25 March 2010

Back in the house

I'm back to my desk and back to normal, for the most part. My brother-in-law was here with his family (partner and son) for the week.
  • On Sunday, we went out into the villages: had cream tea, went to a farmer's market, and ate dinner a pub in Woburn.
  • On Monday, we drove to Cockfosters and I went to Middlesex while they took the underground into the city to go to the British Museum. I met them there in the late afternoon and we went to Oxford Circus to find the Vivienne Westwood shop. We found it, and I felt terribly out of place there. We then went to Liberty, a big, high class department store in Oxford Circus, where I again felt out of place, thinking the whole time that I wish I could fit in at a place like that. More on this later. We then ate, quite inexplicably, at Pizza Hut in Piccadilly Circus, and came home.
  • On Tuesday, we hired a car and all of us went out to Oxford (all meaning Yoko and the kids too). We went to the covered market, had coffee outside, ate on the lawn in front of Christ's church, and got ten-hole Dr. Marten's for my nephew.  We then went up to the outlet malls in Bicester Village (Paul Smith and Ralph Lauren, being the hottest in my humble opinion) and spent the rest of the day looking at clothes. They got me a bitchin' Paul Smith tie that is pretty much the coolest piece of clothing I own.
  • On Wednesday, I came to work and they stayed in Milton Keynes.
  • And this morning, they took the train to Paris.
It was a whirlwind tour, but they are quite easy people to live with. We have stayed with them many times at their house in Japan, so it was nice to be able to reciprocate a little and also have some family contact, as we hardly ever get to see my or Yoko's family in real life. I think they had a good time.

I felt odd negotiating between two cultures, Japanese and British, not being really a part of either. It was interesting: I was trying to explain to Yoko that British and Japanese people read different things as rude, so it's strange to see people act and react to each other.

Something I realised when I was in Paris with my sister is that I have very little awareness of myself as an American, with a particular American accent. This is, perhaps, because when I am not at work, I am generally with Yoko and the kids, speaking in Japanese. This is a cloak of invisibility, I think: I am completely ambiguous to the British people I am around because it is not a language they can place, especially spoken by a large white person. In Paris, though, my sister and I were sitting at a counter in a cafe, talking, and I realised that everyone could place us as Americans. We talked in a certain way, we behaved in a certain way. Our should and should nots came from an American perspective and there was no way to hide that.

I guess my being embarrassed about that, or not liking it, or being uncomfortable about it, is silly, as it is who I am. But I have now lived almost 25% of life overseas and feel so disconnected from the States. It's strange to realise that I will never be really disconnected from it.

I should have warned this entry will be long.

On to fashion: my in-laws are very fashionable. Very aware of what's hot and what's not. They dress well and look good all of the time. I, on the other hand, have only recently come into thinking about fashion-type things, convinced of it's value, finally, by that movie about the girl interning at the fashion magazine... The Devil wears Prada.

In that movie, if you haven't seen it, there's a great scene where the intern is talking about how she doesn't care about fashion, and the editor of the magazine just takes her apart over it, explaining the history of the sweater the intern is wearing and basically exposing the intern's ignorance. The long and short of it was, if you wear clothes, you engage fashion. And if you think you don't because you think you make your choices about clothing based on price or comfort or whatever, you are basically just being told what to wear by the store you shop at. And when people look at you, they see you as something based on what you wear, whether consciously or not, and whether you like it or not.

Or something like that.

Anyway, so I have been a bit more fashion conscious, not to a silly extent, but I think about what I wear a bit more and more importantly, about what my clothes say about who I am, and how other people read what I wear. This has involved acquisition of boots, jeans, dress shirts, and sport coats, a mixture of which says what I think I want to say: confident, laid-back, understated, American independence (wait, what did I just say about not wanting to be an American?). So I think the next thing I want to get is a pair of Paul Smith jeans, on sale, of course, but cut skinny and narrow, unlike the Levi's that I wear now. That and I should probably start starching my shirts.

My nephew got these Dr. Marten's that were totally hot and reminded me of being 16 and my mom getting me Dr. Marten's. I felt like I could take over the world in those shoes.

All this leads us nowhere: the sun is shining and I have writing to do. I was invited to take part in a meeting of academics and a 'number of [business] representatives from companies and organizations (consultancy firms, banks, law firms, communication and PR professionals, and so on)' at the conference I'm attending in June in Amsterdam. I can't tell if this was an invite to only a small number of people presenting, or everyone presenting, but given that my dream is to basically be an academic four days a week and a consultant one day a week, this could be a good start. Looks like a grey suit and, fingers crossed, short trips to the continent for business, are in my future.