(from A Forest Ten Feet Wide, Tokyo 2013)
At last I have settled on a career. People who know me are sure to be relieved. Everyone must find a path through the world. As for me, I am going to be a Japanese society lady. Naturally it’s not the career path I intended. Not originally. It’s not what I went to school for. At least it’s not what I thought I was in school for, back when I was in school. Just the same, I’m qualified.
I have proven that I can spend time in cafes every day. I have demonstrated this time and again. Can I obsessively scrutinize my appearance? Yes, I can. My nature is already very highly reserved. I am innately discreet. While I do not attend movies, I do like to read. Heavy reading, though by no means required, is at least permitted, the titles discretely shielded by white linen book covers.
I will be my husband’s ornament, his jewel. I will be beautiful or invisible, as the situation requires. When my husband comes home exhausted, late at night, I will present his slippers, stir his miso, grace his table. I will be the fluorescent light of his life. All he need ever give me in return is a tremendous amount of money.
I warn my husband that my career will be intensely demanding. Although there are aspects which may appear pleasant – the Dior uniforms, the chitchat, the brunches – there are other aspects which are highly exacting: to eat continually and never gain an ounce, to persist in permanent youth. Not for nothing do society ladies almost inevitably require heavy-duty psychotropic medications and extensive plastic surgery. Counseling certainly. Exotic vacations unquestionably.
I will be a Japanese society lady seven days a week, eighteen hours a day. Even in my sleep I must aim to dream of Audrey Hepburn, her hands folded in her lap, her expression pleasant, sitting on a white sofa on a white carpet in a room with white walls.
It’s a JOB, I tell my husband. I can’t just choose the parts I like. It’s true that I have options. I have exactly two options. A set is one option. The other option is B set.
A set: I will need a dog, a teeny-tiny dog, an adorable itsy-bitsy dog, vicious and prone to ailments. I will buy my little dog suits and boots and raincoats. I will treasure my dog above all, I will kiss him, clutch him to my chest, and cry when he sneezes. Oh my little itsy-bitsy precious puppy dog, my baby, fragile as a blown-out egg and fierce as an attorney.
My husband says he does not wish to have a dog. Especially not a little yippy-yappy nasty dog. In fact, he refuses. Absolutely not, he says. And that is OK. That’s all right. There is still another option.
B set: I must have long, doomed, drawn-out, hopeless, squalid, sordid affairs.
It’s that or a little dog.