Citizen Watcher: Eye strain.
Title of the Year Award.

The memoir train has left the station.

After reading two superlative memoirs, The Late Bloomer's Revolution and Lost in Detroit, I felt recharged about the genre and plunged right back in, only to find Quiet, Please (see earlier post for my lukewarm reaction to that one) and Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess.

I now know two things: 1. I have to back away from memoirs again for a while.  And 2. I never want to go to Japan.

Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub HostessI know that's culturally insensitive.  But I can't help it.  And it's a totally weird feeling, because whenever I read about different cities or countries, I usually feel a strong desire to GO there.  This has never happened with Japan.  When I read things about Japan, like A. A. Gill's chapter on it in his book A. A. Gill is Away, or Lea Jacobson's Bar Flower, or this blog article about Japanese sex shops (ALERT: that link leads to a fairly graphic and completely weird blog post about specialized sex products in Japan), it makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction.

Bar Flower is not a bad book, and it shed light on a new (to me) profession.  Jacobson went to Japan to teach English, and eventually went to work as a bar hostess in an upscale area in Tokyo.  Evidently a lot of bars in Tokyo offer women for Japanese men to buy drinks for and talk to; they're not prostitutes, they simply provide companionship (including paid "dates," which bar hostesses are expected to line up with paying customers for their off-work hours).  They also differ from geishas, in that they do not wear traditional garb or play that role. 

The bar scenes weren't actually the most disturbing to me.  Early on Jacobson lived with a host family, and she describes some of the unwritten rules for women in the house:

"Because and only because thou possesseth a vagina, thou must: Sit up straight with legs closed at all times; help mother to prepare dinner; serve dinner to the penis-possessing members first; assist in cleaning and dishwashing; not bare thy shoulders even in August, and pretend not to notice when the penis-possessing members stride about in their underwear; and whenever possible, thou shalt not acknowledge thine own presence." (p. 25.)

Now, none of that sounds overtly horrible.  But combine it with a larger memoir where women make money by smiling at, never disagreeing with, and wiping condensation off men's glasses in a way meant to be suggestive, and you've got a memoir I couldn't finish.