Here’s a Tip


I’ve been in the U.S. for nearly a week and I still can’t sleep properly. I’m either down at 9 and up at 3 or I can’t sleep at all. Instead of taking advantage of my sleeplessness and updating my blog, the only writing I’ve done has been in the form of facebook status updates:  E is home in New York City and freezing.  E is heading to Florida tomorrow; hush puppies, u-peel-um shrimp, gator tail, mudbugs, and cibo fatto in casa. E thinks her cat has become even more persnickety in the 2 years since she’s seen her. E enjoyed dragging Sean to his first American mall today. E and Leia just played an intense round of “find the cat puke” at 7 a.m. E and Greta enjoyed driving around their hometown of Crystal River and showing a confused Sean where they grew up. Grannie’s peach cobbler = raw dough mush.

It’s hot here in Florida; Sean, Diego and I have shed all of the layers of clothing that barely protected us in New York. Sean cannot believe there are parts of the world that endure 85 degree heat during Christmas, especially when other parts of the country are freezing at the exact same time. Sean also cannot get used to the wide spaces in Florida and is confused by the fact that people drive everywhere. What bewilders Sean most of all, though, is tipping. It isn’t done in Ireland except for very special occasions and in Japan, it isn’t done at all. It’s one of my favorite things about the country Sean and I live in and it rankles me, too, when I’m back home and suddenly have to tip everyone who so much as nods at me.

Sean wants to know why he must tip everyone. We explain that in America, wait staff makes below minimum wage and rely on tips for their income. Sean says that’s fair enough, but why must we tip hairdressers, porters, and bartenders? And does the bartender still get a tip if all he did was open a bottle of beer? How much? We must be joking.

When I originally invited Sean to come home with me for the holidays, I wondered if it would be strange to see him here, instead of in Japan, where we are surrounded by temples, pachinko parlors and walls made of cardboard.  As it turns out, despite the fact that Sean dismantles his “massive” diner sandwiches with a knife and fork, it hasn’t been strange for me at all; he seems to fit right into my old life. It is stranger for my family friends, who have never seen me bring home a man – regardless of our relationship status – and aren’t sure what to make of the situation. And it is a little strange for Sean as well, who has taken to grinning at me saucily when we are alone in my parents’ house.

“What?” I demand. “What are you grinning at?”

“You’re tiny,” he says simply.

This shouldn’t be news to him, since he’s seen me almost every day for the past 2 years. Most people figure out that I’m below average size within seconds and if I do recall properly, Sean also found it necessary to inform me of my smaller-than-average size within days of meeting me.

“It’s different,” he explains now. “You look really, really tiny in a normal-sized house. And you’re not surrounded by women who are close to your height.”

He’s got a bit of a point, at least about how we might look different to each other when not in Japan. There, I have absolutely no trouble locating him at any time. A 6 foot tall man with white Irish skin jumps out of a crowd of Japanese but in America, searching for him at KMart after he’s run off to navigate those huge aisles in search of a toothbrush, I’m at a loss.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Yoli says:

    I pity you here in Florida. You must miss Asia so much. I cannot get my head around this heat and humidy and I live here in Key Largo.

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