Think of this as a Diary of An Anime Lived post if that tickles your fancy.
As much as I love Kuragehime, and as much as I have to say about it, I find it a little bit hard to write about. It hits a little close to home for me, and sweet as it is I really wish I didn’t relate to it as strongly as I do. The girls depicted in the series are less-than-ideal. They’re too short, or too round, or don’t pluck their eyebrows and wear old gray tracksuits. Moreover, they’re all completely obsessed with their own niche interests, shunning the world around them and the company of half the human race in the process.
I’m a fairly proud person: I take two showers a day, have plucked my eyebrows meticulously for years now and get too-expensive haircuts. The reason I relate to “the Sisterhood”, as Funimation refers to them as, is because I completely understand how they ended up that way (so to speak). Simply put, they can’t figure out how to be girls, and so they hide in their otaku-doms, sneering but avoiding the Popular Crowd.
My confession is that I can’t figure out how to be a girl either, irreverent of my pride or my grooming. Let me show you how those misfit girls become who they are.
It’s not that I couldn’t figure out how to be a girl, maybe, it’s simply that I let the status-quo in school influence me to the point where my girlishness was wrenched from my hands. I grew up the daughter of a Filipino mother and homemaker, and a British father and tailor. My first five years of life consisted of wearing hand-made, frilly dresses. At 22, I have boyishly short haircut, and have only in the past 2 years re-incorporated anything resembling a dress or skirt into my wardrobe. I can pinpoint the moment it all went wrong, too.
On the first day of the first grade the teacher had us sit in a circle and sing a song. It was right about before we left for the day. All the mothers of the children stood outside the circle, hovering, giggling, waiting to take their kids home after a no-doubt tiring day at school. We were to sing about the clothing the members of the class were wearing. The song went like this:
Tony’s wearing gre~en pants, gre~en pants, gree~n pants,
Tony’s wearing gre~en pants, _____________
The blank is how the second line of the song goes, and I really can’t remember how it ends because I started crying at that point. I was the only one wearing a dress in the entire class. My mom made it; it was my favorite dress. I don’t know why, but as soon as they started singing “Celeste’s wearing a blue dress” I started tearing up. I was the only one who didn’t have “shirt” or “pants” as the item being sung about. I felt so singled out that I couldn’t bear it, and burst into tears, running to my waiting mother, who promptly took me home.
I didn’t wear a dress again until the 7th grade. We don’t have middle schools in Vancouver, so at the 7th grade we graduate elementary school and go to high school. My mother made me a dress for that occasion, but the wedge heeled shoes I’d picked out were so heavy that I tripped on my way up to the stage to get my ‘diploma’, and clunked down the stairs on my way off. I didn’t wear high heels after that.
At one point in my 7th grade year I was rejected for friendship by more-or-less all the girls in my class, in a cinematic calling-out on a basketball court. I was hurt, of course, but with my parents’ help I went back to school the very next day. I didn’t deal with it well, though. I ran away from reality. I read more books. I watched more anime. I started making websites. When the real world rejected me, I fled into the virtual one, into my interests, and played only to my strengths in reality, ignoring the rest for my own emotional protection.
I never had problems finding a source of self-worth: even if I wasn’t popular with the other girls, I was way smarter than most of them. Nobody could deny I did well in my studies; there were quantifiable, impartial assessments (grades) handed out regularly to prove that. Upon entering high school, and meeting more people I tried once again to reconcile with the (new) popular girls – I plucked my eyebrows, hung around with them at lunch and such. But even though I was of mixed racial descent, I wasn’t blessed with the looks most other mixed kids were. At best, then as now, I’m average. Naturally, things didn’t work out this time either with me and girlishness.
It’s probably not obvious from my account, but antagonism between the ‘popular’ crowd and the nerds only got worse and worse as high school wore on (these things normally do). I lived true to my words, though. I didn’t pay attention to my looks, or my wardrobe, or to boys. Those were the things the ‘popular’ girls did, and I defined myself by everything they weren’t.
