I’ll tell you something else that I missed when I lived in Japan; something huge, bigger than cupcakes or couscous or Letterman or Marie’s Crisis.
Women. I missed women. Or, more accurately, female friends – we had plenty of women prancing around Osaka, just none I was able to emotionally connect with until last few months. Women. The feminine mystique. Girly squeals, bonding over shoes. If you hadn’t noticed, my blog in Japan was very dude-heavy. There was Sean. There was Meir. There was Meir and Sean. Meir and Sean and Sir Steve. Meir and Sean and Carnitas. Sean. Sean. Sean. Look at my new shoes, Meir – what do you think? Sean, what do you think of vamp nail polish for fall? Sean? Meir? Carnitas? Crickets? Anybody?!?!
I can’t explain it. The instant I shuffled into Kansai International Airport, I simply couldn’t connect with members of my own sex. Despite the fact that my best friends here at home are women. Despite the fact that I met plenty of interesting female coworkers and book club members who I longed to become friendlier with. Something always stopped me. I can’t tell you why. For some reason, spending time with Sean, Meir, Sir Steve or Carnitas just felt more natural – even if, technically, it wasn’t. In Japan, I was one of the boys – often more calm and rational than the men I spent time with. Ten times out of ten, Meir and Sean were the ones complaining about the atmosphere, the time, the price, the weather. I learned to sit back and let them argue. It was sport for them and I enjoyed the battle of wits. I also enjoyed my sake, nodding while they slashed each others’ arguments to bits. I enjoyed being the only girl in my group of friends, even if I longed to break it down and talk about something real once in a while. Even if I longed for someone to compliment me on my new white top with black swiss dots.
I’m home with my girls now. It’s a whirlwind of wine, gossip and estrogen. Today was Memorial Day and Gia invited me to a rooftop barbecue at her new penthouse apartment in Brooklyn. Rooftop barbecues are perhaps one of the most exciting elements of summertime in New York, and Memorial Day is considered the unofficial beginning of the season. Let the watermelons roll.
The floors of Gia’s apartment are wooden and the entrance of her home is flanked by the pair of mint green ceramic elephants that have graced every apartment she’s had in the 7 years I’ve known her. The weather is perfect; sunny enough to take to the roof, but not so hot that we burn to a crisp. The brick buildings and trees that grow in Brooklyn loom below us while Manhattan winks across the river – hazily violet-toned in the distance.
We feast on barbecue sauce-smothered chicken legs and spice-marinated steaks as we sip goblet after goblet of wine. Gia’s friends are sophisticated, successful people who swap travel tales rather than gripes, and her lithe Siamese cat slinks in between our legs. It is a perfect day and a perfect party. And the whole time we’re sipping and yapping, I’m simply dazzled to hear relationship tales and I just can’t stop with the staring. Bessie’s day-glo toe nail polish. Gia’s shoulder-skimming filagree earrings. Anya’s breezy sun dress, paired with a cardigan and flats. Everyone looks wonderful. And I realize that I haven’t just missed female energy, I’ve missed dressing like a girl. As one of the guys in Japan – and disgusted by Japanese fashion – I stopped taking pleasure in picking out my outfits. If you’re surrounded by male friends, you’ll be lucky if they’ll notice the color of your sweater. Dressing for women? That’s the challenge. That’s where the victory comes in. There is no victory in dressing for men. Short and tight. It’s a no-brainer.
I’m tipsy after 5 glasses of wine; the good kind of slightly uncoordinated, giggly tipsy one glass away from sloppiness. Naturally, I begin washing dishes, scrubbing in time with Lady GaGa’s “po”s in “Poker Face.” When I look up again, I realize that all of the guests are gone. Only Gia remains, in her kelly green top and obsession-worthy flat leather sandals.
It’s late. I gather my things and walk into the wall. I walk down the block and head to the C train, where I doze drunkenly from Brooklyn to Manhattan.