Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Dignity of a Woman

The Dignity of a Woman (Josei no hinkaku) is touted as a bestseller in Japan. The author, Mariko Bando, writes earnestly and humbly about how to behave in your private life, in social situations such as parties and events, and in the workplace.

A lot of what she writes is about common courtesy -- saying "Thank you" whenever appropriate, or not putting on makeup in the train (a habit of young Japanese girls that I aggressively stared at during my time in Kyoto) -- and the funny bits in the books are when she goes over the top. For example, the author writes that we should hand-write thank you notes. Okay, a little quaint, but fine. Then she recommends keeping beautiful cards in our purse so we could whip them out any time and compose a message of gratitude. Er?

She also suggests putting a little makeup on when we're home alone, in case company stops by and *gasp* sees what you really look like!!! Oh, the humanity! And you must also be dignified even when you think no one's watching you, just like in the Pillow Book where this girl chowed down on some rice straight out of the serving bucket and her stalker, excuse me, admirer saw her and was so grossed out that he left her forever. Or how about the author's opinion that unrequited, one-sided love is "the most thrilling." (Now we know how the Japanese developed such a highly tuned stalker mindset: ancient literature!)

Anyway, there was one passage that made me stop and think. The author says something to the effect that admitting you have faults and asking someone to accept you as you are is "presumptuous." Ms. Bando is saying that we should always work towards improving ourselves. I agree. Now excuse me, I must go powder my nose before delicately eating some rice from my rice bowl in preparation for hand-writing thank you cards to everyone who was nice to me.