Thursday, June 28, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #179: My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

It's a cliche to say we're all alone. It's also not true.

Some of us are much more alone than others: physically, mentally, emotionally. Some of us have a harder time connecting to other people, or even wanting to connect. Some of us have wants different enough from the average that figuring them out and working them through takes time and effort. Some of us are in societies that generate more loneliness to begin with.

Nagata Kabi, a young Japanese woman, has all of that, and maybe more: she has serious anxiety issues, and it's not clear how much mental-health support she's gotten from her family and society. She identifies as lesbian, but I wouldn't be surprised if, later in life, she calls herself something closer to asexual or aromantic -- she's twenty-eight at the time of this story, and still doing hard work to figure herself out and build a life she can inhabit without falling apart.

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness is her story: the hook is that she hired a lesbian escort for her first sexual experience, but the point is how she got to that point, and how she was trying to move herself forward. It's a story of a triumph, in a small way: this was a big thing for her, both to do it and to make art about it, and we should celebrate both.

Nagata is deeply honest here; she gives us essentially the story of her adult life: anxiety, eating disorders, an overwhelming urge to please her parents, the desire to live a "normal life" when that is painful every single day, and, underlying everything else, a constant fear and uneasiness about being around other people. She opens with the hook -- that call to the lesbian escort agency -- and then drops back to show us who she is and how she got there.

It's a painful journey, because it was painful to be Nagata Kabi. (It may still be: I hope a little less so every day. I hope this book, and what she's done since, has helped. But we never really know anyone else's pain.)

Nagata tells it clearly and honestly, drawing herself just a little bit chibi and using a pink wash for a second color. It's a deeply honest and true book, informed by a lot of hard lessons that Nagata learned -- there are a lot of people with similar issues who could take guidance and solace and companionship from it. And, for those of us who aren't crippled with anxiety, maybe it can help us understand better other people, and make us less quick to judge the "lazy" or the "weak."

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