Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meet the parents

Or should I say, parents meet the parents. We are looking to squeeze in one more event of the season for 2010, because frankly a shotgun wedding just wasn't enough this year. I feel like I should begin by offering a disclaimer that I am not (really) withholding information from you, nor am I about to announce that I am getting married or, forbid, pregnant. There will be no talk of babies gracing these digital pages (not that there's anything wrong with that) or gratuitous shots of small doughy beings with disarmingly pleasant smelling scalps. Was that too much? Maybe I should have used "heads" instead of "scalps," which veers into the field of vocabulary employed by psychopaths in my mind.

Mama and Papa Geisha are coming to town, despite the song saying it will be Santa, and what would a visit to Tokyo be without an awkward cultural encounter with their daughter's pseudo in-laws? I am throwing them into the deep end. Let me also preface this by saying that I will be translating the whole damn thing, despite briefly considering asking my only cool Japanese girlfriend (OCJG) to come along and help, offering her a free meal and a front row seat at what is bound to be a fun cultural shit storm. I plan to start sculling wine as soon as we sit down and when I get so drunk I start babbling at my own parents in Japanese, I will simply tell everyone to talk amongst themselves and go out into the cold December air for a cigarette.

Talk of this dinner has been happening for over six months now and is about to reach fever pitch. Dotting this timeline, we have changes in attendees, discussions of attire and gifts and, perhaps most importantly (aside from my own personal meltdowns), who is going to pay for it all. I've been running so hot and cold as to think I am pre-menopausal when it comes to who will grace our fair dinner table. We had initially said the parental sets and maybe Baby Daddy and then of course during the summer, the beau had to go and invite Baby Mama (and Baby Mama's baby), which, despite all odds pointing to her obvious attendance, I cannot seem to rationalize or think about without getting riled up. I know that she is more family than I am at this point, but while everyone is telling me the baby will be a welcome distraction, I can't help but see it as a distraction from me. As in a distraction from me and my party.

Have I mentioned I know I'm crazy? I am pretty much resigned to the situation and haven't thought about asking Baby Daddy to just bring the baby for at least ten days now. It's all about the small steps. I have however, come up with a new reason I don't want Baby Mama there: who is she to share in my special family time? I can only guess at what will actually be said during this upcoming dinner, but I don't think BM deserves to be privy to it. Cue a few sentences where I tell you just how much I realize this is petty, unfounded and completely wack. BD is a doll for the most part but this Japanese girl I hardly know attending my dinner has caused me to exhibit some embarrassing behaviours in front of the beau. Luckily, he already knew I was a queen. I promise to try and be a good drunk and not let something snarky slip out about not being in a pregnant rush to get married.

The beau's mom called us a few weeks ago and started grilling him on what to wear and what kind of dinner, specifically, we were hosting. We tried to impress upon her that it was a casual affair and that I didn't want them bringing any extravagant gifts for my parents. Apparently the protocol changes depending on whether we are calling this an Official Engagement Party or a lower cased introduce-the-parents-party. The words and greetings exchanged also change according to category and despite explaining that my parents wouldn't know what the hell was being said to them in any case, the beau's mom insisted that we define it for her.

Talk about international negotiations. We have the beau trying to placate his mom while I am trying to discern whether she will listen to him on the omiyage front at the same time running interference with my parents. It's really the gesture that counts, so I have given instructions to bring a small assortment of delicacies from Vancity, which will be appropriate whether the beau's parents bring something or not. I also had to explain to my mom that there isn't a set "exchanging of the gift" time or ceremony where it all goes down simultaneously with flash-bulbs going off, so there is no need to plan on bringing an incognito bag to hide the gift in case it isn't reciprocated and we-don't-want-to-embarrass-them-or-make-a-huge-cultural-gaff. I'm tired, are you?

