I MUST ADMIT

 

 

 

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Plumeria Frangipani Floating On Clear Blue Aqua Lagoon Water Sea Ocean Desktop Background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must admit that despite all the suave aromatics – the Hermès Poivre Samarcande, the Quince, Mint and Moss, by Union; Eau du Gloire by Parfum D’Empire, the sensual, elegant, gentlemanly lavenders – Sartorial, Jicky, Ungaro, Lavande Velours de Guerlain; the occasional spicier, and dirtier scent such as Czech & Speake Cuba or 4160 Tuesday’s spicebomb Shazam, among others, that, despite the olfactive prowess and style these scents show, and the trails of intrigue that they leave in his presence, I would trade them all in, in an instant, for the scent, on Duncan’s skin, of Coppertone SPF 30 UV Protect.

 

 

 

 

The boy will steadfastly not consent to a floral, and yet here he is, inadvertently wearing one; all fresh air, frangipani leis, salt-kissed skin, and manly, oceanic florality doused in sweet, delicate memories of waves, of the beach, of the sky, and freedom; a delicately arousing sillage, sun-fused with DNA and the epidermis, better than perfume, riveting; but a perfume nonetheless; I LOVE this smell.

 

 

 

 

 

Although the school term has ended, and there are plenty of people in beachwear headed for the coast wherever you look, fanning themselves in the summer heat as they wait to board the trains and buses, where I work, it is just the beginning; the ‘summer courses’ at the prep schools that practically all students in Japan are expected to attend if they are to stand a chance in hell of getting into the most prestigious schools, that they spend the entire summer attending. Think, for a moment of my colleagues (no, no westerner would ever be expected to work in such conditions, so fret not for the Narcissus and, also, please do not be writing comments commiserating on my poor existence or the supposed ‘banality’ of my work, something that education could rarely be accused of, I am fine).

 

 

 

 

No, I am lucky. I have more days off in any given year than on (how many people can say that?) and the fantastic number of holidays that I have was the very reason I took the job in the first place, and the reason that my writing for The Black Narcissus can exist at all.  The other teachers, though – Jesus. Briefly I will describe the work situation, because I have woken up in such a fantastic, if ridiculously adrenalized, mood today, now that this horrendous eight day stretch of lessons is almost at a close ( I still have two weeks left in total of quite intensive teaching, and only seventeen days until the Lady Gaga concert – enough reason for my doolally feeling of excitement this morning in itself, there is a light!!) that I don’t want to wreck it : the sun is shining outside, I am blasting pop music in the kitchen and dreaming of freedom and the ocean and diving to the bottom of the sea floor from my favourite rocks in Hayama, even as I have to get ready, quite soon, iron my shirt and select a tie, for another day at bloody work in Hiratsuka.

 

 

 

 

 

No, I am a spoiled brat and I know it  ( and no need to tell me that either, I know I am childish and self-indulgent, but I am Sagittarius to my core and always have one eye on the door. I just want to be free. Always. I loathe all restraints, a bucking colt, screaming for liberation and I would be the same in any workplace, whatever the job, I know it.  Don’t you also feel as though you were about to explode sat in that bloody same chair before that same stupid computer? Don’t you just want to explode like Mt Fuji and just start dancing? Sometimes my spirit is just so……..wild and alive, so damn tempestuous and full of energy,  that I am sure I am destined to return as a ghost. There will be no keeping me down).

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I am highly conscious that I have a very easy life, grateful that I even have a job and can live the life that I do, so no need to tell me, Undina I know; I know that I can’t complain, yes I know I know know know (though have you tried teaching?! God it can be draining!). I do read the papers: I have been very upset by the Malaysian plane crash, the situation in Israel/Palestine, at the mess of the world. It affects us all. And yet……

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I have written several times before, because sometimes I have to just write what is happening in my life rather than blathering lyrical and waxing my muse about perfumes – I just have to, on impulse, I need this conduit, even if you don’t – compared to the relative bedazzling splendour of my life, the Japanese teachers have a schedule that should by rights be illegal and probably is.  It is sick.  Most of them in my school have nine 50 minute lessons a day for six days in a row, then one day off (on which all they can do is sleep like the dead or frantically try and prepare lessons for the next stretch),  for a full SIX WEEKS;  then a week off, then another three weeks of it until the regular term begins again after a desperately deserved eight or nine day holiday that they have been looking forward to all year because it is, in reality, the only time in the year that they can go anywhere.

