The wrong trousers

Another exhausting and demoralising day in limbo draws to a close, and I’m sitting here beer in hand trying to make sense of the day and formulate a set of objectives for tomorrow. All this against a backdrop of sniping and criticism from “’Er indoors”. Today’s moral-sapping exchange involved the arrangements for the disposal of our dishwasher. Sorry, I meant Big M’s dishwasher. In our marriage, everything that I own is hers and everything she owns is her own. Seems fair.

Our, sorry, her dishwasher got roasted in an incident with the central heating boiler in our old house. It is the Simon Weston of dishwashers; perfectly functional but a little odd to look at. Consequently, it has a resale value of around £0. Actually rather less than that, as you’d probably have to pay someone to take it away. In that kind of situation, I’d rather it go somewhere where it will do some good. We met a young couple a little while ago. The guy has just finished training as a teacher and is trying to get his first posting. With a young child as well, a financial situation that must be a little challenging. So I thought they’d be able to give our dishwasher a good home. The offer was gratefully received. That was until the news reached Japan.

Now apparently “she will never speak to them again”. And of course, it’s all my fault. Apparently, I was not authorised to get rid of “her” dishwasher, even though she has done nothing to assist in its disposal. Nor with any of the other significant consumer durables that have to be out of this house by 9am Thursday morning. Her parting shot was that, apparently, she has such a hard life, thereby making it impossible for her to take a more active role in the moving process.

Yeah, right.

Apart from preparing three meals, I struggle to comprehend what she actually does all day: But after several days with my hand in the Flash bucket, I can personally attest that whatever it is, it’s not housework. Without putting too fine a point on it, this place is absolutely filthy. The bathroom, the cooker, the cupboards have obviously not been touched for most of the time we’ve been here. This has led me to question the role of the Japanese wife in the marital home; specifically – have I just got a duff one or are they all this bloody useless?

It appears that they are.

Over the last few days – and today in particular, I’ve been privy to some quite frank exchanges with Westerners married to Japanese women. It appears that I am not alone. Many people concede that their Japanese wives are invariably demanding, often dissatisfied, moody, critical, unsympathetic, selfish, lazy around the house and just bloody hard work a lot of the time. Now, I found this quite shocking: Whereas on one level, I was quite relieved that I’m not alone in experiencing feelings of exasperation, on another was the chilling realisation that this bunny-boiling behaviour might actually be considered the norm in Japanese society. It would certainly explain the high number of suicides and drunken salarymen on the late night trains in Tokyo – too scared to go home to face “She who must be obeyed”.

However it doesn’t explain why on Earth such women apparently crave the open-minded Western-style marriage.

And of course the same us true of us; What did I – and do I – expect from my Japanese wife? From my perspective, I am not expecting the values and demeanour of a Western woman, and I’m certainly not expecting the mythical demure and submissive Japanese wife of legend. As a fair-minded, easy-going sort of character, I couldn’t think of anything worse, actually. But by the same token, there’s no way that I intend to live my life as a Salaryman doormat, and it’s really unfair for them to expect us Westerners to do so.

Our attitude is, I think, one of equanimity: we expect to have to adapt our ways to that of our host culture, and we do so out of respect. We, as husbands, expect the same courtesy. We don’t want to become Japanese, not do we expect our wives to become Europeans. But it would be nice if – sometimes – we could just meet in the middle. This can’t happen without effort on both sides. At the moment, this cordiality doesn’t seem to be happening in my marriage.

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