The one issue I thought we had agreed on came to a grinding halt during one of our nightly conversations that take place when I am practically sleep talking and the beau has returned from work. We really need to put a stop to these 3am conversations. When we initially talked about who would pay, I suggested that everyone just put money in, unless this would offend the beau's parents for some reason. I can't have my parents pay for dinner and drinks for 8-10 people and I wouldn't necessarily expect the beau's parents to pay either. The beau said either his papa would pay or we would ask everyone to give us money. Fast forward to 3:12 a.m. and when I confirm this agreement, the beau says he/we will pay for it. There were a whole lot of noyouwonts thrown around and then just for good measure, I started in with that I wouldn't have approved BD and BM coming if I had known we were going to pay for everyone. Illegitimate sister-in-law-hood problems aside, that's just fucking stupid. Let's go to a beach in Thailand instead stupid. I don't want the beau paying because ultimately, that means I will be paying too. Lord knows what is going to happen when we get the check but I'm hoping everyone quite literally starts throwing money at us.

Everything else, my controlling personality will have to leave to fate, or the other people sitting at the dinner table. There has been some talk of me receiving (his) mama's engagement ring, which we have never seen, and having it put into a new setting. It's kind of crushing to think how good the beau's parents have been to me and how it potentially could have turned out so horribly different. I'm hoping if she does bring it, there will be none of it at the table because wouldn't it just be my luck to be told to try it on and struggling to just get it on my pinky like a foolish motherfucker (while chanting in my head "just get it on whitie, you are a strong, powerful woman"). As a wise friend once said, old diamonds tend to be small diamonds, and I would also like to be spared the throat pain of getting all high and whiny in effusive praise for something that may put me off second-hand gifts. Either way gentle readers, it promises to be a smashing evening with the potential for disaster!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Event of the Season (III)

Before I delve into the delicious December gossip, it might be a good idea to finally bring the wedding that was to a close.

I think I left you where we were getting booted out of the reception hall and it was only oh, about 2 in the afternoon. Weddings are strictly timed here (not as in, see how fast you can do it, but to ensure the whole thing fits within a set time slot, probably to make way for other suckers, I mean happy couples), so as soon as the lining up and crying and candle lighting was done, it was very clear that we were to, well, clear out. We grabbed our goody bags and had to go through whatever is the opposite of a receiving line, despite being family, providing yet another awkward opportunity to bob up and down at Baby Mama's parents. We did get mini cans of Asahi Super Dry though, which was a thoughtful touch.

Are you chewing on your hangnails to know about the gift bags? It is normal at weddings here to give a gift to every guest that is around twice what you predict will be received from them. If I were in charge of the world, I would say let's give the married couple half the amount and call it even. I have no need (or room) for photo frames and fugly crystal vases that are not my taste, although I did once receive a lovely set of Tiffany rock glasses. I buy so much already, I hate to receive stuff that I am not going to use, it is such a waste, not to mention this gifting system basically means you are buying a useless gift for yourself.

Inside each bag was a box of cakes and a nicely wrapped catalogue weighing several pounds. Apparently lots of couples do this - provide a gift catalogue with a pre-arranged label, and their guests can choose their own gifts. Later at home the beau and I scoured through the catalogue and I kept trying to guess whether everything cost the same. What a strange idea. The catalogue included food products, household items, clothing and even a small toolkit, and flipping through the pages was kind of depressing. Not because you shouldn't be allowed to buy questionable products from a mail-order catalogue, but because this was a result of some of the 70,000 yen we shelled out. I told the beau I didn't want to order anything, they could keep the money, but if you don't order something within a certain time period, the catalogue people will just send some consolation gift basket as everything is prepaid. And god forbid you don't walk away with something for your efforts. We ended up ordering a bottle of sparkling and a knife to replace the 100 yen store one I am several cuts away from slicing off a finger with. That's right, I will drop money on clothing and dinner and yet I have been using a $1 knife to cut with for the last three years. Moving on then.

I went to the bathroom on the way out and as I was washing my hands, I looked up to see a polished and sleek suited woman calling my name. I couldn't place her and yet she knew exactly who I was and was doing that wavy spazzy happy puppy thing Japanese girls do. Hopefully my look of complete blankness wasn't a dead giveaway, because the next moment I placed it: the suspicious sex friend from our unfortunate foray into the Saitama concrete jungle! Mama was looking fine! No longer wearing a too small and too short dumpy denim skirt that made her legs truly look like the beloved "daikon legs" one hears about here, she had her hair blown out and was wearing long strands of pearls with a black pantsuit (something I have never seen a woman wear to a wedding here). We had a happy little reunion while I silently wondered as to the true nature of her relationship with Baby Daddy, but I guess we will never know.

