Thursday, August 19, 2010

I know I got a bad reputation

and it isn't just talk, talk, talk.

Any of you know this song by Freedy Johnston? Most people who know me would probably not believe that I know the words to most of the This Perfect World album, but I do, somehow. I think my dad received a box of CDs from a friend/radio dj and Johnston's album somehow became a staple on road trips. I don't trust my memory so I had a squizz at his Wikipedia entry and apparently, "Johnston's songs are often about troubled loners, and cover topics like heartbreak, alienation and disappointment." Well fuck me sideways, I should have made one of the tracks my theme song for living here in Tokyo a long time ago!

I'm not sure if I've ever written it out loud, but you may have noticed that while I am fairly content to play the role of ostracized whitie at the Kaisha, I do try to "up" my, for lack of a better term, positive visibility, around the office when the opportunity presents itself. What do I mean by positive visibility? Well I know for a fact that people are rampant gossips but due to my sterile and minimum contact with so many of my Kaisha comrades, I don't get a chance to do a lot of personal PR. In other words, most of what goes around about me is based on some sporadic conversations with secretaries or observations you might make about an animal in the zoo - "G-san eats raw carrots," "Don't you think G-san looks a little peeved today?" or "G-san needs a haircut."

I don't mean to come off as a bitch on wheels around the office, but I'm afraid that's sometimes how my coping mechanisms are construed. On the rare occasion I engage in some kind of social activity or interaction that goes beyond perfunctory grunts, I try to act perfect, whatever that means. By my somewhat screwy logic, this will help to increase my P.V. (positive visibility, stay with me people!), and increase the flow of pleasant gossip tidbits that get traded behind cupped hands.

Yesterday I was finally invited to lunch by a Professional and two Secretaries. I say finally because I often do work for this guy and despite sitting in the same area and him twice sending his Secretary to me with cakes, I have only ever spoken to him on the phone. You may also find it interesting that said Professional walks by me on a daily basis because I am located near the smoking room (hello 1970s).

Let me just start by saying I think I have a new clush, which works out perfectly numbers-wise because my gyoza man is gone, much to my stomach's and eyes' collective dismay. How I would have liked to stroke that ponytail...

I never realized how attractive this Professional is because I only ever see him in profile, either passing in front of my desk, or reflected in the glass as he passes behind my desk. But trust me, he is damn fine. Or "fit" if you're in England. I didn't even mind the somewhat predictable conversation because I got to look at him the whole time, nodding and grinning so hard I woke up this morning with sore cheeks. When explaining away his sexily ruffled hair, he mentioned that he had slept on the floor of his office last night. Actual response: "Really? You look totally fine." Inner monologue: "Keep doin what you're doin, rarrr."

During the course of lunch, I was particularly careful to act over-enthused about everything, while still maintaining some modicum of lady-like posturing: "OMG you watch Gossip Girl too?!?!?!" "This gooey potato paste is super delish!" "You grew up in the Tokyo area? That's amazing!" Remember, I had one short hour to work my P.V. and hope that some tales of my goodness were spread around the office by 6. I didn't even miss a beat when my chopstick kung fu skills were praised, and when the Professional confessed to me after prodding by his Secretary that he had been wanting to have lunch with me for over a year but felt he needed to get his English up to snuff first, I just about flew across the table at him.

After lunch, I did the obligatory thank you email and got into an email exchange with one of the secretaries. I almost forgot how laughably over the top and childish my emails become when writing other women at the Kaisha. I normally would have said, "Thanks for lunch, let's do it again soon! G." But not here, here I go all out with, "Dear Secretary-san, Thank you so much for lunch today, I really enjoyed talking with you!!!♪♪ It was so fun. Please invite me for lunch again soon!!! (^ ^) Best regards, G." Now today's lunch actually was fun, but this is the kind of email I would send after a lunch spent checking my watch too. More on this later.

I think my short hour of happy Kaisha love time will be enough to last me another half year, at least. Unless of course, my P.V. strategies start working and fill my inbox with invitations. But I'm a realist - you and I both know that ain't happening. A few posts later I am bound to start in on the woe me, Kaisha bitch, schtick after I realize that no amount of personal PR is going to reverse the position I have entrenched myself in.


kathrynoh said...

Arggh that kinda sucks that it isn't working but lunch with the cute crush is cool.

The PV is so important I find in any job. I used to be naive and far too honest at work. Now I shut up and act all mealy mouthed. It really takes me a long, long time to trust people I work with.

Samantha said...

I find that to be a huge obstacle.. That people who know English as a second or third language are so afraid to use it!

I was a group leader this past weak for the new International students at my college (most are from China, I only speak English and Japanese a bit) and when I approached them they got so tongue tied and kind of avoided me for fear of embarrassing themselves. Luckily my partner is Chinese so it made them much more comfortable.. but it was extremely hard for me.

But in your situation it is kind of confusing.. although you work for a Japanese company maybe they are unsure of your Japanese language skills? Sometimes it sucks to be judged by being the token whitey!

Rob said...

I really hope cute emoticons are a standard element of all Japanese business emails.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

kathrynoh: Agreed. As much as I hate kotowing, I think you need to be strategic in any workplace, unless you really don't care whether you work there or not!

Samantha: It's extremely hard to pull people out of their shells I find - those who speak up usually have that kind of personality from the start. They all know I speak Japanese but this particular guy felt like he needed to have a certain level of English before lunching with me. Honestly he is using me to practice for an upcoming business thang.

Rob: In a perfect world, yes. Actually I do get Japanese emoticons in work-related emails. Why they use musical notes and stars is a bit lost on me.

Julie said...

This post is great! I 100% know the feeling of being lonely and ignored over here, so being super over-the-top enthusiastic whenever you actually talk to people is very familiar to me. I'm so glad you can laugh about it .... it helps me laugh about it too.

I recently started studying Japanese to have something to do everyday where I talk to people. Oh, the irony. :-)

Ps. I can't find the post, but I remember you asked me if you could link to my blog in an upcoming post about women in Asia -- please, I'd be honored! :-)

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

It's taken a while to get to this place, but there's not much I can do but laugh! I'm again surprised at the parallel between our respective experiences in Japan and Thailand, but I'm not sure why...
I will definitely link to you when I manage to compile that list!