In My Solo Exchange Diary: Volume 1 Kabi Nagata outlines the ways in which the publication of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness has changed her life and examines the bounds of her perpetuating loneliness. This companion manga furthers Nagata’s examination of her intense relationship with her mother and her sense of being untethered from other human beings. In this volume, Nagata writes a diary that she addresses to her past self. These letters include meditations on her realities, her failures, her achievements and her hopes.
One thing that struck me about this companion manga was the recurring notion of the impossibility of forcing intimacy. This idea was broached in the first manga and in my last blog post, but Nagata goes into exponentially more detail in My Solo Exchange Diary. The first scene which broaches this issue is Nagata’s account of one of her visits to the escort agency. In this extract, Nagata asks the escort if they could, simply, hug. Nude, and clean from their bath, the two women hold each other tightly. It’s as if Nagata is trying to have the coldness, the loneliness, squeezed out of her. However, as they hold each other, Nagata ponders the various stages of physical intimacy. Surely, she thinks, it is most natural to meet someone organically, become acquainted with them and go from brief touches, to hand holding, to kissing, and so on. However, despite the lack of emotional intimacy in their embrace, being held helps Nagata rid herself of her feelings of coldness – that night, she feels warm, proclaiming “human skin is dangerous! I’m not cold” (28). Nagata feels warm and full – for the time being.
Extrapolating on her meditation on loneliness, Nagata notes that “loneliness isn’t being physically alone – it’s when the people around you don’t recognise who you are or your abilities” (39). For many people, the way they present themselves to the world is at odds to the way they feel internally. For example, I am a person who presents as chirpy, optimistic, and talkative to the world around me – but when I get home, I often feel incredibly drained and relish in spending not just hours, but days, alone. While I enjoy engaging in class, while I love spending time with my friends, I feel most comfortable, most myself, when I am doing things alone – whether it be studying, reading, going to cafes, or even to the cinema, or for dinner. Aspects of my own loneliness stem from the disconnect between the way I feel and experience the world, and the way I am perceived. I imagine that I am not alone in this feeling. It seems that, whoever else feels this way, Nagata certainly does.
At the end of the manga, Nagata realises, after being confessed to by a lovely woman, that her issues with loneliness are not to do with the fact that she is fundamentally undesirable or socially inept, but its cause is more deeply rooted. She admits, when she is unable to reciprocate the feelings of the woman she is dating, that “the one keeping me lonely is me” (158). It is remarkably easy to cast blame on those around us in order to avoid examining our own hand in our unhappiness. Recognising how we contribute to our own pain, or our own loneliness is scary because there are two options; to consciously ignore your destructive behaviours or to try to help yourself. You are left with two options; shame or effort. In continuing to pursue her dream of creating manga-art, and working towards overcoming her intense attachment to her mother and her issues with romantic attachments, Nagata chooses effort.
Nagata recognises, in this volume, that “loving and being loved is like a miracle” (158). While this may seem a ridiculous notion to many, to me it is very, very real. Having grown up with a single mother I have seen that no matter how beautiful, how hardworking, how wonderful you are – it all comes down to luck. Love is a little miracle. Maybe it’s a big miracle. Being a part of a sexual minority compounds this. However, despite this, Nagata is sure that someday she will love and be loved (167). Nagata’s willingness to confront some of the darkest aspects of human experience while she still manages to maintain an ultimately positive outlook on the future is part of what makes her a person one can only root for. I truly hope for her success in life. I haven’t yet read volume two of My Solo Exchange Diary which is the only work by Nagata I have left to read and discuss on here, but it is currently waiting for me in a fresh book depository packet back in my hometown.
This post is, perhaps, more reflective and less analytical than usual, but Nagata’s work is something that leaves impressions. Her work leaves me in wistful reflection, rather than in a flurry of analysis and examination. I do apologise, to my blog supervisor, for how informal this particular post is, but I must say that I am indeed learning some important things about the concept of loneliness through reading Nagata’s work.
Nagata, Kabi. My Solo Exchange Diary. Shogakukon, 2016.
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