 

 

 

 

They have ten minute ‘breaks’ in between the lessons, when students are usually asking them questions and they scramble to gather their materials for the next lesson, and no time for lunch, just grabbing a mouthful here and there. And, worse: the Japanese martryr-like self-sacrificing mentality is so strong that even when they DO have that holiday in the middle that I have just described, the manager has often seen fit, then,  to make the teachers go on a ‘gashuku’ in the mountains during that precise week off. Yes, dear friends, this is an ‘intensive course’ (er, what was the nine lesson day, then?) where the teachers get no sleep, and teach ALL NIGHT, giving up the one holiday they do have; up at six, teach all day and all night, get no sleep, repeat. Repeat, rep…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to stop there lest my fury spilleth over and I start writing bile-splattered filth about this side of the Japanese character that makes me want to spit blood. No, I shall not. It is another culture, and as we all know, it is all relative. And anyway, the kids love it, or a lot of the more brainwashable ones do, and so do the teachers in some strange, affectionate way. Giving up their lives and sanity for the sake of educational goals that are bullshit to begin with, if you ask me. But it is all about ‘gambaru’, doing your best in order to achieve your goals, and to become a well trained Japanese for the future, so accustomed to having no free time as a youth, that as an adult, corporate slavery workplace sacrifice will be so second nature that you will never complain. At least, until that day when you dive in front of a train at Shibuya station. No, just ignore me. I have long learned ago, attempted, like Elsa, to try and let it go, to not let it affect me. As you can see, I have done really well in that regard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My schedule is much, much lighter. And yet. As a European at heart, and in my soul, who grew up with the idea that the summer is all about freedom and having time off – all those wonderful childhood memories of the beach, and dancing around the hosepipe in the garden, just reading in some umbrous, bosky, dark green shade as the sky stretched beyond and life seemed eternal and I sipped on lemonade, I suppose I will just never get used to this idea of the summer being entirely taken up with ‘club activities’ and extra lessons. That this space has to be filled. Concreted in with organized activity, that people must be herded and corralled like sheep, with a timetable, an alarm clock always going off, or the lesson bell of the permeated classroom. No, really. THE ENTIRE SUMMER. The whole, f****ing summer! They have about five days in the middle of it all when the juku, or cram school, actually does close for a few days and the teachers nurse their mental wounds ( I have a month off, so I will be alright, Jack ), but other than that they all ‘return’ in September, psychologically incinerated husks ready to start the new term, whereas I am usually refreshed and ready for it all again as you should be,  for the new term culminating in the ‘winter seminar’ which begins in the middle of December for three weeks (f%*$ you, we’re going to Cuba and Miami ).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it goes on and on and on (they have a ‘Spring Seminar’ at the end of all this there is never any respite …….. why are they all still alive, why have they not all just committed suicide?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But as for this privileged fat foreigner, well, I myself have a month off to go travelling, a month in April, yes, I agree, it is like some kind of reverse discrimination, so unfair, but the country knows that ‘we’ just wouldn’t put up with it and might even try legal action were we forced to work under such slave-like conditions so they keep the foreigners at bay with cushy contracts – I am not complaining ( – except that I am)).

