Passivity of love
Since the arrival of Miss Morita and Miss Hashimoto, all four women had lunch together. The more we relaxed with each other and let ourselves be seen, I realized Miss Nagai was no anomaly, but I was. For 45 minutes five days a week, they gushed about their desire for a romantic relationship with an ideal man. They believed that ultimate happiness for a woman was to be loved, and they had to achieve the goal by marrying a faithful, loving man and bearing his children who’d love them by default.
The message that valued women as the recipient of love was rampant in the media they absorbed. It started in the morning with the morning show, in which a 60-year-old male and 25-year-old female newsreaders read the news. The female newsreader was often called in a nickname. If her first name were “Aya,” then she’d be called fondly “Aya-pan,” with informal and childish honorifics that added “cuteness” to an adult, professional newsreader’s character.
The show kept us updated on celebrity gossips as well as current affairs. A middle-aged, portly man with a bow-tie narrated the divorces and separations of celebrity couples in a way that placed blame on women. Magazines and advertisements told women about “hair/makeup/body men love.” The message often extended to their characters that were desirable to men. Such a message, if flipped, said that women “failed to be loved” because of their hair/makeup/body/personality. In case of a man’s infidelity, women were blamed for gaining weight/losing weight/getting old/neglecting him/being clingy/too smart/too stupid/too beautiful/not beautiful enough/too sexy/not sexy enough/too loud/too quiet/too much makeup/too little makeup/not smiling enough/got sick/got pregnant/becoming a mother. If a woman remained single, she’d be criticized for pretty much the same reasons.
I joined the conversation with my colleagues because I wanted to change their minds about love. I could have tried to tell them they were smart and beautiful inside and out and deserved a man who loved them dearly and treated them as an equal partner. Instead, what came out was criticizing them for submitting to the patriarchal values and mocking their idea of love with an ideal man. Miss Nagai wasn’t discouraged. She told me that her perfect man would eat the meal she cooked for him without a complaint or excessive compliment. I rolled my eyes and said something that must have hurt her feelings again. But I also thought she was right to wish such a subtle form of affection from a man because looking around the office, the hope of finding such a man was scarce.