Back at the hotel we all stayed at, the beau's mom, aunt and I locked ourselves in an empty room to get changed. I didn't know an interrogation was also on the menu. You saw the pictures of these tiny women compared to my looming 5'6 frame, and yet, as they went about efficiently folding up their kimono and packing everything away, they managed to grill me about the state of my relationship with the beau. I don't think I should have to deal with questions from his family, so I tried to deflect the conversation on to him and suggested that they talk to him about it. This made them ask whether he was dragging his feet and that was what the hold up was. How could I possibly explain the myriad of reasons we would not be getting married the next month. His mother clucked that my parents must wonder what the hell I am doing over here, cohabiting with a strange man for so long (quite the opposite). His aunt started to fold up my kimono while I was getting undressed and we stopped a minute to laugh at how silly she looked running up and down the length of the bed to fold up all the extra fabric. With her own short frame, she can fold her own kimono while standing in one place but mine required her to go back and forth from collar to hem to get it all in place. The the beau's mom suggested that, if my parents ended up coming to Japan in December, why not just get married then? She is sweating for us to get married.

God I hope she doesn't think I feel bad that we weren't married first. I also hope she doesn't think I am going to get married quickly at some shitty hotel service with no dancing just so I can be married. I mumbled some crap about it being hard to plan an international wedding and they let me out of the room.

A short while later, BM and BD showed up at the hotel, having changed out of their frumpery and looking like a couple of teenagers. No honeymoon, no romantic send off, they spent their wedding night having dinner with us and then going back to Saitama. Sad face. Dinner was really nice actually, albeit a tad strange seeing as no one really knows BM and yet there we were, having dinner with her on their wedding night. In the elevator down to dinner, BD turned to the beau and I and with a shitty little smirk apologized for getting married first. Although he was just trying to be funny it took all my soul to smile back. Why does everyone think I want to get married!?

So there you have it gentle readers, that is about all I can remember from the most highly anticipated event this year. Now we can talk about what comes next.

The break-up

My secretary broke up with me this week. Praise the lord.

It started last week with some murmured snippets about some desk shifting about to go down, but I didn't dare get my hopes up that it would be her moving. Not having to deal with her weird sour puss attitude and continued resistance to acknowledging my existence was more than I dared hope for. Having her continually in my peripheral vision all day every day was starting to do my head in. I have realized though, that her issues cannot be chalked up solely to her being Japanese, and I think she is genuinely just kind of fucked up. Case in point: she always eats lunch at her desk. I do too, for the most part, but I do it because I am a lonely whitie with a vag. What with her nationality and ethnicity behind her, she should be able to fit in with the other secretaries and score invitations to lunches where bore-me-to-tears conversations abound. The fact that she does not is suspect.

She is now gone, far down the hall and out of my line of sight. Not surprisingly, she said absolutely nothing to me about it, but made a point of saying goodbye to the nice secretary diagonally across from me. The first I officially heard about anything was when that new quiet secretary who used to sit next to me, came over and said that again, she would be joining my quad of shame, yoroshiku, etc., thank you very much. I feel like I have written in detail about the two quiet secretaries who used to sit near me, but for the life of me I cannot find it. In short, they were unnaturally quiet. Hanging up the phone in slow motion-type shit. I don't think I ever saw either one with a plastic bag or anything that could have emitted an offensive sound. I became painfully self-conscious of pulling a tissue from its box, taking my sandwich out of its bag, popping open a diet Coke, even the sound of my palm-sized stapler sent waves of paranoia through me. The worst part is, they weren't simply quiet, they were purposefully quiet. I could see the pains they took to ensure total silence and it in turn, pained me.

