Among Waseda students, I got to know Maya the most. Her fearlessness was the quality I envied. She’d speak her mind but sometimes a bit more than an appropriate amount, and I’d feel embarrassed for her while she was nonchalant. She was friendly to everyone to the extent of defenselessness, and some people mistook her intentions. She had a round face and a lovely smile, and everyone adored her. During the year at Oxy, she joined the dance company and was, in fact, brilliant in the show at the end of the year. She loved shopping for clothes, and I admired her taste and style. I enjoyed shopping with her and often spent more than I should have.
At some point, I came to understand that Maya had an eating disorder. I wasn’t familiar with the term at the time and didn’t realize it was chronic as she was so cheerful and lively. I had noticed that she sometimes ordered a salad for herself but asked for the leftover pasta from others at the table, but I only realized what she had wasn’t a good appetite or a casual desire to be slender when she eventually confided in me she ate two whole burritos, then thew them up later.
It sounded like the pressure had come from her mother, who wanted a *French doll-like daughter. Maya was short in height and limbs and wasn’t slim but was a fantastic dancer who moved her small body so smoothly and elegantly. She was laughing when she told me about hurtful comments that came from her mother. I now realize how serious her illness was and regret I didn’t do much to help her other than telling her mundane things that didn’t even make her feel better.
In her dorm room, she put up a picture of Marilyn Monroe. I asked her why her, and she said she wanted to look like her. She also told me she couldn’t stand Lucy Liu because she was too ugly to look at. Then, she told me I looked like Lucy Liu. I figured Maya didn’t think Asian features were beautiful, which hurt me as I was trying to love my identity as an Asian/Japanese woman, despite the mainstream beauty standard in America or even in Japan. I wanted to change her mind that we needed to embrace our unique beauty, but instead of telling her that, my comments came out cynical and judgemental. She didn’t seem to take it personally and laughed at my bitter temperament.
*Traditionally in Japan, a French doll meant a white girl doll in a rococo-style dress.