoning this blog, I am back with more stuff nobody cares about. I’ve been struggling with a nasty case of imposter syndrome and thought I would write about *gasp* thoughts and feelings instead of pandering to the algorithm for clicks and likes. To the interested, I say read on. To the uninterested, I say find something better to do instead of floating around the interwebz reading uninteresting posts.

2020. Year of reflections and of looking inward. Self discovery, self care, time away from social media are among the better things to have sprung up this year. For those of us who grew up with the idea that to constantly hustle was the only way to survive have been forced to stop and question our beliefs. As has been my tradition with any and all major changes in life, I feel like I haven’t taken the time to fully process my thoughts about…anything. The best and most foolproof survival technique has always been to pretend a problem doesn’t exist until it goes away on its own (so healthy!).

This may have something to do with the toxicity otherwise known as Twitter and its identity as a battleground for political warfare, slander, misogyny, to name a few. It might have been with Twitter that I decided to keep my opinions to myself, seeing as how anyone with an opposing view is clearly the enemy and needs to be torn down. This attitude extended to Instagram, which I honestly only started to use for the pretty pictures in 2013 before it took over from Facebook to become trendy Wedding Photo Album and Baby Central in recent years. I quit Twitter eventually and on Instagram, I stick to posting images that I find pretty (trying to keep the pretty picture philosophy alive in my own way) and also use it as a means to store my own memories, because in the time of the Cloud and changing phones, I have more often than not lost pictures and memories I cherished deeply. I refrain from making political statements and discussing my views except in trusted circles as a personal choice. A quick look through Instagram (I’ve deliberately kept Facebook out of this discussion since I am not much of an active user and can’t speak for what happens there) shows sharing of important information, protests, highlights, etc. all with the candy floss theatrics of TikTok and stylized filters. Looking through these posts where thin attractive white women dance as they highlight racial politics, feminist ideology, LGBT rights brings to mind one question along with a lot of FOMO – am I a hypocrite/behind the times for not using social media as the tool that it is to further sociopolitical change? Perhaps. But like I said, I only joined for the pretty pictures.

Given how much time all of us spend on the internet, possibly more than we do IRL, this non-committal stance online may have led to a refusal to fully process how I feel about certain issues even in real life. In the absence of a safe space, one does end up with a bag of unprocessed thoughts and ideas. Don’t get me wrong – I do have a broad understanding of where my affiliations lie but are there areas where I think I could do with further introspection and learning? Absolutely. However, this does not mean social media needs to be that space. It could be for some, and to those people, I send a virtual salute. For lower mortals like myself, that medium would have to be something else. A space free of Arnab Goswami-style screaming voices (this is really how I imagine Twitter would be if personified). A place where it is possible to think and access information without becoming overwhelmed or attacked for being unintentionally offensive. A place to simply be.

This leads me to Being. Or not being. No, I am not about to launch into a Nietzschean existential ramble. I believe everyone has undertaken some form or the other of an existential journey this year (unless they work for Amazon, in which case they’ve probably benefited from the world’s misery, the corporate leeches), questioned their purpose and the greater meaning behind life in general. Those who took comfort in their careers to shield themselves from the above complexities have had their inner selves endure a violent shaking this year while being forced to confront these larger issues. Or so you’d think. At least in my own journey, I find that I am still unable to properly address or even open my mind to what a change of plan might entail, if there even is a plan. Again, as a side effect of being so up in the air, I find myself embracing uncertainty, because walking into the dark unknown with open arms is easier than making backup plans with which you were never quite onboard. For a generation that loves 2 minute noodles and being the flagbearer of campaigns, we sure have the emotional durability of thin glass. Or it might simply be the result of growing up privileged. Obviously, before someone out there is offended, let me just say this does not hold true for every single person alive. It may be true for some, not for others.

That brings me to the end of my short (ha) and somewhat scattered musings. I’ve shied away from sharing vulnerabilities in the past with the ‘who wants to read this garbage?’ argument, but with all the garbage flying about online and otherwise, surely someone might want to read this too? A girl can only dream of normalizing vignetted ruminations.

