Having Many Comfort Zones

Food for Thought

This oyakodon (chicken and egg over rice) at Japan Village was pretty good. It’s one of the comfort foods that bring back my childhood memories. While eating, I was telling Grace who was my daughter’s elementary school teacher, about the day of the middle school prom. I suggested doing a photoshoot since Annika was going to get dressed up. She asked me if I could meet her at this beauty salon in the Lower East Side to get a “blowout.” When I got there, the place was packed full of Latino women getting their hair done. It was a completely foreign world for me, so I didn’t feel comfortable sending my kid in there. Instead, I sent her to a Japanese hair salon a block away.

When it comes to services that involve our bodies, like doctors, dentists, and hairstylists, we tend to require a higher level of comfort and familiarity. I had no idea what to expect from this Latino beauty salon. I wasn’t even sure if their idea of “beauty” would align with mine. Yes, it’s a form of xenophobia but I wasn’t going to take my chances on this special occasion.

But later at home, my wife told me that Annika often goes to this Latino place by herself and chats up with everyone in there. I was shocked. I couldn’t even visualize it. It was obvious who I should thank for this: her public school education. Her ability to comfortably and confidently speak to people across all cultures and social strata will remain with her for the rest of her life.

Because I grew up surrounded only by other Japanese people, my comfort zone is mono-cultural. What Annika learned is invaluable particularly in today’s society where everyone tends to live in their own bubbles. In the last presidential election, Michael Moore shook his head in disbelief when he learned that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was making fun of baseball cap as a promotional idea. For him, this symbolized how out of touch Clinton was from working-class Americans. Sure enough, he was one of the few people who predicted Trump’s victory.

While I still enjoy my comfort food, this reminded me of the importance of pushing beyond my comfort zone.