 

 

 

 

 

Yes yes yes you know all this Japanese crap about my life as it sometimes surfaces on here when I just can’t suppress it any longer and must rant, but as you also know I am not so callous and un-empathetic as to not be affected by my colleagues’ ‘plight’ (my company is one of the better ones, actually, quite a positive atmosphere and the compensation is very good) ; but it does affect me, it does, as I am so porous, and prone to osmosis, especially when some of the people in question are my friends that I see outside socially, whose eyes widen in disbelief when I tell them the truth of my own space-filled timetable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yet, at this time, when all my friends in universities and high schools are off for six weeks or more (as are all the teachers in the countries you are reading this in, so nothing special or extraordinary there): off at the beach, relaxing, doing their own thing……although rationally I know that this is my job and blahdy blahdy blah, blah-blah, in fact I walk around in a permanent state of teeth gritting infuriation except when I am actually in the classroom, when the gregarious professional that you might suspect does not exist actually does emerge : I am a showman, and give it my all. I do think that I am a real teacher. I care about the students and the quality of the teaching (especially considering how much the poor parents are paying for it: there is nothing more depressing, I can tell you, than a badly taught lesson), but having given it my all I suspect that this is also how Madonna or Lady Gaga or any other artist must feel when they wake up, mentally and physically mangled in the morning after a show and think, oh Christ, not another one tonight, I can’t, I just can’t, I’m going to cancel , exhausted from the effort and the depleting extroversion; the putting yourself out there, the being watched and thought over, the beacon of the lesson: the instructor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walk along like a deranged Asperger’s with Tourette’s, dragging my clodhopping feet and my f***ed up knee, muttering to myself with expletives (the language, people, the language this week! My mouth a foul hole of filth, spewing swear words and cursing the very pavement I walk on, just, just not being able to face any more teaching  (the term began on April 3rd, it finishes on August 9th (at least mine does:  for the Japanese teachers, the concept of  ‘end of term’ is an impossibility, a mirage in the deserts of their computer screens)). Is that not too long, though? Are you feeling my blood pumping from the screen upon which you read these deranged, self-indulgent and frazzled words?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a human being, not just a pawn in the world economy, I yearn for freedom – I am gasping for it – and, as I sit here, and the sun is blowing through the blue-skied plants outside, I can feel it coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Duncan, in from a lovely day at the coast, or else from a fun day out in Tokyo, covered, always, in his delectable smelling Coppertone, flowers entwined in olive brown skin, a rush of the foam on the crest of a Kamakura wave, makes me practically hallucinate. The smell, so evocative, makes my mouth water, my mind rush with images so strong that my whole limbic system, so aroused and hyperstimulated that I cannot see the reality in front of me, made me feel, just now, that I already am on holiday. I woke up this morning, leaned over and kissed him, and the smell on his skin was so beautiful that I felt as if I were in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floating White Plumeria Frangipani Exotic Tropical Flowers On Swimming Pool Water Desktop Background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 Comments

Filed under Flowers

32 responses to “I MUST ADMIT

  1. That last paragraph was one of the most incredibly romantic things I have ever had the pleasure of reading…the scent of the beloved and the images and feelings that evokes. Powerful stuff.

  2. Tara

    I just love it when you are in a mood like this, early in the morning or late at night, and just get it all out in your writing here.

    I’m sure it’s good for you but it’s even better for us.

    I wonder if Duncan would wear a perfume like Nuxe Prodigieux Le Parfume that has a similar Coppertone, beachy feel. It makes me happy too.

    It’s great that you have such empathy. As hard as it can be to feel so strongly you will make the most of your break all the more for it. Enjoy it and Lady Gaga!

    • You’re right, actually. These mad rants do tend to be at night or in the morning. When I just exit the effluvium ( I am a fast typer) come what may. A kind of catharsis. I actually taught really well after writing this yesterday and was in an excellent mood throughout!

      I reckon the Nuxe would be more my kind of thing. D has to be tricked into wearing flowers in a sunscreen spray…

  3. ninakane1

    Beautiful x

  4. Renee Stout

    It’s called “empathy” for your fellow human beings and I respect you even more for venting for them. Thank you for giving me another cultural lesson. While I find the idea of Japan interesting and know that there is much beauty and history to be appreciated there, I have to say that I would never want to visit such a repressed country. Like you, I’m extremely empathic and it would make me uncomfortable.

    • And yet as I always so, there is something so positive and energized here that everywhere else feels dead in comparison. That constant tug.

    • jennyredhen

      Japan has a sparking beautiful magical energy that you dont find anywhere else.. Every country has its own repression. If you only went places that werent repressed you would never go anywhere! I think you would love Japan.

