Jody Turns 25…in Naked Age Years!


“Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.” ~C. S. Lewis

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“Happy 25th birthday Jody,” I say with a knowing smile and a wink.  Jody rolls her eyes in response, like she has so many times before.  She knows that for this particular birthday wish, I am speaking strictly, proudly, and knowingly of just how young she really is…

…in her birthday suit!

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, Jody's birthday celebration

“Act your age!”  Is that something you’ve been told?  If so, congratulations!  The only appropriate response to such an untenable command is, “Why?”  Besides, what actually is age?  How is it, and should it be measured?  Let me explain.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday celebration 2

Now that is Princess Hair!

Now that is Princess Hair!

Since meeting Jody I’ve solidified my viewpoint on the rather nebulous concept of “age.”  It was starting to coalesce based on my own alternative understanding, but when I realize that Jody has next to no gray in her beautifully flowing and naturally colored hair worthy of any princess, AND that after having served almost 27 years in the military, you realize that chronological age is really a lame measure of age….

How mature is THIS?!?

How mature is THIS?!?

Who runs for their birthday?

Who runs for their birthday?

hello-kitty-40th-anniversaryFor instance, take Hello Kitty, a Japanese native.  She is turning 40 this year, and shares the same birth-month as Jody.  She too, as far as I can research, maintains her natural hair coloring.  Coincidence?  I think not.  While Jody would not so much appreciate the same “cute-a-bration” that the Japanese seem to expend so much of their GDP upon, they both reflect that there are other, much more interesting ways to measure our time on planet earth than simply by the Einsteinium space-time continuum, as fascinating as that truly is.

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Soon after seeing Jody in her never-out-of-style birthday livery, I quickly concluded that there were no less than three measure of “age:” biological, maturity, and…NAKED!  Since that time four years ago, I’ve restacked the list and added a fourth:  chronological, biological, maturity, and, of course, my favorite, naked age.

Aircraft livery is all well and good, but not nearly as exciting as Jody's

Aircraft livery is all well and good, but not nearly as exciting as Jody’s

Wow!

Triple-Digits Wow!

Chronological age, like most concepts that contain the suffix “-logical,” is as boring as it is straight-forward.  As simple as a measure of how many times around the sun one has traveled, it’s the most pedestrian measure of one’s age.  In fact, only when it is in the single or triple digits does it really hold the interest of a wide array of people outside of immediate family.  Oh, and maybe a few more specifics milestones, like turning 16 to get a driver’s license, or 21 for drinking.  Or, see my blog about Coming of Age in Japan.  Of course these don’t compare to the truly odd coming-of-age rituals that are still practiced in the world.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, Jody enjoys her birthday cards

Dinner at Sea Garden

Dinner at Sea Garden

Birthday Dinner

Birthday Dinner

Next we have one’s biological age.  While this notion involves that dreary suffix noted above, it is, at least, slightly more interesting.  Here we have the first distinction between space-time travel and life’s biological ticker.  For instance, I have an Asian friend here in Okinawa who, pictured with her teen-aged children, cannot be distinguished as “mom”!  Or, in Jody’s case, she biologically appears at least 12 years younger than her time spent breathing air on this earth.  Some might say this is partly due to good genetics, but I beg to differ (sorry Mom).  Rather, I believe the secret is in the same body lotion she’s been using since her early teen years.  And she continues to use it daily…on her whole body…for what I like to think is my personal viewing pleasure!  This show, suitably entitled “Lo Sensuale,” (which must be read and verbally stated with a haughty French accent), remains a highlight of my mornings, and to which I have permanently reserved front-row seating.  Oooooooooooooh-la-la!  Sorry, the show’s sold out indefinitely.  Oh, there’s probably some value in the makeup she’s been using for just as long, the kind with embedded sunscreen.  Jody’s biological age is clearly well over a decade younger than her chronological age, but the distinctions don’t stop there.

A very immature depiction of Hello Kitty.