So this is who I have sitting next to me again. We will see how it goes. Three or four days after my secretary moved, she finally sent me an email to tell me that one of her main duties in relation to me is being shifted to Quiet One. And that maybe she should have told me earlier. You motherfucking think? I was so very very very tempted to write back that yes, she should have told me, and while we're at it, she should have told me she was moving too. I mean, my nose is so freakishly tall that sometimes I miss things going on to the side of me and holy shit was I surprised to turn my head one day and find a completely different person sitting on the other side of the divide. I am still trying to decide how to ask my secretary whether she is still my secretary or whether I should now direct everything to Quiet One. I am of half a mind to just email HR and have them clarify things for me since she is not being very forthcoming.

Living in Japan blurs the lines for me and I am left wondering about the motives behind people's actions: are they targeting me as someone who is foreign and female, or are they just ass holes? I alluded to it a little in my most recent manner post, but I am struggling with the extension of kindness to strangers. I'm not sure where the turning point came and went, but somewhere along the way I got it into my head that everyone is against me. There are obviously many exceptions to this rule (even at the Kaisha), but for the most part, sadly, I automatically assume that people outside of my little corner apartment in Nihonbashi are out to get me. I suppose I could easily draw this conclusion living somewhere else, but never have I encountered such a wall of passive-aggressiveness and people fronting all kinds of attitudes in my general direction.

Late last night as I was riding home, I came upon a group of six or seven salarymen taking up most of the sidewalk (which, by the way, is spacious on Showa-dori), so I moved to the very far left so as not to break up their group. What do you know, but two of them decide to move to the same side and then split up, making it almost impossible for me to squeeze through. I would have dismissed it as that peculiar and frustrating habit of people here to go completely against (my) logic when moving around other pedestrians and bike traffic. Last night though, the two salaryfuckers must have decided to fuck with me, because they had to move away from the group to block me and as I barely made it through swearing out loud at how tight they had closed ranks, the whole group started laughing about it. Those two in particular deserve to have Mavis run over their fucking underused balls. Now class, did the salarymen gang up on me because I was a foreigner on a bike? a female on a bike? a foreign female on a bike? a person with wavy hair on a bike? a sweaty person with wavy hair on a bike? a sweaty female on a bike? I will never know.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do it again, Sven

Admission: as I walked by this very quickly, the only plausible explanation in my mind was that this strapping Swede called Sven was showing Creepy the correct and fashionable way to tie his scarf. In my harried mind, this poster was serving to warn how a long scarf could lead to your demise if the doors closed on it. All that fresh air on my bike in the morning must be doing me in, for as I glanced at the last picture, it seemed perfectly natural that Sven would be giving Creepy the thumbs up after trying to impart his flawless continental styling tips. It was not until I nabbed this image of the Tokyo Metro website that I realized that this was about not getting in other people's ways, and that Sven's scarf knot with a gay gym-bunny vibe was a completely incidental but welcome aside to the whole thing.

Second admission: I love that I am no longer a slave to the train! I am an adoring fan of the subway system here but only when it doesn't involve going to and fro work. After my years on the Tokyo subway, I have become hardened and not a little jaded. I used to think I was a polite stranger, but now I am not someone you would want to fuck with underground. It saddens me not a little that I have such an attitude now and instead of apologizing at bumping into strangers, I immediately feel wronged and issue a little "fuck you" in my head. This is not cool, I am turning into one of those gaijin we love to hate!

Third and last admission: I am kind of excited about December. I won't be reversing my stance from two years ago but I did watch the Royal Tenenbaums last night for the first time in maybe five years and not only did I remember that it is one of my favourite movies, it put me in the holiday mood. Whatever the holiday mood is for a Jewess in Tokyo saying to herself, "does Hanukkah start tonight?!" Get me some candles.

See you hopefully sooner than later gentle readers! (Just to prove my love, I promise to finish up all the loose ends from this year, including but not limited to, how I almost cried during my kimono test, the surprise guest at the wedding back in April, the upcoming family entanglements and maybe as a bonus, how I have been naked in front of several hundred Japanese people.)

That's mama-san to you!

