Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finding Your Onee-San

What is an ‘onee-san’ you ask?  Well, as those with a fondness for Japan in one regard or another can tell you, the term literally means ‘older sister’ with additional respectful connotations attached via the formal ‘-san’ suffix.  The term is notable in that it can be applied to someone who is not necessarily one’s biological sister, and it crops up throughout Japanese culture, from freshman addressing seniors in highschool to being the term for an apprentice geisha’s mentor.  It is in this last form that we are most interested in the word, because, my dears, the next step to become a lady is to find a real lady who will help you achieve your goal.

How do you identify your onee-san?  Simple.  Look for the woman you admire most in the world.  Now at this point some you may be thinking of your mothers, and while everyone’s mother is (usually) the walking definition of ‘the greatest woman ever’, it’s best not to make her your onee-san.  Why?  Because she’s too invested in you and your relationship with her is already one of mother and daughter.  Your onee-san must be able to speak candidly to you, and she should connect with you on a more personal level than the one afforded by the maternal bond.  Remember, you are looking for pseudo-older sister, and unless your mother is of a very different sort, (I’m looking at you, Gillian Darmody and Atia of the Julii) she’s not the one to fill this role. 
Instead, seek out that non-maternal older woman of fabulous style and powerful personality (aunt, friend, actual older sibling), and respectfully inform them of your admiration for them.  Then ask if they’d be willing to help you.  The odds are pretty damned good that unless the potential onee-san is a bitch of spectacular proportions, the response will be a yes.  I can think of very few people who would not like to know that they are admired and looked up to, and, in tandem, very few people who would balk at helping someone improve themselves.  We all crave a trusted mentor, and on some level we all want to mentor someone else, or at least that has always been my experience. 

And what happens if you cannot find an onee-san at all?  Do not despair, my dears, for you still have two more options.  Option the first:  Find an onii-san (big brother).  Whether he’s elbow deep in engine grease or the original sassy gay friend, a man is more than able to help a woman along her path to becoming a lady.  The dynamic inevitably will be different (and if he’s the engine grease type he’s most likely not the one to go shopping for cocktail dresses with), but an onii-san can teach as much as an onee-san.  Indeed, some lucky ladies out there might have the good fortune to have one of each gender, for an extra balanced perspective. 
And if there’s absolutely no one there to help you out?  Well then it’s time to hit the books and the movies again.  In my earliest stages of becoming a lady, when I still had little real understanding of just what it was I wanted, I taught myself through observing and researching.  As per example, I figured out how to put my hair up and keep it immaculate and sleek from watching Memoirs of a Geisha, and handy information can come from any number of sources.  (Other influences for me were Paradise Kiss, which inspired me to make my own clothes, and Atlantis the Lost Empire, which sparked my interest in dead languages). 

Now, once you have an onee-san, you may wonder how to use her advice.  A simple place to start is always just getting together for a chat.  Outline your interests more clearly and ask your onee-san for her opinion on them.  She may approve, she may disapprove, but if you’ve chosen well (and the choosing of your onee-san, my dears, is on your own heads) your onee-san will definitely help you in some way, either by pointing you in the right direct or by getting things straightened out for you to progress towards your goal.  Regardless, you have only one job at this point:  Listen to your onee-san, and learn from her example. 

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