A very immature, and hilarious depiction of Hello Kitty.

Jody as not-quite-matured schoolgirl.

Jody as a not-quite-matured yet matured(!) schoolgirl.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday celebrationOne’s general level of maturity can also be used to reflect, to some prosaic people, a more realistic representation of one’s overall age.  We’re told, by all those really mature PhDs out there, that maturity helps one know the correct time and place to behave (or, the way I like to think about it, misbehave), and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society in which one lives.  How dreadfully boring is that?!  In my case, Jody would consider me an adolescent boy at times!  In other words, if you response to being called a “smart-ass” (cause you are being one) with, “…better than being a dumb-ass,” you most likely rate very low in terms of maturity.  And in that case, you and I would be fast friends.  If you say, in response to someone’s opportunistic phrase like “it’s not stiff enough,” with “that’s what she said,” we are kin on a spiritual level.  Or, in terms of my taste in music (angry white-boy scream-o music) and movies (Zoolander, Dumb & Dumber, Wedding Crashers), I remain quite possibly still stuck in my (early) 20s.  And my lack of maturity is something I believe that helps keep Jody young in this measure as well.  Is it me, or is it true that potty humor never really goes out of style?!?  While a high degree of maturity may help emphasizes a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality, which contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful, great for the masses of atheists out there, all the proof of good and god in this world I need is my wife’s naked age!

Fireworks over Jody's Naked...age.

Fireworks over Jody’s age.  All of them.

Much like the naked truth being always better than a well-dressed lie, so too is naked age so much more revealing than the well-dressed person.

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Naka's youthfulness lends to our celebration.

Naka’s youthfulness lends to our celebration.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday celebration 3If you haven’t noticed, Naked Age happens to be my favorite measure of age!  And yes, although many of you may not want to admit to having one, you do.  It’s that inescapable birthday suit of yours that you can’t quite seem to part with, even though it may need to be ironed and/or taken in here or there.  When I talk about this with new friends (and I always do), I see many people get visibly uncomfortable.  Why, exactly, I remain dumbfounded about.  Is it the American puritan heritage?  Is it that we replace a healthy respect for nudity (like you can find in Europe) with violence and gore (missing in many areas of the world)?  Is it the Church (all of them) and their insistence that sex is for procreation…and between a priest and young boys?  No, I just think it’s because we Americans continue to characterize sex as dirty, shameful and overly private.

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker!

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker!

We did a Hello Kitty birthday last year.

We did a Hello Kitty birthday last year.

Okay, I didn't get her a plane with her image on it....

Okay, I didn’t get her a plane with her image on it….

...but she's my all-time favorite nose-art pinup!

…but she’s my all-time favorite nose-art pinup!

Jody, already famous for driving naked in Japan, shouldn’t be too embarrassed by putting into print what I so much like to bring up in public.  And besides, it’s her birthday, regardless of the measure of age chosen.  While I couldn’t give Jody the worldwide Hello Kitty celebrations, like the Hello Kitty Con in Los Angeles and the Thanksgiving Day-like parades in Tokyo, we did manage, like we always do, to have a quietly intimate celebration together.  But Jody can be sure that she shares with Ms. Kitty much younger alternative measures of age.  Taking a number of online tests online as Jody’s proxy, I have scientifically and irrefutably verified my own personal assessments of Jody’s age, all four of them:

Chronological Age:  45

Biological Age:  33

Mature Age:  20s-30s

Naked Age:  25

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, Jody with her apple caramel birthday cupcakes

Happy Birthday Jody.  Here’s to looking forward to a few years of you turning 25, again and again (wink)!  Oh, and for the guys, remember, you’re only as old as the woman you date!

Thank god, because my naked age is most definitely NOT 25….

How old are YOU?

