Friday, July 24, 2009

Meet the palents

Not quite, I've met the beau's parents but this past-past Sunday when they came to Tokyo it was Serious Talk time. I'll warn you before going any further, I didn't embarrass myself or have something happen to make me cry or angry so on the whole, it was a fairly uneventful visit. There were also no underage girls running around.

Unskilled non-housewife that I am, I royally fucked up some of my kimono whites and had to buy new tabi from the Mitsukoshi near our house before the start of the week. As the parents also had to buy some expensive fruit to send to someone, we all made the trip there together. The beau and I hadn't really come up with a plan of attack but I figured the ball was going to drop over dinner that night. When the beau and I were alone after the department store however, I found out that he was very pleased with himself as he'd been able to slip in a vague and ambivalent comment about saving money for school in Canada when asked whether he was saving for a Ring by his mother. I was a little skeptical as to whether the full weight of this comment was felt but left it at that.

We went to Ganchan in Azabu for dinner, our favourite yakitori restaurant in the city. If you have a little extra money to spend and enjoy eating chicken and other delicacies on sticks, I would highly recommend it. A lot of geinojin go there but then again a lot of tourists seem to be frequenting it now as well, which does not attract me snooty girl that I am. It must have had the misfortune of being written up in Frommers or Lonely Planet. That aside though, it's a great place and has some tasty fancy skewers like shiitake muchrooms filled with minced meat and other unknowns and mini green peppers stuffed with shiso and cheese.

I love seeing the beau around his parents as it gives me a real sense of where he comes from and it certainly doesn't hurt that they can put him in his place when he needs putting. I think I tend to gloss over the whole international relationship thing, often citing to others that there are not that many differences, humans are humans. During our long conversation on Sunday however, it became crystal clear that on some issues, we come from very different places when it comes to cultural expectations. It's extremely hard to articulate, which gives me no end of frustration but I shall try to illustrate with an example, albeit shallow and simple.

Let's look at service at restaurants and bars in Canada. If you pay enough, you can expect top service with all of the trimmings but frankly, even at fairly pricey establishments, service or skill is often hit and miss. There is no real standard or uniformity in service as there most often is here in Japan. Coming from the mizu shobai the beau is a tough critic and in Canada we have had the misfortune of being served by someone who did not know how to open a bottle of champagne that we ordered, receiving a vegetarian quesadilla with chicken in it and having a server who could not for the life of her understand or remember what drinks we had ordered. I see these kinds of things as unfortunate glitches that happen from time to time but the beau sees them as part of a larger problem, that problem being that people in North America do not have the same skills and quality of service as those in Japan because they are inherently unreliable/sloppy or simply don't have perfection in their nature. While the beau takes serious issue with some of the ways in which people conduct themselves overseas, thinking they need vast improvement, I see it as the culture I grew up in, where professionalism has it's place but where people are much freer in the public sphere, away from the stifling anal rentionism that has covered Japan like a bubble. Well now I've just gone and been all ethnocentric myself there. It's a vicious cycle people, how do you deal with the differences in worldview of your partner without judging them from your own?

And now back to the point. The beau casually steered the conversation towards the subject of us leaving Japan and it went very well. This has nothing to do with the fact that we were about five beers in by that time, I'm sure of it. Really though, his parents were very supportive even though the odds were stacked against us in that he is the chonan (oldest son) and his parents have never left Japan. It went swimmingly in fact, and his mom went off on one of her 50-50 talks that she loves to give, telling us that it ain't right if we're not both happy about it and that her and "papa" are in our corner. I got a little choked up but pretended I had just gotten smoke in my eye. I even snagged an invitation sans beau to visit them up North in a couple weeks for a Tohoku region festival tour, which would be FANTASTIC except for the fact that I can't get away from work and need to save for NYC in September when I expect to hemorrhage money into the US economy (hello new fall wardrobe). I'm glad they know, it feels like a weight has lifted, not that I was all that worried in the first place. What's not to like about a Japanese-speaking, kimono-wearing, future high-powered corporate biatch like me? I think his mom's only stipulation is that we get married before heading to Canada but we shall see, there's certainly no rush and I still feel that 25 is a tender age no matter what the Japanese say. So that's that, gentle readers, that is if you made it this far and were able to wade through all the shit above that reads like someone garbling their speech.


RMilner said...

It sounds as if you managed to break the news to the prospective parents-in-law without trauma.

Japanese service staff make mistakes too. They are usually very apologetic when it is pointed out. Not always though.

Will you have a Japanese wedding? I've heard they are rather expensive. It would be a good chance to show off your kimono wearing skills.

Lisa said...

Wow, glad it went well. I hope you do get married in Japan! I want to see photos!

kathrynoh said...

It's good that they took the news without too many dramas. I know I'd be sad if my son met someone from another country and decided to move there with them but at the end of the day, you have to accept these things.

Also food on sticks = awesome!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

RMilner: I find problem resolution to be better in Nth America - here they just apologize profusely but seem helpless to fix a situation if it involves doing something new or bending the rules for the benefit of the customer.

If I got married I would definitely want to incorporate Japanese elements or at least have one part of it involve me in kimono (can't dress yourself in bridal wear though). Not sure if I'd want the whole shrine shebang as I haven't looked into all the meaning behind it and whether I would be down with it. It's definitely important to me to have a Jewish wedding either way.

Lisa: If it eventually happens I will happily oblige.

kathrynoh: I feel very fortunate to have been accepted by them. And YES to the food on sticks!