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Why are you so far away from me (in age)?

Internets, I was watching Weezer's NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, and it occurred to me, what if the gi

Life in a Shanty Town

April 12 · Issue #103 · View online
The hip-hop newsletter that's not afraid to ask the tough questions

I was watching Weezer’s NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, and it occurred to me, what if the girl in the song “Across the Sea” was way younger than 18, and the TIs made Rivers Cuomo change her age, because they couldn’t have him out here singing about rubbing one out to a letter from a 15-year-old girl?
“Across the Sea,” you’ll recall, is a song from the band’s 1996 album Pinkerton. It’s considered one of the all time great Weezer songs and was voted best Weezer song of all time in a poll on a website for Weezer stans, who, by definition, have no taste in music. (I of course lurve Weezer, but I’m more of a Blue Album guy, and I couldn’t tell you the names of their last five albums.)
The album, unfortunately, underperformed commercially, and the group hasn’t been quite right ever since. I remember reading, on the early ‘00s-era Internets, that in the five-years-or-so span after Pinkerton, Cuomo, who’d had some sort of surgery to make both of his legs the same length, put up blackout curtains on his windows, holed up in his bedroom and fapped to Asian-fetish pr0n.
Not to judge another brother’s lifestyle. I had to walk around in the dark for a while after my right eye split open, and suffice it to say that I’ve seen a pr0n film or two in my time. I’m just saying. It would be very convenient if the girl in the song really was 18, and the song’s lyrics would make a lot more sense if she was significantly younger than that.
Take for example the part about him being depressed because he would never meet her. It doesn’t make sense why he wouldn’t just hop on a plane to Japan, where he’d make sweet, passionate love to her. He’d just dropped the Blue Album, so he almost certainly could have afforded a plane ticket. If the song had been written 20 years later, he could have just “flown her out.” Alas, weird Arab guys on Instagram had yet to pioneer the fine art of reverse sex tourism.
Because the girl in the song sent an actual letter, on weird stationery that we don’t have here in the US, scented with perfume, it probably had a return address on the envelope. Even if it didn’t, it may have had a stamp on it with the zip code from which it was sent. That would have narrowed it down some. Japan is not a huge country, geographically. On a globe I got for Christmas in the late '80s, it seemed small enough that you could walk from one side of it to the other. You could go from door to door, if necessary.
It’s true that Japanese girls tend to have a similar look, at least to us racist Americans. (I’m sure their fellow Asians can easily tell them apart, in much the same way that Eskimos have 100 words for snow.) But that just means it wouldn’t necessarily matter if he found the right one. If I were him, I’d score with at least five girls while I was there, for good measure. Why spend the amount of money it takes to get there to score only once?
Some of the characteristics of the girl described in “Across the Sea” seem age-inappropriate for someone who’s officially an adult. She’s quoted speaking in broken English, presumably because she’s not a native speaker of the language, but could it be that the class she was in had yet to go over subject-verb agreement? “You are 18-year-old girl,” Cuomo sings, “who live in small city of Japan.”
Cuomo says she’s 18, but in a mid '00s-era unauthorized biography of Weezer, he’s quoted as saying, “When I got the letter, I fell in love with her. It was such a great letter. I was very lonely at the time, but at the same time I was very depressed that I would never meet her. Even if I did see her, she was probably some fourteen-year-old girl, who didn’t speak English.”
Elsewhere in the song, Cuomo wonders what kind of clothes she wears to school and how she decorates her room, neither of which is something you would wonder about an adult, and how she touches herself, which is hardly an appropriate thing to say about an adult, let alone someone who might still be in middle school. If she was, that would explain what he meant when he said, “I could never touch you, I think it would be wrong.”
I wonder if I’ve only scratched the surface here. I might throw on Pinkerton this weekend, to investigate further, and on the outside chance that it’s pulled from streaming services, because Ronan Farrow or someone read this and decided to follow up on it. We already lost Ryan Adams this year, and that Nigerian email scammer who sings “Old Town Road” is hardly a suitable replacement.
Take it easy on yourself,

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