Since moving to New York I've learned what the word "geisha" really means to most Westerners. From time to time at elegant parties, I've been introduced to some young woman or other in a splendid dress and jewelry. When she learns I was once a geisha in Kyoto, she forms her mouth into a sort of smile, although the corners don't turn up quite as they should. She has no idea what to say! And then the burden of conversation falls to the man or woman who has introduced us - because I've never really learned much English, even after all these years. Of course, by this time there's little point even in trying, because this woman is thinking, "My goodness . . . I'm talking with a prostitute . . . " A moment later she's rescued by her escort, a wealthy man a good thirty or forty years older than she is. Well, I often find myself wondering why she can't sense how much we really have in common. She is a kept woman, you see, and in my day, so was I.I once heard an explanation of traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies from a man who had stayed in Japan for quite a few years, and learned it while there. Apparently, the bride wears a crown of thorns on her head, covered by her veil. These thorns symbolize her jealousy, and she is essentially stating, "I know that you will chase after other women and be unfaithful to me, but today is our wedding day, so I will cover my thorns of jealousy." Was it common for the richer men who acted as dannas to have a geisha, even though they themselves were already married? Well, I don't know. But onwards to my point.
I'm sure there are a great many things I don't know about these young women in their splendid dresses, but I often have the feeling that without their wealthy husbands or boyfriends, many of them would be struggling to get by and might not have the same proud opinions of themselves. And of course, the same is true for a first-class geisha. It is all very well for a geisha to go from party to party and be popular with a great many men; but a geisha who wishes to become a star is completely dependent on having a danna. Even Mameha, who became famous on her own because of an advertising campaign, would have lost her standing and been just another geisha if the Baron hadn't covered the expenses to advance her career.
With a 50% divorce rate in North America, I wonder how much of it is actually due to unfaithfulness. Are women here essentially saying the same thing when they get married, and hiding their "thorns of jealousy"? Is it common, and should it even be expected that the husband will cheat on the wife? We hear of it happening all the time, but I wonder what the actual statistics are. Because certainly, Nitta Sayuri (the character making these statements in the book) is correct in saying that many of the young women she meets in affluent North American circles are nothing more than trophy wives. Women who are married or are being courted simply because the men got tired of their previous wives.
And given a 50% divorce rate in North America, I seriously wonder about several things:
a) Do these people have any clue what they're getting into when they make their vows? Do they understand the hardships that will come, and that it will not be an easy ride?
b) Do these people really love each other?
c) Do these people actually consider relationships sacred and something to be cherished?
d) Why do these people seem to assume that they know each other after dating for a few years, or after sex?
e) Even worse, those who are clearly in relationships that are completely incompatible, why do they keep at it? And hope that marriage and having kids will solve all the problems?
f) Are these people stupid? (yes, I have to ask... I always have to ask... call me optimistic, but I like to think that there's some hope that this isn't the case...)
The introduction of no-fault divorce certainly has made marriages trivial. People can divorce over "irreconcilable differences", rendering marriage no more of a commitment than a regular dating relationship. The low barrier to exiting the marriage allows anyone to move out of the marriage as soon as they see something better. And they will; the grass is always greener on the other side. Consequently, with easy entry and exit capabilities, there is no need for due diligence and information gathering before the start of a marriage; if it turns out to be bad, just cancel it! This of course then leads to a lack of incentive in due diligence, allowing people to go purely with the heat of the moment and treat marriage like a game of Russian roulette. And that finally leads to a low commitment on either side to the health and longevity of the marriage.
In conclusion? It's not just the geisha back in old-style Japan. It's not just the trophy wives now. Many couples in today's society are treating each other the same way. People's emotions are bought and sold on a free market of emotional commodities. Girlfriend not working out? Dump her and get a new one! Chee, did you even do the analysis properly in the first place? Couldn't you see from the beginning that you have totally different values, life goals, interests, and worldviews? And people wonder why there are so many relationship problems in this world....
What, didn't you already know I was cynical?