Procrastination and ADHD: The Coronavirus Edition

These are trying times for the world, pretty much the wartime horror of our generation, given the intensity and scale of the problem. The road to recovery looks long drawn and we can only hope that this will all end soon.

In the midst of personal and professional tragedies alike, most people are trying to hold onto some semblance of a routine. Connecting with friends (or foes), discovering a hidden talent for the culinary arts, finally creating that Youtube channel or blog, filming video workouts, or working on that pending project – being extremely productive is one way of grappling with the loss of normal life. The other is to lie in bed all day and let the vacuum consume you. Then there’s a third way – you want to be productive but the day just goes by. My own struggle is with the third when I decided after an initial few days of lying in bed that I would be productive and finally work on my writing. To share an example, here is what my average day in lockdown looks like –

Wake up. Not sure what day of the week it is. Or what month.

Check Whatsapp, check Line, check Instagram, check Line News.

Leisurely coffee time with Spanish vocabulary. ¡Sorpresa!

Eat breakfast for lunch. I swear I will write after lunch. I mean breakfast. I mean lunch. Or brunch.

Half a Netflix series later…Uh, not feeling creative anymore.

Time for Youtube Fitness routine. Let’s get those Latin dance moves going.

Ok, now that the shower is done, I am going to unwind with a tea and write.

Googles ‘how to create a successful blog’. Googles ‘365 writing prompts for the creative writer’. Googles ‘was that really Martin Freeman’s voice in Fargo season 2 episode 9?’

What? It’s time for dinner already?

Lo and behold, a sink full of dishes. You know it’s bad when not even the dessert spoons are available for immediate use.

Microwaveable frozen bag of rice > fresh meal cooked from scratch? Which one will it be tonight?

Dinner time with some water and half a Netflix series.

Ok, I must write now.

Stare at screen. Type word, erase word. Type again, erase again. Type a paragraph. No way, who wants to read this bs? Erase everything. Stare at screen.

Googles ‘tooth sensitivity after dental filling’. Damn, that tooth feels funny.

Instagram – Hosico cat has a new video upload.

Instagram – Nala cat doing something cool with her siblings.

Instagram – meme, meme, story, story, joke, joke, funny video, haha, lol.

Should I upload an insta story of my writing? Nah, who wants to read that bs?

Close laptop. I’m just not feeling it, y’know?

Switch to phone. Goodbye productivity.

Of course, this is not a contest and there are no right or wrong options. We are all allowed to deal with the crisis in our own ways. For some, it’s about powering through these dark times with some form of output. For others, it’s about taking a step back and waiting. For me, it’s about finding the right way to end a post without being distracted by browser themes on Chrome (how 2009!).

El fin.

An Ode to Noisy Neighbors: Vol. 1

Boom, boom, boom.

3am, the elephant upstairs decides to stroll.

How long and how far can one walk

in a 25 sqm. apartment?

A loud clang, it’s now 10am.

The klutz next door cracks open an egg,

and possibly the microwave door too from the sound of it.

Thud, thud, thud.

Elephant man is not far behind.

It’s a new day and he stomps with all his might.

Maybe his life depends on it.

Loud scampering next door.

The klutz runs into his bedroom, and back into the kitchen.

Footsteps thunder, up and down,

up and down.

Up and down.

“These are just signs of life”

I tell myself each day.

9pm. Loud drunks on the street.

The blaring siren of a fire truck…

or is it an ambulance?

A police car?

Or perhaps, all three of them.

Loud thundering upstairs.

Muffled voices next door.

It’s party time.

11:30pm. The callisthenics have begun.

It’s important to exercise after all.

What’s worse than coronavirus or being a kinjo meiwaku*?

Getting fat, of course!

El Fin.

*Kinjo Meiwaku (近所迷惑) – neighborhood disturbance. Don’t be one.