Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day from the Kaisha

I was so naive in thinking that because Valentine's Day falls on a weekend this year I would be spared the horror of yet another Valentine's Day at the Kaisha. Our first year, Other Whitie and I consulted in hushed whispers in the days leading up to V-Day, trying to decide whether we would cave and click around the office in our heels, distributing chocolate to our male colleagues. Being the strong ENTJs that we are, we forewent the painful custom and instead sat back with popcorn to watch the show.

There were armies of Secretaries marching up and down the halls laden with chocolate goodness to be proffered at the feet of the Professionals. I'm surprised some of them made it back to their desks with arms intact after adorning the lengths of them like bangles with small jewelled bags of chocolate. You have to keep in mind, these ladies don't encounter much heavy-lifting.

During some post-battle drinks in the days following, I listened as Professionals boasted about how many women they received chocolates from and compared numbers. It was all a bit tribal really. The flip side is, of course, that they will have to reciprocate with candy on White Day exactly one month later. The boasting aside, I think most salarypeeps in Japan wish chocolate giant Morinaga had never come up with the V-Day custom where only women give chocolate to their colleagues (giri choco, obligation chocolate) and special someone (honmei choco, sweetheart chocolate), but let's face it, what a genius idea: if there's one thing the Japanese embrace, it's obligation. Then the men, who at first are secretly pleased with the long lines of gift-bearing visitors they receive on the 14th, realize what a huge pain in the ass it is to return something to each and every one of them. It doesn't stop there.

According to "tradition" (estb. 1978), men in Japan should be returning gifts twice or three times the amount of that which they received on V-Day from their main squeeze. I don't usually align myself with the holders of testicles, but it's quite clear that they are getting the shitty end of the stick in this fabricated tradition. Why are the men always required to give more? Is it simply an economic thing or are there some seriously spoiled biatches running the show from behind the scenes? I think it goes back to the misguided construction of what a "lady" is. It seems to me that holidays like Christmas and V-Day/White Day are for women to give 10% and receive 110. It's all very well to be treated by your man and to receive a little gallantry but what happened to dishing out what you'd like in return? My Japanese teacher with her somewhat old skool ideas on love and marriage put it quite succinctly today: "Couples have to put in effort to show the other they still care. Women who get married think they are set for life in terms of love and money, stop wearing make-up and making an effort, and then wonder why their man is admiring some hot young piece on the street." Well put, Sensei.

I was starting to get a little twisted today when my male colleagues (as if there is any other kind) started up with their annual chocolate-counting fest, especially since I don't have Other Whitie a few doors away to meet up with for a fruit-eating conference. But then surprise of surprises! I received a couple small boxes of chocolates. Yes, I will admit one was from my Japanese teacher who is likely trying to prevent me from going off the deep end from all this testosterone, but I also received chocolate from real live females! Not my Secretary of course, who seems to have declared a mousey silent vendetta against me. My first thought was, has my skirt and heels combo been looking particularly, um, masculine lately? But no, they are "friend chocolates," a whole other as of yet unexplored category. Whatever category they were given it, the gesture warmed the cockles of my green heart. (Would someone please explain what the fuck a cockle is anyway?!?!)

I have now been inspired to go out and buy the beau a little token of chocolatey love, and not from the convenience store either. Nope, he is getting some 4000 yen chocolate from Tokyo Midtown, where, as with every other shopping centre and department store, they have a special V-Day market set up to rob us of our money and our senses. 4000 yen chocolate that I will end up eating as he is not such a chocolate-eater unless it is in the form of a cake or pastry. Unfortunately, however, I have to go to a host club tonight so I don't have the time to go home and bake.

Yes you heard right! Tomorrow will bring an extra extra read-all-about-it Valentine's Day edition of Project Host. My lovely friend is feeling a bit down this week so what better to lift a girl's spirits than some alcohol-fueled conversation with some hot cotton candy-haired hosts?!


Anonymous said...

Hi! I chanced upon your blog when I was randomly searching for blogs on Japanese host clubs and I've subscribed to your blog via google reader! Thanks for the really interesting posts on loving in Japan! They brighten up my otherwise boring workday :D

Anonymous said...

A cockle is the ventricle of your heart (one of them, anyway).

I am probably not getting Valentine's day chocolate from my partner - not his shtick. Canada-side, how often do women do the romancing on V Day anyway? It's more of the same ratio...

But I think women in general are still marginalised, so one or two holidays of being spoilt doesn't add up to the other 363 where we (especially those of us who are mothers) are expected to work a "second shift" everyday after work/school. Then again, even those two days only reinforce notions of strictly regimented gender normativity and encourage women to remain "lady-like" and, perhaps, overly emotional and "irrational."

...But I don't care. Because I like chocolate.

Ji said...

Having to wear heels, look pretty. and complete various other painstaking tasks, don't you think we deserve that extra 110%? I, for one, can't seem to eat enough chocolate...

Looking forward to your HC exploits...


Green-Eyed Geisha said...

cleyra: hi and thanks for your comment!

aimless: Women are marginalized, but the ones I was referring to were spoilt Tokyo princesses who have nothing to do during the day but spend their husbands'/parents' money. I certainly don't begrudge women their due, but I also think men should be given their due as well.

Ji: I can't get enough chocolate either! And I also like looking pretty and wearing heels. I think if it's found to be painstaking, it shouldn't be done.

Julie said...

Women have to go first, though, and for that they deserve getting more later. It"s embarrassing to be the first one to give chocolate. I'm not talking about the girichoco. I'm talking about the chocolate that basically asks out the guy you give it to. It"s nerve-wracking.

I don't really celebrate Vday either way, though.

Your host adventures are so entertaining. I wish I had friends with enough money / interest to do it with me.