It goes without saying that our Western bodies are larger than most Japanese bodies. By Western standards, THEY are VERY slender. In fact their size is generally so uniform, that when shopping for clothes, there’s often only one size available in women’s wear. I frequently see an item of clothing I’d like to try, only to discover it’s in one size only, and that one size is decidedly too small for this woman. I probably could have fit into it at age 16 or 17. Such is life.
As a relatively familiar shopper in Japanese department stores, I’m quite sure the salespeople are instructed to go out of their way to try and be helpful to their foreign guests. They always make sure to speak the Japanese word for welcome when I walk past them or within hearing distance This is a nice touch, but I also see them trying to decide whether to approach me or not, if I linger or show interest in something.
Along with the word of welcome, I prefer just a nod or smile of recognition acknowledging that I’m in their territory and they’ve noted it. I wish I could tell them, “I’ll know where to find you if I need you. ” I HATE a hoverer. It can drive me to descend to rudeness very quickly. I realize the language gap puts them at a disadvantage. Ball in my court, please. Usually all goes quite well and we end up with a smiling transaction. win/win, so to speak.
So it was that as I was on my way to lunch at a dep’t. store restaurant, I got a bit distracted, as is my tendency, by a For Sale sign. I was just casually checking it out.
The saleswoman, who must have been nearby, sniffed a target and began to hover and smile too intensely,. Initially, she tried to show me that some of the items I was looking at had half of an expandable elasticized waist which, if her luck held, might just fit me. I could see that without her pointing it out to me. I tried to move away from her. But she was not to be tossed aside. Undaunted, she showed me a second item. Not an item that I’d picked up, but one she decided might be suitable for me. Arigatou gozaimasu (thank you) I quickly said to her, hoping she could tell from my attitude that I was just being polite and was not interested in her help. Undeterred, she pulled out the big gun. It was a pair of pants whose waist was completely elasticized. To my horror, with two hands, she pulled apart the waist band to its maximum expansion to assure me it was large enough to fit a baby elephant! (my interpretation) And therefore…
I immediately fled her department, telling her in English to leave me alone. I’m not sure if I added anything else, but I hope not. I was amused at some level but felt shame and anger on another. I really wanted t hit her. I know she was just trying to help, but she didn’t pick up my signals and went off the rails.
I quickly doused my pain adding a piece of chocolate cake to my lunch order.