So remind me, where were we? Although I have not yet penned the third and final chapter to the Event of the Season, aka the wedding of Baby Mama and Daddy, we all know how it ends, with a wee babe, which is what makes shotgun weddings so predictable! Well, Baby Mama has finally earned her name and she is truly a mama now. The beau and I finally made the pilgrimage out (up?) to Saitama to see his small niece and BM for the first time since the wedding. Obviously she is just darling (the child not Baby Mama) and when no one was looking I tried to get a few head sniffs in without scaring them into thinking the large Whitie was trying to suck the small defenseless Japanese baby in through her (tall) nose. Someone needs to bottle that scent, stat.

We took some pics and oo'd and ahh'd and all went out for dinner. BM is nice but I don't think we will ever be super close, not least of all because she lives in Saitama. I was obviously on the look out to see how she would behave towards me seeing as she is now the daughter the beau's family never had WITH an official ring AND an official baby (collect them all!). I can chalk part of my keen observation skills up to being culturally curious but really, I have a vagina with an A-type personality and an axe to grind. You figure it out.

Part way through a conversation about my solo expedition up north over the summer, BM is talking about some "mama," and it takes me a couple seconds to realize she is talking about the beau's mom. And a couple seconds more to feel totally scandalized. The beau and BD call their parents "papa" and "mama" as I have noted before, but I could not believe that this trollop with a baby accessory was calling her (our/whatevs) mother-in-law by the common "mama." I used to avoid calling the beau's parents anything at all, which is pretty easy breezy in Japanese, and if pressed, I would call her "okaasan," which is perfectly acceptable and decorous. I managed to keep it all smiles and grace through about six more beers and then on the way home I let the beau, the poor man, have it. Did you hear her call your mom "mom"?!? What the fuck is up with that? Even I don't call her that! Wah wah wah all the way home.

Being diplomatic and not possessing a vagina, the beau explained it away as her simply imitating what BD calls his parents. Do call me out if you happen to know otherwise, but Excuse Me? I don't see any Japanese ladies calling their mother-in-laws (excuse the wordiness but I refuse to use the initials that plague wedding/family chat boards. Slash I don't get most of them.) "mama." I wonder if BM calls her that to her face! I'm still pretty skeeved about the whole thing, trivial and petty as it is, but I feel like I have put a number of years of work into this family and BM just waltzes in after a night of unsafe sex squawking "mama." Alternatively, we could just call it what it really is: plain old competition of the female variety.

I have enjoyed a few years as the white (but still perfectly acceptable) de facto daughter to these people, which frankly is not hard when you are licensed to wield a kimono and your competition is an endless parade of underage girls who couldn't show you a breast if you paid them. Now within the span of six months I have been practically ousted from my position of privilege by a floozy from Saitama with incredibly fertile eggs. This is of course a gross exaggeration given my frequent emails with okaasan and my solo maiden voyage north, but as someone who may or may not produce the two crowning jewels for any woman in this country to be worth a damn (marriage and babies, natch), I'm starting to schvitz under my ta-tas a little. Everything was rainbows and lollipops when I was the only girl on the scene with my somewhat understandable Japanese and adorable interest in regional Japanese festivals, but now they have a Real Live Japanese Daughter (spawn included), I'm starting to feel a little put out. It didn't help matters when okaasan sent me a photo a couple weeks ago of the wee babe with a message indicating that her and otousan (or "papa" if you are a biatch from Saitama) had recently visited Saitama for a night. As much as I would like to think Saitama is far far away from Tokyo, it actually isn't. Obviously, being child-free means I have nothing to entice them to come to Tokyo. Only time will tell and while I work myself out of being a complete sook I will think pleasant thoughts about disposable income, travel and the intoxicating smell of tissue paper holding some new item of clothing.

We will see in coming weeks (shit is going down at the respective casas from whence Geisha and the Beau sprang) whether BM dares to call the beau's parents "mama" and "papa" to their face. In the unlikely event you were wondering, she calls me Geisha-chan. I can't help but wonder if she will ever call me "onesan" like a good Japanese family member because although she is technically older than me, my attachment to the beau, the oldest son, trumps age (ha!), making me the older sister. I've heard her call the beau "oniisan" so I don't know what kind of racket she is running but in her defense, she is dealing with an unwed whitie of questionable status. Maybe I should suggest she call me "whitie" from now on and we call it a day.