The climax of this story is, of course, at my high school prom. After a ridiculously short period as a girlfriend which I can only recall as a mistake, the final blow to my femininity came from my 12th grade math teacher.
My mother had sown my dress from a pattern and fabric I’d picked out. It has a flounce on the back not unlike what Tsukimi describes as a jellyfish’s “lace”. All my other nerdy girl and guy friends were dressed to the nines. None of us had prescribed ‘dates’; we had just gone as a group, danced as a group, sat awkwardly at the tables in the dark as a group. Needing to take a break from all the perfume and hairspray, I stepped out into the lobby of the ballroom. The dance was held in a fancy hotel downtown, and the lobby overlooked the waterfront. I leaned on the railing and stared out at the night view, and my math teacher, Mr. Yuen, wandered over. I’d had him for math two years in a row, and done fairly well in both years (math not being my strong suit). He was a boring, unassuming man who spoke in monotones and had a tiny frame. At 5’7″ I felt gargantuan in proportion to his. His lessons were always a bit dry, but to-the-point and well explained. He didn’t waste words. Mr. Yuen stood beside me, analyzed me and said:
“You don’t look good in a dress, Celeste. All the other girls look good in their dresses, but you don’t good in yours.”
I’m not sure what made him say that, but right there, at that moment, I just gave up.
I’d like to give you some uplifting story of How Things Got Better and Now I’m a Normal Girl, but really, I’m just not sure. I still think I’m too tall, that my frame is too large, that my proportions are weird, that I’m not as cute as many of my friends. I’m sure my haircut makes people think I’m a lesbian, or a feminist. I’m loud, I curse, I’ve watched all of Legend of Galactic Heroes. I talk to men, but I don’t think I’m much better than the cast of Kuragehime.
I got into a conversation with a friend shortly after I began writing this blog in relation to my girlishness or lack thereof. I’ve gotten considerably better since my high school days, but I still can’t see myself fitting into that princess role smoothly.
Me: But I can’t see myself ever getting married.
Her: Why not?
Me: I can’t see anyone who could deal with me for that long.
Her: I think you will get married. I think you say you won’t because, right now, you’re surrounded by all your family and friends and people who love you. You don’t have a deficit of love in your life. But there will be a time when your family passes or moves away, and you won’t see all of us [at university] any longer. When you’re lacking love in your life, you’ll realize that nobody wants to be alone.
Girls like those seen in Kuragehime develop as a means of emotional protection. For some reason or another, they can’t become the princesses they dream about when they’re little girls. So, they find their self-worth in other ways; the common one found among members of the Sisterhood is an absurd level of nerdiness in one thing or another. They gather around each other to stave off loneliness. They say they’ll live a men-less life in the same way that I defined myself by everything the popular girls weren’t – they use what some would perceive as their social ineptitude as a form of definition. They exist, in a gender-neutral state, embracing only the personalities they’ve constructed for themselves around their fandoms.
What I’m about to sing
Will be kept between the two of us, okay?
I keep my desires to myself,
Because I really want this to be our little secret.
I want to take a shortcut
Without getting soaked in the rain,
Without getting blown away by the wind.
It’s unfair, so I laugh.
Even cowards come out to play.
I don’t want to be sad,
Nor tears wetting my face,
I don’t have a clue,
I’m dense, so I laugh.
Teach me the fun things in life.
There’s a face I want to see
There’s a voice I want to hear,
When I wake up,
I hear a joyful
“Good morning and have a good day!”
But in the end, no-one wants to be alone. The part that makes Kuragehime hard to watch is that I know nobody wants to live like this really. Deep down there’s a desire for understanding by another. I hate to spit out the cheesy line, but every girl wants to be a princess, myself included. I can’t help but watch Kuragehime with a place reserved for it in my heart, and I can’t help but cheer for Tsukimi and her friends, no matter what fate they wind up with. I’d like to see their solutions to their own personality problems, because really, I can’t figure mine out and I’d like some examples.