sabato, giugno 25, 2016

International pain and gain

Big week, in Shanghai and now Tokyo.

It's the first time I've been away from Godzilla and I was wondering what to expect there. It turns out that I was dreadfully sad to leave him and then pretty much okay, and he was very happy to say goodbye while he played with his cousin and then dreadfully sad every time he saw me on Skype. All the maternal worry and guilt I was worrying about feeling didn't get felt, though that might have been different if I wasn't getting frequent reports of what a great time he's having in Canada, or if what I was doing here wasn't important for A) work and B) me.

Shanghai was a conference, a more or less mandatory one, and Tokyo has been a rather personal form of mizuko kuyo for the baby that died in December, who was due to be born yesterday or the day before. I visited some jizo shrines and decided to create one myself in my home; it was very moving to visit them, but I couldn't bear the idea of a little statue representing my child in a place I'll only ever be able to visit again a few times in my life. So many of the little jizo statues I saw were totally untended. And of course the Zojo-ji temple was crawling with tourists ignoring instructions about where not to walk and not to take photographs - walking along the rows and rows of jizo statues click-clicking away. Considering my dream funeral is getting chopped into pieces and fed to birds, such a cold and public thing wasn't the memorial I wanted for my child.

And there's another thing, which is that as far as I can tell the mizuko kuyo ceremony is weirdly wrapped up with guilt over terminating pregnancies, which happens a lot here. Birth control pills were illegal until 1999, the range available now is small, and sometimes doctors refuse to prescribe them. And like everywhere, men are fucking assholes about wearing condoms. Meanwhile, abortion up to five months is legal, readily available, and not socially stigmatized. But of course lots of the women who get them feel awful, and get scared over stories about angry or despairing ghost babies, and pay for the mizuko kuyo ceremony. There are accusations that the temples are taking advantage of emotionally vulnerable women; accusations I was willing to overlook because the ceremony seems like such a beautiful, necessary idea, until I asked at the temple about the price of the ceremony, which was about Euro 9,000.

And at that point, or rather price, it struck me: yes, mizuko kuyo is a beautiful idea. Yes, women need to be able to access some sort of formalized emotional release over losing or terminating a potential child. And yes, this is a fucking scam to extort women who are feeling guilty or scared. There's something reassuring about travelling and learning about other religions and realizing that scammy bullshit isn't limited to the religion I was raised in.

Anyways. I spent yesterday mostly in contemplation of what happened and was very moved by the shrine visits, moved to tears, but it was a form of what happened already a month and a half ago, when I had the eleven/twelve week checkup for the baby I'm pregnant with now, and overheard what I wasn't supposed to overhear about another woman's loss. The walls holding my pain in and other people's pain out coming crashing down again. Not a great feeling, but the right one.

Otherwise, Tokyo is pretty awesome. Post-Brexit I'm tempted to just stay.