      • I would definitely second that. A ‘sparking beautiful magical energy’ is undeniably here. I often tend to rant about the negative things on here as I am just venting my steam, but the country is deeply addictive despite its many aggravations. It is intense, profoundly, coiled up in itself and its history, but also, despite its uglinesses, deeply exquisite. It is VERY hard to leave.

  5. empliau

    I too am a teacher, and I often wonder why I’m such a terrible actor when I’m a fairly good teacher. Both occupations involve being, in a way, on stage. I think in order to be successful I have to write my own dialogue, and be able to adapt and modify it based on that moment’s audience. Teaching is more exhausting than many who have never tried it can believe, and I think it’s because one is engaged and on with every cell in the body and mind, every minute. I cannot even imagine the exhaustion of the Japanese teachers you describe … that schedule is inhumane. Does the Geneva Convention know about this?!

    • What you say here about being ‘engaged and on with every cell in the body and mind’ is something I have instinctively felt but never seen vocalized before. It is true (if you are doing it properly), and precisely the reason why the whole thing is so exhausting!

      You mention the Geneva Convention, but I do wonder you know. I also genuinely do think it is inhumane. And at the training sessions for new teachers when they first join the company, the schedule is so tough that in the last couple of years two people were literally taken to hospital by ambulance. There is an extremely fucked up sadomasochistic element in Japanese culture, that keeps push push pushing, and because those that were in a junior position experienced it themselves back in the day, they are keen to inflict the same thing on their underlings when they then join. I mean, the company, despite what I am saying here, is a quite positive and upbeat place, and most of the teachers are genuinely very nice people. But as it is a society that resists protest, no one ever revolts against this system and so it just perpetuates itself, undergoing a kind of intensification in the process. This is the way it is, and you can either accept it, or be fired, and for a J-person, there is nothing worse than losing your job.

      In fact, this is the crux: there is a strange parent/ child type relationship with a Japanese employer and the workers. The company will protect you, and give you bonuses, and give you financial security IF you devote yourself body and soul to it, sacrificing your private life in the process. And because the fear of being kicked out of society, being unemployed, homeless (remember, there is virtually no social security here) is so intense, people have no choice but to comply with the rules of that particular company. And thus you get this workaholic cycle that no one can get out of.

      I myself am a ‘keiyaku shaiin’ or contract worker, and I have none of the benefits. No bonus, insurance, pension , or anything. But I don’t care. I have FREE TIME, BABY. I can honestly say that I couldn’t even do a month of the schedule they have, and that is in the regular term. I would just find it way too exhausting. Even my four day week leaves me frazzled and unable to do anything on Saturday mornings, because, as you say, we give everything in the classroom (the same can’t be said about lesson preparation in my case, though, ahem, I mean of course I do prepare my lessons and think about them the moment I wake up on that particular day, but I am not the type of person to plan at weekends (NEVER!) because my free time is sacrosanct and that IS NEVER GOING TO CHANGE.

  6. Your description of the Japanese work ethic is a keen reminder of why I stopped practicing architecture. I simply could not go on working 12-16 hour days, pulling all-nighters, working weekends, missing out on holidays, going for years without a vacation, not having a personal life, let alone a spouse or a family . . . for a very modest salary, mind you and assuming all the liability. I did this for 20 years until my body stopped cooperating (acid reflux, suppressed immune system resulting in pneumonia, fertility issues, etc.). At least I was able to escape and experience the other side of the coin. I wouldn’t go back for all the tea in China!

    I do like the sound of Duncan’s daily schedule AND his Coppertoned skin.

    • It does smell very good…..

      As for the ‘work ethic’, well….I mean I can’t really comment on it as I truly am a lazy, decadent hedonist to my core, and only work because I have to ( although I do think that not working at all would just lead to some kind of sloth and apathy that wouldn’t suit me). I would also hate to be self-employed because I consider money a kind of poison despite its uses and refuse to think about it. I am very far from being wealthy, but we are also not poor, and I am grateful for the money when it comes in on pay day. And then the rest of the time I can just live; be; create, which is what I want to do more than anything else. I teach, but it definitely isn’t even in my top three priorities, shameful as that may sound.

