Nothing like a trip back to the homeland…
I took a brief time out from my gluttony to go into town to meet a few business associates for the first time in nearly a year. These are people who, for whatever reason, had regarded me highly during my last life and as I got ready, I was suddenly struck with anxiety.
What if they think I've gotten dull and boring? What if they think I've lost the "spark"? I fretted as I put on a pair of skinny purple jeans and a black T-shirt. Is this too last season for Tokyo? I never worry about such minutia outside of Japan! My mother keeps joking about how I look like a farmer's wife and Big Dog amped my pre-departure insecurity by telling me "go get your hair done before you see anyone!" so I spent the morning cutting my hair in my mother's bathroom, chopping off the long ragged ends so I could look more "presentable."
"Hey, pretty good! You sure have improved your self-sufficiency skills!" I smile to myself, but the truth is that I didn't want to go to a salon. I've always had a problem with strangers doing stuff to my body, making it hard for me to find doctors, dentists, hairdressers. That was what I hated about doing television -- makeup artists I didn't know doing my face, my hair.
Normally, I have a pretty good self-image. I have grown to love the way I look and feel perfectly comfortable in my body, but today, I was filled with doubt. Will they think I look OLD? Japan has such a cult of youth and while I may look smashingly young in a mostly Caucasian world, I'm here in the land of eternal 20 year olds.
I used to crave assessment. I needed clients to tell me how wonderful I was, how they couldn't have done it without me. I worked like a dog (and not a bad one!) for that pat on the head. When I first left this life, that was the hardest thing for me to deal with. No matter what I did, there was no one to judge me -- good or bad. After I got used to it, though, it was so liberating.
I had kicked the habit, gone clean. But now, here was an encounter with that drug, again. Would it be the high I loved? Or would I OD? Making my way through the first train station, I look down and even my cute cheapo imitation Vans -- the ones with colorful hearts -- look incredibly tacky and…cheap. Everyone's wearing cool cowboy boots this fall. Why didn't I bring mine? What was I thinking?
Living where no one knows me or my illustrious (?) past has been liberating. I'm happy being whatever I want to be at the moment, gotten too used to people seeing me only for who I am, right here, right now. No past to have to live up to. In Tokyo, the inside of my mouth is ragged from nervous chewing.
To hide my discomfort and anxiety, I put on a more aggressive attitude. I scowl and swagger through my many train changes. I tire myself out. Thank god for the iPod! I pull out Flea (my iPod) to drown out the world but then realize that in this high tech city, my first generation iPod is an Antique! Sigh.
But soon, Ben Kweller is making me smile again and I shimmy through more transfers. No one else in this strait jacketed town is dancing solo on a subway platform but so what! Anxiety sure makes me do strange things.
My last appointment of the day was dinner with old friends from the music biz at our favorite French restaurant. Chef/owner Pierre, a long time resident of Tokyo, took one look at me and gasped, "What's wrong?! You've lost so much weight! You look like a child!" In youth obsessed Japan, however, the others didn't notice a thing.
Over dinner, we talked the usual talk. The "industry," current events, international relationships…our conversations meandered through lots of territory but it's as if I never left. No one wanted to hear about my new adventures, my new life. We talked and laughed for hours, and it's all fun and interesting, but ultimately meaningless.
As I walked alone in the dark to the nearest subway station, past the big cemetery where we used to have cherry blossom viewing parties, I realized that I no longer cared what they thought of me -- if I'd gotten soft, lost my former edge. I was no longer of any use to any of them anyway. And at that instant, I felt marvelously, deliciously free.