- First, I do not buy into 'microaggression'. For me it sounds as
if the term was coined by an academic who was in dire needs for a
research grant. He wanted to spice-up the need for it, by inventing a
- Second, I have lived for the past 20 years in Japan and I share
many of the experiences they are described by Debito and the readers.
But my attitude towards this 'microaggressive' small talk is not one of
anger or frustration. I even refuse to call it 'microaggression'. If I
wanted to give it a name, I would call it 'microannoyance'.
- Third, I have been bullied in school a fair amount. But this 'microaggression' is not aggression or bullying. It is just a kind of misunderstood and clumsy attempt of small talk.
I have learned since my school days, and I am determined not going to be the
victim anymore. Being the victim is terrible, but there is something I can do, especially in cases of being the victim in non-violent situations. So, there must be a solution how to get out of those clumsy small talk attempts. If I want to change the situation, I
need to be active. There is no need to be fatalistic and passive in a
situation in which I might become the 'victim'.
Now, how do I deal with those instances in which someone tries to start
one of those boring conversations by uttering for the millionth time the chopstick/natto/nihongo thingy?
- I am always free to say 'Listen, I am sorry, but
I am tired and I don't want to talk right now'. Actually, I have
never done this, but in a taxi, this might be appropriate.
- I switch to autopilot and let the conversation go for one or two
minutes. My opponent will soon lose interest.
- But actually the best and most interesting way is to try to spin it
in a way to make it sound funny, but at the same time without insulting
- You are good at using chopsticks!
- Well, when I came to Japan it
was a good diet tool. But now, since I am so good at it..... (I
point at my belly)
- (he laughts)
- (I point at his belly)...maybe
you should use knife and fork!
- As a result, maybe I made a friend!
(Of course, you guys, neverever use this for a lady!)
- You are good at using
- Yeah, but the problem is
makes me drunk so quickly!
- Because I keep drinking using
my left hand while eating with my right. Try that with knife and fork!
- Maybe I made a friend again!
- I have a similarly engaging/funny story to tell about being able to eat natto. Wanna hear it? Then we need to meet and you ask me directly.
- I turn the situation around, so that I am the one who is asking
the questions. That makes me being in charge. This is actually quite fun and interesting.
- Where are you from?
- Well, you guess!
- Hmmmm, Sweden?
- What makes you think so?
- (he might think of a reason) hmmmmm....dunno!
Have you ever met a Swede? Have you ever
been in Sweden?
- As a result, I am in charge and can steer the conversation.
I am in a group of people who know me and there is the occasional
stranger who starts this 'microannoyance', my colleagues jump in to
help me. They know that I have heard those questions a million times.
They were the ones who asked those questions, too, in the past! So,
they jump in to rescue me. They answer those questions for me! They are
the ones who introduce me to others!
Why do they do this? Because I had answered their questions in the past in a
rude and abrasive manner? No, because I answered them appropriately/kindly/with wit/etc.
They see that I am struggling with it, and they feel sympathetic!
That feels so good!