      As for pneumonia, yes. I have had it twice, and I know that in my case it stemmed from physical exhaustion and psychological stress. I really believe deep in my heart, that the American model of work work work for material gain is deep, fierce, bullshit that has taken over the minds of the people, spread worldwide, and made dents in the possibilities of pleasure for human beings.

      Obviously, work is important, else the world would just idle and grind to a halt, but people lose sight of their true priorities when they just work for the sake of working in the name of some intangible future.

      At least Europeans truly do value their free time. The Spanish, the Germans, the French, everyone. The world is obsessed with economic ‘growth’, but I for one know in my heart that it is just total shite, that idea. As if the world needs to keep ‘growing’ when it is heading for ecological disaster. Countries that have ‘stagnant growth’ are probably in reality a lot happier in some ways. They are just going about what human beings should be doing, i.e.. LIVING.

  7. David

    We can discuss and analyze cross cultural differences all day–Lord knows it seems like I do– but does any of it really matter when we have someone to kiss?

    • Exactly. And that was the whole point of this ‘piece’, this mangled bullshit that I spewed forth yesterday in one non-stop go and just pressed publish. It was that exactly. The maelstrom was pierced by a moment of love and beauty that was pure escape and dream. The kiss, and the smell of flowers.

      I hope you have someone too.

  8. The contrast between the never-ending momentum that is Japanese day to day work life and the simplicity of sunscreen on skin and its scent being so intoxicating, is amazing.
    The whole USA work ethic is based on the Protostent work ethic, which in sum is- acquiring wealth through hard work is great. Sadly it becomes its own special hell, where people work to acquire more and more then become slaves to it all. Sadly it catches on elsewhere and the asme cycle is shared.
    If life could just be as simple as feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin and smelling the beautiful scent of something wafting in the air, how wonderful it all could be.

    • I don’t think that the Japanese work cycle has anything to do with the USA. It’s in the country’s own DNA, though I might be wrong, a mix.

      • I do not know if it directly has anything to do with the USA work cycle, but I do not that a lot of workplace ideas were implemented post WWII when the country was trying to rebuild itself. I know that a US gentleman went over to help streamline some of the auto plants in Japan to make them more efficient, but am not sure how much that affected things overall.
        It just seems that post war Japan worked harder than ever to rebuild and compete on a global level, yet the country never slowed down. It seems it just keeps moving at a frantic pace, yet there is such tranquility there also.
        I will have to make my way there one day and experience firsthand the lifestyle, then try to think on it all more. I too am a person who loves “me” time and is loath to give any up.

      • What you say about the pace and the tranquillity is definitely true. It is a cliche, but Japan really is the embodiment of contradiction, more than anywhere else I can think of. It is rushed and strangulatingly sadmasochistic, and yet you can float through it all like a dream, because there is virtually zero danger (this aspect of the society is never to be dismissed lightly. Can you imagine? Never worrying about crime?)

        Today I finally have a day off and we are going to go to a more Asian area of Yokohama, the one I often write about in relation to vintage perfumes: I will definitely be checking out all the haunts, but I know that we will also be able to really relax there.

        I hate Japan.

        I ADORE Japan.

  9. Lilybelle

    Americans get no time off either. And children no longer have time to daydream in a hammock, they must have all their activities scheduled and organized. There is talk now of keeping them in school through the summer because we are so behind the rest of the world academically, but I think it’s mainly because they need to park the kids somewhere for the summer while parents must work. Americans get little time off, and my husband has lost vacation time because there was no time to take it. It doesn’t carry over. Use it by year end or lose it. 😦 Corporate America is demonic. And Corporate America IS America.

    • I couldn’t agree more. The UK isn’t that different, although we are a bit lazier and irreverent, ultimately, and do still value holidays a bit like the Europeans.

      I mean everyone is different, has differing priorities. It is money for some. For me, that whole thing is just a massive lie that we have been sold by capitalism. I live for pure experience; love, beauty, trying to understand it all. Why we are here. But to have any chance of getting to that point you have to have some free time.

