Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Billy Versus Studface

Needle Hits E - Sugar (mp3)
Ordinary Average Guy - Joe Walsh (mp3)

I was going to write about Japan. I was going to write about three separate events from this past weekend that reminded me of the best and most positive features of Japanese culture.

I was going to write about my daughter’s new friend who stayed the night on Saturday, and about how her mother is Japanese, and how she went to church with us on Sunday and never once mentioned to my wife or I that she was Buddhist, and never once looked anything but comfortable and normal in the middle of an hour-long church service.

I was going to write about my love of Ninja Warrior marathons when I’m hung over from Brewfest, about how the Japanese culture glorifies strength not as some beefcakey statement, but as one part of many valued physical qualities including endurance and balance. I was going to say I love that game show because it’s a very Eastern notion of competition where all competitors are against the obstacle course rather than one another. Only in Japan could a game show end several seasons without a winner, with the winner being the obstacle course itself, because no one could manage to conquer it.

I was going to write about how moved I was by the Japanese team in the finals of the Little League World Series. About how every time a Japanese player struck out, he bowed before leaving the batter’s box. About how the kids, after losing in the bottom of the last inning, quickly lined up and patiently waited as the American team celebrated. About how the kids bawled and were every bit as emotional as American players would be, and how their coach was so comforting and treated them as kids, not as cogs like we might have been conditioned to think their coach might act. I was going to write about how they were the absolute paragon of sportsmanship and class, and how we could learn so very much from their behavior in this game as well as in the Women’s World Cup.

But I’m not going to write about any of that.

Instead, I’m going to write about Studface.

Last night, I stopped for wings and a beer before a parent-teacher conference, because all responsible parents should buzz themselves a little before meeting his daughter’s teachers. Sitting in the outside section of this restaurant were a group of young adults in their mid-20s. The woman at the end of the table was a punk harlequin. Her hair was a mishmash of blonde and pink. At least three-quarters of her visible flesh was distastefully bathed in tattoos. But the real game changer was her face.

Her face made her look like some first-run experiment by Skynet before they figured out how to perfect the human flesh and metallic interior. Her name could have been Bride of Pinhead.

In addition to one big honkin’ nose stud and some kind of bull ring in her septum, she had no fewer than -- and I’m not exaggerating -- 20 silver studs poking out of all corners of her face. She had so much metal on her facade that, had she been walking down the street on a sunny day, the reflection from her could have caused innumerable wrecks.

Everything we do, as human beings, is about communication. I believe this to my core. You don’t have to speak Sanskrit to know precisely what this woman was communicating to her human environment: F*** Conformity and F*** Normality.

I might not be the president of the conformity club, but I’m a member, and I pay my dues. I have the 2.4 children, the salaried job at an esteemed educational institution, the loyal devoted wife, the dogs, the long driveway, and the 2.9 Bibles on bookshelves throughout my house. Any attempts I make, with blogs and the like, to seem less than conformist are feeble and middling at best.

So, as I walked past her, I sort of squinted with a mix of disbelief and bemusement at her face, the same kind of look I would give any strange statement of postmodern art, living or inanimate. She saw me gawking and immediately shot back the look of “WTF are you looking at, loser?”

I don’t generally stare at people. It’s rude. No matter if it’s a gorgeous woman or a circus freak, I try my best not to be so blatant with my observations, especially when sober. So I sheepishly shrugged my shoulders and held up the “oops! no offense!” hands of defense while quickly heading inside.

As I got inside and sat down, the insta-guilt faded and I got annoyed.

What, exactly, about my reaction surprised this freakish museum piece? Her face, a face that could be robbed and sold at high cost for parts, was for all intents and purposes flipping me off. Her face was built to offend, to disturb, to bother. My indifference would surely be far more insulting than my disgust.

And that’s the disconnect I mull. I gave her precisely the reaction she should have wanted, the kind of response that should have made her smile, her having successfully penetrated the delicate sensibilities of a lemming. But instead she was offended.

I can't figure it. But I bet a Japanese person would have handled it better.


troutking said...

Just last week Curb Your Enthusiasm highlighed another great Japanese tradition: the bow. Both the thank you bow and the sorry bow were discussed, as well as a new concept only Larry David could come up with: the disrespectful "shit bow", where the person only declines a few degrees, rather than the traditional 90 degree deep bow. Love that guy!

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