#NaBloPoMo Post 7: Past Influences

Today’s BlogHer prompt for National Blog Posting Month is:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
How much does your culture come into play in your day-to-day life?

When I see the word culture, I first think of the Japanese side of my family. That’s not to say my dad’s side of my family “ain’t got no culture,” but the culture of the English, Irish and Scottish mix on my dad’s side seems to have blended into what we consider to be American influence and it’s harder to pick out.

The first thing I thought of when I read the prompt was what I wrote about in my post yesterday — losing face. So again, you can imagine my jaw dropping when, upon researching the origin of “losing face,” I found it was Chinese.

My mother

My mother

I should ask my Japanese cousins if the threat of losing face was as much a part of their upbringing as children of a Japanese mother, or, if it was simply my mom’s clever way of getting me to behave. Because still today, even in midlife, I hear a little voice (probably the echo of my mom) saying, “Janice, you don’t want to lose face, do you?” In otherwords, “Janice, behave yourself.”

I’m kind of teasing. Whether or not the actual words “losing face” are a part of the Japanese culture I learned, I know that pride is a very strong trait, and part of that pride is doing as we should and doing it well.

Come to think of it, my dad’s side of the family did have a similar philosophy that I also try to live by. But they expressed it differently:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I just realized something as I was re-reading this post. I remember a time when as a teenager, ready to go out with my friends, I told my dad

My dad

My dad

I’d finished cleaning the kitchen. He gave it a quick inspection, and I failed — I hadn’t wiped down the counters well enough. Did he get angry? No. He patiently asked me if I really thought I’d done the best job I could do. Of course, I had to answer, “No.”

All he had to say was, “You should always be able to tell yourself you’ve done the best you can do.”

I’ve always remembered that little moment. And just now, it occurred to me that while my dad taught me to do what I knew was the best I could do, my mother taught me to do what others would think was the best I could do. I would say that neither is more right than the other. There’s no getting around that both are important.

As a child, even as a teenager, I sometimes felt I didn’t fit in anywhere because of my mixed race — not on the Caucasian side, and not on the Japanese side. But as an adult, especially in moments when I have such epiphanies, I’m grateful I’ve been lucky enough to learn from two different cultures.


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13 Responses to #NaBloPoMo Post 7: Past Influences

  1. Mustang.Koji says:

    Jan, what a touching post… Really nice expressed and the photos… Well, they are priceless… so wonderful. 🙂 And Jan, you do fit in – because you have the best of two cultures.

  2. Mustang.Koji says:

    Reblogged this on Masako and Spam Musubi and commented:
    A time will come when humans are no longer “pedigree”… I think that is now old-fashioned…

  3. Anonymous says:

    My mother would say “Chanto, gaman shinasai.” I interpretted this as, “Think about others’ needs before my own.” I recall the wedding era of my sister. She is five years younger than me. She announced her engagement as soon as it occurred. Me, I waited until the right moment and kept my engagement a secret. Her wedding planning whirlwind got going, so I kept quiet about mine. I lived part of my life in Japan. She did not get that priviledge. I think that made a difference in terms of understanding “gaman.”

  4. Cousin Steve says:

    Yes Jan, your Japanese cousins grew up with this as well. I remember when my mom’s dad died I was not allowed to play with my friends for a period of time. When I asked “Why?” I was told it would be disrespectful. I was bold enough to ask “Disrespectful to whom?” since it couldn’t be towards my grandfather as he was no longer alive – he would never know. Then the real reason surfaced: It would LOOK bad! This might seem subtle to some, but it was not that they necessarily thought it was disrespectful in some way if I were to go out and play – it had to do with what others might think/perceive. To be sure this is somewhat of an extreme example, but the notion of “what others thought” as shared in your own post was a constant part of our lives.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Your mom always seemed so happy and easy-going to me. To hear that she also had such concerns of what others might perceive makes me realize just how much a part of the Japanese culture “saving face” is. So, I’m glad to hear this Steve. I seem to remember the same thing that happened with my mom, I think when Uncle Lloyd died. It’s one of the most interesting and thought-provoking pieces of our culture, I think.

      • Cousin Steve says:

        Jan, now that you mention it – maybe it was when Uncle Lloyed died? That would make much more sense being my dad’s side of the family. But I know the conversation was with my mom – as I would never have dared to ask my dad the same thing. But that element certainly was in our lives. I wonder how often I (perhaps unknowingly) carry this attitude over into the things I do?

      • Jan Morrill says:

        Steve, it’s a huge part of my life, both knowingly and probably at times, unknowingly.

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