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday dinner at Sea Garden

For some of the online tests I referenced, see the following:

http://www.biological-age.com/

http://www.allthetests.com/quiz03/dasquiztd.php3?testid=1035132458

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2518019/Whats-YOUR-real-age-New-calculator-reveals-old-body-really-based-mood-diet-exercise–youre-probably-older-think.html

Booze, Smokes & Porn: Coming of Age in Japan


“Where should I go?” asked Alice.  “That depends on where you want to end up.” Responded The Cheshire Cat.  ~Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”  ~Chinese Proverb

Don't let your kids grow up to be teen-generate!!

Mammas don’t let your sons grow up to be…in Japanese punk-rock bands!

During our adventures this past week up in the north of Okinawa, I came across three very distinct products accessible to young people and even children that one would never find in the United States:  beer vending machines, cigarette vending machines, and sexually explicit comic books.  And these things got me to thinking about coming of age, and how different cultures treat their younger citizens-to-be, and when and how they confer upon them the age of majority.

The Japanese are NEVER too old for Mickey....

The Japanese are NEVER too old for Mickey….

Many years ago vending machines that sold beer were more prominent and popular in Japan being colocated with the less tantalizing drink vending, but this more adult “option” starting in June 2000 has become much scarcer over concerns of underage drinking.  The last bastion of such easily accessible silly drink seems to be in Japanese hotel chains, usually found just adjacent to other vending on guest floors, and with no other safeguards against minors other than being able to have and count cash.  Cha-CHING says the 6-year old!  Odd that the US Navy would remove their beer machines from the bachelors’ quarters well before the Japanese would think of doing the same in their billeting.  Seems to imply that the Navy may think of its sailors as, well, children??

Okinawa Nov 2013, Rizzan Sea Park Hotel, cig vending 1

While the beer vending machine’s popularity is fading, cigarette machines are still going strong here in Japan, but are becoming more sophisticated, sometimes requiring a special card as proof of majority age to help prevent minors from buying cigarettes.  These machines can still be found in various public spaces and along the street, while smoking in Japan is still allowed in many restaurants and almost all bars.  This is something that Jody and I find very hard to accept and get used to, and, in fact, it sometimes dictates where and when we frequent certain establishments.

Okinawa Nov 2013, Rizzan Sea Park Hotel, cig vending 2

The graphic comic books, more commonly called manga, are most generally designed for male readers and are sub-divided according to the age of intended readership:  boys up to 18 years old (shōnen manga) and young men 18- to 30-years old (seinen manga).  Further, the Japanese use different kanji for two closely allied meanings of “seinen”—青年 for “youth, young man,” and 成年 for “adult, majority”—the second referring to sexually overt and totally graphic manga aimed at grown men and also called seijin (“adult” 成人) manga.  Shōnen, seinen, and seijin manga, however, share many features in common, and all often have very strong sexual themes, regardless of the age bracket.  I cannot find anywhere stated or stipulated that there is a minimum age for purchases these comics.  It is not uncommon to see a fully sexually graphic comic being read on the bus or subway.  Because manga are not photos, they are not considered pornography.

This is actually a "tamer" page....  Youngsters and Puritans, cover your eyes!

This is actually a “tamer” page…. Youngsters and Puritans, cover your eyes!

So, it seems there may be a higher level of trust placed on both Japanese children and the society it takes to raise such youngsters where they can mature into the future stewards of the nation.  Stated another way, I think it’s also kinda like this:  hiding and making booze, smokes, and porn taboo makes most youngsters want to experience them that much more.  Hell I did – and did.  When such vices are not so mysterious, (poorly) hidden and (falsely) revered, they take on a much less important aspect of coming of age.  And this leads directly to a marked tradition in Japan celebrating such achievement, the Coming of Age Day.

