So this year, for whatever reason (shinenkai are the new bonenkai?!), the Kaisha decided to pour its alleged heart into a shinenkai (new year party) instead of the usual whorey Christmas mash-up. I hope you didn't think I had forgotten to regale you with tales of out-and-out drunkenness punctuated by awkward conversations and feigned enthusiasm on my part.
Scene: last week some time. Enter: me, stage right. Or whatevs. This year we are seated instead of standing (except for a cocktail reception) and gathering in January rather than December, but I have nothing new to report that hasn't already been said. I am so used to the performances put on by junior members of the Kaisha and the faux sluttery displayed by the females of this group for thier validation as contributing members of society, that it almost doesn't register any more other than as a time-keeper. The secretaries are doing some kind of para para meets Beyonce dancing on stage in hot pants and midriff-baring tee-shirts? Time for me to make an exit.
The one thing that did occur to me this year, however, is that I have a naughty hand. Not naughty as in I-can't-stop-copping-a-feel-with-every-Professional-who-ignores-me but as in doesn't listen to instructions and tends to go rogue when I am not devoting full attention to its exact location.
Japan is a lesson in minimal physical contact. Regardless of the compulsory touching and crotch-pressing that gets done on trains (if it can't be avoided, it doesn't count), there is very little casual touching that goes on between people. I continue to feel like an awkward gaijin lump when, after almost a year apart, we see the beau's parents and nothing more than a "welcome home" passes between them/us. Or when I see a Japanese-Japanese friend (not to be confused with a Japanese friend who was educated overseas or is some kind of hippie) after a span of two years and we stop short with half a metre between us. Exceptions between families and friends aside that I'm sure you could give me, nowhere is this no-contact culture more prevalent than at work. Tell that to my right hand.
As we know, at work the good people of the Kaisha are safe from me in my small white ghetto (population: 1), but let me loose during a schmoozey cocktail hour before dinner and there's no telling what my hand will get up to. I tried to implement my personal one-woman PR tactics and unconciously stepped it up a notch with some good old-fashioned arm petting. I don't know where I learned this behaviour from (Mad Men perhaps) but give me a drink in one hand and my other hand will get lonely and start travelling sans visa to the arm of any male to my right with whom I am engaged in conversation. Now it's not like I put these guys into a death grip or anything, I do have my nails to think about after all, but I can't help myself from an occasional pat or short-spanned laying of the hand on the shoulder when talking to someone. What can I say? It's my thang and in some places may even be considered personable or charming. Not at the Kaisha, however.
My hand was given the side stink-eye, looks of surprise, shock, and horror, and unmistakable eyebrow twitches akin to having something uncomfortable on your face (a fly? sweat?) during a job interview but not being able to do anything about it. Picture me straining to act sociable, friendly, and normal, and believing myself to be exactly those things with the help of my wine, and then, oh! There goes that creepy hand, creepin up some poor Professional's arm. I don't know what my hand was thinking! There I was talking to men I have worked for for a decent amount of time and my hand thinks it's appropriate to lightly touch their upper arm while trying to emphasize some point about the weather. If it wouldn't have looked completely cuckoo I would have used my left hand to restrain my right. There I am, talking, smiling, nodding, and there goes my arm, Oh! No you don't. No, I didn't.
By the end of the evening, if any Professionals I knew made eye contact with me from across the way, I would immediately scoot over to them and try to make small talk. This includes the guy who wants me to set him up with my non-existent lady friends and the guy who thinks I am dating down. When facing permanent ostracization, it is not the time to be picky. Funny how none of them have anything to say to me and are looking kind of surprised that I singled them out. Last time they ever make eye contact with me! The night was a smashing success really. You know how I know? On the way to powder my tall nose, a group of Secretaries in my department were all posed for a group photo and as I passed by, a couple of them shrieked for me to jump in "because you're so cute." These are women who will barely say a thing to me when we pass in the hall and with whom I haven't exchanged more than perfunctory greetings. At least me and possibly my cleavage will be forever remembered as "that Whitie" when the Secretaries are showing the photos to their new husbands and babies a few years from now. Success at last!