The Dreaded Christmas cake

The majority of woman, especially those in Japan, will probably know what I mean when I mention Christmas cake.

All over the world, woman are perceived as ticking time bombs, rushing about to get married before their looks deteriorate, because obviously, when our looks are gone we have nothing else to offer [end sarcastic tone]. It is a pressure many woman, regardless of age and nationality feel, myself included. But how do I know when is too late? How old should I be when I marry? Society is quick to shake its head and scold me in various forms of awkward smiles and ‘helpful’ advice, but no one will actually give me a date by which I should marry. Japan, however, comes to the rescue.

The one thing I absolutely adore about the Japanese, is that they have a word, or a phrase for everything! For example,  積ん読 (Tsundoku), meaning, to buy books and leave them unread. This is a personal favorite of mine, and in looking up more words for this blog, I found many others which I shall put in another post later for you to enjoy and marvel at! 

In Japanese, nothing is left unexplained in some wondrous way, and unmarried woman over the age of 25 are no exception. Yup, you got it, In my title, I’m not actually referring to a cake, but to a single woman. The concept has much less weight than previous years, for the most part in this day and age, with many woman in Japan leaving marriage until later in their lives and receiving no stigma for it. However, it is not absent.

But, why a Christmas cake you ask? Well, no one buys Christmas cakes after the 25th right? Well, in the same way, this is used to describe how no one will want to ‘buy’ a woman who is over the age of 25. It’s honestly a depressing and more than a little degrading. But, oh well, It’s not like I can travel back in time and bitch slap whoever decided to create this phrase. (But how satisfying would it be if I could!)

However, this does not mean that the ingrained belief that a woman should marry young is not still heavily ingrained into the mentality of many Japanese people. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I personally believe that this is a mentality shared with many countries all over the world, but. I’m just talking about Japan today due to the fact that 1.This is my current home, and 2. I’m going to tell you a little story.

Yes, just yesterday me and a few friends were talking about the concept, and how pressuring it could be for us woman who are nearing the age of 25. I mean, the Christmas cake thing aside, so many other parts of society tell us that romance and marriage in the younger years is really the best option, especially for woman. In many movies and books, romance is often portrayed between young people, often those in their late teens and early twenties. I often feel that, as a single person in her early twenties, that I’m missing out on some amazing passionate romance, when in fact, all I’m probably missing out on is gaining weight thanks to the various pizza nights and many squabbles over god knows what. (Let me stew in my bitter pessimism for a moment here, it helps me sleep at night). So, if you take that, and the fact that men generally prefer younger woman over those their own age, we don’t really have many odds in our favor, especially when you bring in this Christmas cake business.

As I said before, despite the fact that this generation, for the most part, have able to escape the dreaded Christmas cake curse, I do still think it is in the back of everyone’s minds, especially where the older generation is concerned. My proof? Let me tell you a little bit about my morning.

So, I was pushing it for time this morning, and in my dazed state, decided that getting a taxi to the bus terminal was the best choice.  Considering that if I missed my bus I would be in a world of trouble. So, greeting good morning to the Taxi driver outside of 7/11, along with his taxi driver friend, an elderly man which I knew from other taxi times, I got in and gave my directions to the bus terminal. We chatted a little, and it was pleasant. “You’re very pretty” The old man said to me with a kind smile in the mirror. “Oh gosh, no not really, but thank you” I smiled, waving my hand in an attempt to be humble but not ungreatful for his kind words. “Are you married then?” he asked. I get this a lot for some reason. “Oh, no!” I laughed lightly. “I see, I see” he laughed back “A boyfriend then?” he asked curiously, my destination nearing. “Nope”, I smiled, getting my money ready. “Oh, so how old are you? 22? 23?” He glanced up in the mirror, nothing but kindness on his face. “I’m 23” I smiled back. “Ah, as I thought” he began “Well, you still have some time then!” He breathed out in what could only be described as some what of a relieved tone.

Still have time? Was I running out? I faltered for a moment, but my destination had saved me, allowing me to pay, thank him and wish him a good day. I wonder how he would have reacted if I had said 25? ‘Better get your game on girl!’, or how about 26! ‘That’s a shame, but if you push yourself, I’m sure you can find someone!’.

There was no harm in him, and I’m not offended, or even sad, just curious and a little bit perplexed. However, it does bring to light this perception everyone harbors about woman and the social expectations placed upon them. I always promised  myself that I would never make a decision as a result of social pressures, but やっぱり, sometimes its hard to ignore them.

With that being said, it seems like I should get off the PC and go find me a husband! I mean, I only have 673 days, 14 days and 37 hours left!

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2 thoughts on “The Dreaded Christmas cake

  1. I have been thinking about feminism in Japan a lot lately (or lack thereof). This seems on par with what I have been observing and I feel like I could have written this blog post myself! With all the pressure it sometimes feels like people are expressing that I am “wasting my best years” living in a country where I can’t start to “settle down.”

    • It’s a very difficult thing! And all the while woman are told to go out there and find a man, men are doing none of the ‘looking’. Men In Japan are said to becoming more and more passive, waiting for woman to come to them, which just makes it 10 times harder for us woman. Not to mention being a foreign woman in Japan. Where dating is concerned, I do think Japan has a very complex way of doing things, which I’m sure is very straightforward for anyone Japanese, but a crazy trip for everyone else.

      I hope to write more about this and general feminism in Japan over the next year or two!

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