  10. jennyredhen

    Cuba will turn your head around completely. You can see how socialism could work. It nearly works in Cuba in spite of everything that has been heaved at it to try and blow them out of the water,. An impoverished country like Cuba has free health care, free education, Art, musi,c ballet and sport for Africa…. and they havent got any money. Rich countries cant provide those things for their citizens. Why not???? Unfortunately the Cubans arent free to leave and people value their freedom over everything else. Japan and Cuba are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum
    I went to Japan and Cuba for the first time in the same year and nearly wrote my brain off trying to make sense of it all!!!

  11. I must go to Japan, I simply must…un jour…

  12. You asked us not to commiserate, so I won’t, but as a teacher (me) to another teacher (you), we both know that there is a particular kind of exhaustion that comes when you try to hold back and retain part of yourself, and then realize that resistance is futile and let the students take it all.

    There is a reason why faculty flee the country here in the States the minute grades are submitted. Or at least my colleagues do, but I work with a bunch of Europeans 🙂

    • Can you IMAGINE being Japanese? !!!

      It is just insane. Seriously. And although I am fine, I can never help being affected by it. What gets me the most, is that although I have just. three. days. left till a month of freedom, which might seem paltry to proper academics but is like winning the lottery in a japanese company, although I have that, my colleagues have two more weeks of it, and THEN, and THEN, because the workaholic masochistic wound up coil is so strong, they are coerced into giving that week long holiday, which they need SO MUCH RIGHT NOW, for an even more intensive thing called the ‘gashuku’ where you teach all night. It is just INSANE. AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHh

      I would literally lose my mind, commit an awful crime, or be sectioned. I know my limits. I can teach quite well, but once my brain hymen is violated too many times I go nuts. TEACHERS NEED A REST!!!!!!!

      • I don’t know how they do it. I was responding to a post that Birgit put up and I was saying that I was so tired and so burned out from the school year that it has taken me almost the entire 3.5 months off to feel normal again. Granted, there is still some (maybe a lot) of residual burn-out from my doctoral studies. But I feel like kind of a loser for not being able to bounce back so fast.

        In the States, most people get only a week or two weeks of vacation a year. I don’t know how they do it! I was talking to a colleague about this and she said, “Daisy, those people spend most of the day on facebook and only some of the time actually being productive. Also, they only deal with about 20 people max in an office. It’s always the same people and you don’t always have an intense relationship with each one every day. We deal with up to 100 or more students a week and each of them demands their own private connection with you. That. Is. Exhausting.”

        She’s right. I might also add that each class you teach is kind of like putting on a Broadway show. You are not entertainment per se, but there is an element of performance that requires a lot from you.

        I don’t know how the Japanese do it. I wonder if anyone has done a sociological or anthropological study about it…

      • We are very similar. I also plug into the psyche of each individual student and while part of me thrills to it, another is sucked dry. Violated, even. The strange contradictory impulses of a certain extroverted exhibitionism vs a deep hatred of being stared at (if only my stomach were flatter). Last night I just had to have a bottle of wine to myself to rid my body of the feelings, even though I had kind of enjoyed it (there were new students, the atmosphere was different), so I had to totally whore my psyche out into the room to magically change the atmosphere, something I can do as I have a ‘big personality’ whatever that is, but I just want to crawl into a whole afterwards.

        That is why we need the holidays. As for the doctoral thing, I am too lazy to ever think about doing one, but I know Nina was utterly depleted by her PHD last year, a total husk, and it took her about a year to return to anything like her normal state. You will, I am sure. Thank god as well as relaxation (something I am VERY talented at, thankfully: somehow, despite my appallingly oversensitive and neurotic nature, I am also a total born slob and can lie around in a state of bliss just reading and listening to music; I hope you can too), but even if not, as well as that we have our passions. The food, the perfume……some people, as you say, have nothing but Facebook and TWO WEEKS OFF. Why? So they can earn money and spend it at the mall? This is not the way to live, a mon avis. If you are a real teacher, which is so psychologically intense it is unbelievable, then you DEFINITELY need time off. I hope you are having a nice summer

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