Saturday, January 3, 2009

Justifiable Conclusions

Several weeks ago one of my students told me that a friend of hers, who is also Japanese and 31 years old, married an American while residing in Texas on what I'd guess is a student visa of some sort. This is certainly not peculiar on the face of things. The odd thing is that the man she married is 24 and still a student, and her friend only works part-time. That means she married a person with no income and she herself has a limited income as a teacher of some sort of musical instrument.

My student did not approve of this arrangement and felt that her friend, well, actually one of her acquaintances from high school, had acted imprudently. I'm sorry to say that I'm just as guilty of judging the people in this situation without knowing much about them. I judge them by their age discrepancy and employment status (or lack thereof). I reach conclusions about her motives based on the circumstances and his intelligence and sophistication based on the fact that he's from Texas and married while still in school.

This post isn't about whether or not my conclusions are reasonable or justifiable, but rather about the fact that I shouldn't be judging them at all. While the circumstances are peculiar and appear ill-advised, I don't know either of these people except a few bare bones facts. Beyond that, their life choices aren't there for me to weigh in on and I'd hate it if someone had done the same thing to me when I chose my partner. Okay, the truth is that other people did do the same thing to me when I chose my partner.

In fact, it's been so long since the CH and I first fell for each other and our relationship so wildly successful that I rarely reflect back on all the warnings and fear for my future that were sent my way back when I fell head over heels for a guy I'd never even met face-to-face or talking to in real time. For those who weren't following my old blog and don't know this tale, the CH and I were penpals who exchanged cassette tapes and talked to each other back in the days before VOIP, instant messaging, or even e-mail. Friends to whom I revealed the situation felt I was making a huge and glaringly obvious mistake, particularly when I went off to Japan to spend a month with this person whose eyes I'd never looked into but to whose voice I'd spent countless hours listening.

Given the surface facts, I'm sure my friends reached what they felt were justifiable conclusions, but they were wrong. They didn't know him at all and perhaps they didn't know me well enough. They certainly didn't know what it was like when we interacted. So, I'm going to wag a finger at myself for judging this couple who I've never met based on a few facts and try to remember that the same was once done to me and everyone's expectations of the worst were wrong then and I'm probably wrong about this couple now.


Kelly said...

I'd just like to weigh in with my experience on this issue if i may.

When Yasu and i met, he was working full time as a boat builder with Austal ships (still is) and i was a student attending university with no job, only a meagre $100/week allowance from the government for studying. I was still living at home and had quite a few health problems. None of this mattered to the both of us as we had a connection that we felt was bigger than all of that. However, his parents could have objected to the fact that i was quite often sick and would not make a good wife, or that i was poor and did not contribute financially. My family raised the objection that because i seemingly "had nothing to offer" he was using me for a visa.

They objected right up until we got married and as a matter of fact, none of my family came to my wedding because of this. At our wedding we only had 2 friends, and no family (his family couldn't afford to come over from Japan).

However, our union has lasted for more than 6 years after first meeting on icq chat, and this april will be 6 years of marriage.

The case i think alot of people judge is the fact that in your friends case the male is younger and is a student. I think Japanese people and the wider population still view men as in the traditional breadwinner role. In my case, this is true. But in some cases i know, the women is the breadwinner and the man stays at home or studies.

I don't blame people for jumping to conclusions but i do value your post about this, as it is very hard to go against general opinion and judgement when you find yourself in that position.


Emsk said...

Interesting post and good story by Kelly. Aren't we all capable of judging? Yes, but some of us stop to question why we have like you've done here.

I think we often project our own agendas onto other people's relationships which, fair dos, may not be the ones we'd choose for ourselves. I remember emailing a friend in the UK when I was in Japan, sending her a photo of myself with this guy I liked. Both of us look happy to be in each others' company in the picture. She replied that she didn't think a Japanese chap was for me as they were chauvinist, backwards at coming forwards etc. I might understand if she'd been in a relationship with one herself (and then only to a point - all men are different, after all), but she'd reached this conclusion without, as far as I know, ever meeting a Japanese person.

To be fair, there may well be a higher percentage of male chauvinism in 'other cultures', but we're fooling ourselves if we claim that all British/American etc men are paragons (with the exception of CH ;) ). If anyone doubts this, witness Charisma Man (him again!) in action as he claims Japanese etc women are much better as they wait on a man hand and foot, unlike us lazy western broads.

A friend told me that in the past Japanese men needed only three words to communicate their wishes to their wives - food, bath, bed! Given the general untidiness and malnourishment of so many Brit boys, I can only guess that those are three words they would be happy to get away with themselves!

As for the friend of the student, I admit I have judged a bit here, but it's more of a case of feeling that the Japanese lady might not have found any men back home that she could relate to and perhaps were of a chauvinist persuasion. Marrying a younger man often goes hand in hand with the attitude that you're not looking for a man to 'provide' for you. Although plenty of women who choose older partners aren't necessarily looking for that in a relationship, it is amazing how many of my peers do say that a relationship with a younger man won't go anywhere and that they won't be able to take care of you, rather than acknowledge that you are a grown-up, educated woman in a first-world country who is quite capable of steering her own ship. Given that she might be a musician of sorts, perhaps she favoured a guy who wasn't going down the 'sensible job' route as well.