“Sumimasen wakarimasen.” I say this to my Obaasan (grandmother) a lot, it means “Sorry, I don’t understand.” She doesn’t speak English, and I don’t really speak Japanese. However when traveling around Europe I am pretty good at pretending that I do speak Japanese for the ubiquitous English-speaking pan-handlers that expect me to react with sympathy to their fictitious stories of woe. This is wonderful acting practice, not that I am an actress, but being able to school my features into blank ignorance works wonders in the working world, and when I actually do understand my Obaasan and choose to ignore her.

I am not a horrible granddaughter, I am just an unmarried one.

My favorite questions to ignore are along the lines of: “do you have a boyfriend,” “when are you going to get married” or “when are you going to have a baby?” I understand all of these questions in Japanese, because I’ve been hearing them since I was 19. Yes, 19. My grandparents were rooting for great-grandchildren when I was still in my teens, which is an age that time and maturity have led me to conclude I was a complete idiot.

Unfortunately I think I blew my cover of ignorance when I answered one of her marital status/baby questions in Japanese with “I have a dog.”  This made her laugh, and I don’t know if she saw this as a diversionary tactic, or if she actually views husbands and children as dogs. This is when I wish I was fluent in Japanese.

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