Now Women Celebrate Coming of Age

Now Women Celebrate Coming of Age

Coming of Age Day (成人の日 Seijin no Hi) is a Japanese holiday held annually on the second Monday of January to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached 20 years old, the age of majority.  Festivities include coming of age ceremonies (成人式 seijin-shiki) held at local and prefectural offices, as well as after-parties among family and friends.  Coming of age ceremonies have been celebrated in Japan since at least the early 8th century (CE), when young princes often donned new robes and hairstyles to mark passage into adulthood.  During the Edo Period of Japan (1603-1868) boys marked their passage to adulthood at age 15 by cutting their hair and carrying swords.  Girls became adults at age 13, which as far as I can tell, is still the age of consent for sex.  The official age of adulthood for both genders was set at 20 in 1876, while the holiday was first established in 1948 as January 15, but was realigned in 2000 as a result of the “Happy Monday System” (you have to love the Japanese!) to the second Monday in January.

Ageless Fashion

Ageless Fashion

Turning 20 in Japan is similar to becoming 18 in the United States for some things and 21 for others.  20-year-olds in Japan can legally vote, drink, smoke, and enter into contracts, such as marriage, without parental permission.  Oddly enough, however, one needs only to be 18 to get a driver’s license (considered a “profession” here with analogous legal ramifications) and to buy pornography (but 20 to be in it in an odd twist).  And, in an interesting tangent, gun ownership is almost nil in Japan and tightly controlled, severely limited, and only for those 25 and older; as a result, Tokyo is the safest major democratic city in the world, with a handgun murder rate at least 200 times less than that of a typical American city (there is a lesson there as well).  However, those coming of age also become subject to the laws and social responsibilities that bind adults.  Social norms and adult responsibilities are much more widely held and respected in Japan, where shame and embarrassment still matter to most.

Some Storm Troopers are recruited much too young.

Some Storm Troopers are recruited much too young.

Contemporary Men's Wear

Contemporary Men’s Wear

Coming of age ceremonies (成人式 Seijin-shiki) marks attainment of the age of majority, which reflects both expanded rights but also increased responsibilities expected of new adults in the Japanese culture.  The ceremonies are generally held in the morning at local city offices throughout Japan, where government officials give speeches in what must be relatively boring affairs, and small presents are handed out to the newly recognized adults, numbering last year in excess of 1.2 million (the numbers have been steadily declining in the last decade).  It is after the ceremony when the real fun begins, when young adults often celebrate in groups by going to parties or going out drinking at izakaya pubs, simply enjoying some of the freedoms that adulthood brings.

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Making fans look manish.

Making fans look manish.

Many women celebrate this day by renting or borrowing furisode, a style of kimono with long sleeves that hang down, and zōri sandals.  Since most are unable to put on a kimono by themselves due to the intricacies involved and relative unfamiliarity, so most choose to visit a beauty salon to dress and for hair and makeup.  Their look is completed by loud and often gaudy accessories, often purchased at great expense.  Men sometimes also wear traditional dress consisting most often of pantaloons and haori long jackets seen in samurai dramas, but many more contemporary men enjoy a wider variety of wear such as formal Western clothes like suit and tie.  For young women, total expenses start at over $1,000!

She's old enough now to pay for that silly schtick!!

She’s old enough now to pay for that silly schtick!!

I think back to my own childhood and realize that I grew up exposed to these “vices,” and was more normalized because of such exposure.  My father even went so far as to confront his church (staunch Southern Baptist) when confronted about his girlie magazines and work cocktail parties he was known to throw.  Yes, there were magazines in our household growing up; heck, I had an older brother as well!  Yes, there was a wet bar in our home, unsecured and easily accessible.  And yes, both my parents smoked, and we had any access we wished to cigarettes.  Now, I’m not expounding that Moms and Dads everywhere drink and smoke with their kids and leave porn in their bathrooms and on coffee tables, but the opposite extreme is no less harmful.  If children are raised correctly, if there are the proper expectations place on them, combined with the respect they deserve as really the young adults which they are, they will successfully separate the wheat from the chaff, and be better off for it.  If we all stop and really think about coming of age, what would you really rather have:  the American fascination with guns, rampant violence in all our media, and a runaway culture of fear, or perhaps, some boobs and beer machines sprinkled here and there.  It really should make you wonder.