Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Break Up

The longer you live here, the more of these you will experience. Rather than count my years using their assigned calendar numbers, I look back at my time here in eras marked by the friends who helped to make them what they addition to those not mentioned here, there was the Tokyo Cowgirl Era, the Other Whitie Era. As of late, another era has passed and let me tell you, redheads are hard to get over. My work husband also recently terminated his relationship with me and the Kaisha, so things are now a little bit lonelier even for me, the perpetually Lonely Whitie.

One of the first questions I will inevitably ask when sizing up a new friend is how long they will be in Japan for. It's not that I won't pursue a friendship with them if the answer is shorter than one visa renewal, but I like to know around how long I've got with them before the inevitable Break Up. Once the Break Up comes, it can be crushing. Long distance relationships are fine but when you are suddenly physically bereft of a friend, it's akin to standing alone in an empty room that's been packed up for a move. What used to be lived in is now just a space that remembers nothing.

Some might call the Break Up "relocating", "returning home" or "leaving Japan" but I call it as I see it: neither Japan nor I was good enough, so we've been dumped. What is particularly tragic is the friend who promised to be with you until the end (=your own BU with Japan) who breaks up with you way ahead of schedule. To put the bleakness in perspective: by the time I get off this island there is going to be no one left to break up with. I sometimes fantasize about farewell parties for myself where the only guest is, yes, myself (cheers!). Like I said, bleak.

Each time a friend leaves, I cast my mind back to the time before her era and I can't help but wonder how the hell did I get by without her? My most recent ex came along on the cusp of a year that was shaping up to be a bit shittay and turned it into a golden era. It's hard enough to meet people you can have a decent conversation with and harder still to find someone who shares your humor and affinity for taking trips to far flung places for monkey waiters, getting your hair did in a bouffant just because, and finding dank retro cafes from one of Tokyo's bygone eras.

I still don't know the magic formula for meeting friends here but have been remarkably lucky in meeting a few fantastic friends through my public rantings on here (why that didn't scare them away, I'll never know). Now that another blossoming relationship has been cut short, however, I may have to start going out alone and hitting on people.** I'll be sure to let them know up front that I'm not looking for any one-night stands. Or perhaps I'll install myself on a street corner with a sign that says "friends wanted."

In the meantime, I'm feeling desperately sorry for myself and enjoying some pillow biting, hoping that before too long, I will maybe again have someone who will say yes more often than no and who can muster enthusiasm for tiny dive bars in Golden Gai where discussion revolves around the bartender's protruding chest hair.

**or publishing a personal ad: LWF (lonely white female, natch) seeks funny female companion for possible long-term relationship. Must love bikes, vodka rickeys, cinema both lofty and trashy, eating things off sticks and the fine balance to be maintained between being classy and slumming it. Must not be adverse to restaurants from the early Showa period or leopard print.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blow Me

Gentle readers, meet summer's hottest must-have accessory for every distinguishing young lady who deigns the thought of a little upper-lip perspiration. Personally, nothing beats the feeling of a small trickle of sweat slowly creeping its way down my ass crack as I try not to let the sheer delight of it all show on my face. Nonetheless, following on from last year's efforts to go native, so to speak, I give you this, the neck fan.

In short, I have taken to wearing a plastic rectangular fan around my neck. Werk.

It started with a ladies-who-lunch lunch with some Semi-professionals, one of whom showed me her, uh, neck fan. Every summer we Tokyoites love to talk about how damn hot it is and this year, thanks to the motherfuckers at TEPCO, we have even more to talk about with people we have nothing to talk about with: electricity saving measures! I could give a 10-minute soliloquy about these measures that would make Hamlet weep. To give you an example, I like to tell anyone who will listen how embarrassed and hesitant I am to use a recently inherited standing fan to rid me of the sweat beading at my hairline. None of the Secretaries have fans but by some strange twist of fortune/misfortune, I am with fan this year (not to be confused with "with child," something that would send me running for the hills). Do I even need to say it? Altogether now: I CAN'T TURN IT ON.

For all that I do to play down my whiteness (including but not limited to hiding the sound of my pee, taking care to rustle my plastic bags quietly, and greeting people with "sorrythankyou"), this would blow (ha) my cover. It would be a huge red flag reminding people that yes, I am still here, and yes, still a lonely whitie. This is not to say I don't use it on the sly. Some mornings I arrive extra early and when no one is around, bask in its cool winds. As soon as I hear footsteps, that puppy goes off. Now that we are deep into super cool biz, I have stopped sneaking around with the fan and have unplugged it and left it in a conspicuous place so my colleagues can see I am in the same hellishly hot boat as them. Yes to conforming!

The first question out of my mouth when my lunching lady showed me her fan was , Do you use it while typing at your desk? I figured if it was inconspicuous enough, I could keep cool guilt-free. She switched it on and let its sweet, cool rays blow gently across my cheeks. Sold.

Bonus points: I didn't even have to go out of my way to get it. While buying something at 7-11 later that evening I happened to glance down at a table near the register laden with all manner of keeping cool apparatuses and there it was. Begging to blow away my sweat. Sold.

The next morning at work I arrive at the same time as most of the Secretaries and am super excited to sit down and cool off on the DL. When no one's looking I slip the fan around my neck and press "on."

Gentle readers, it sounded like there was a helicopter overhead (abort! abort!). I immediately switched it off and thought back to our lunch. I couldn't recall my companion's fan being loud or making any noise at all. I switched mine on again. No, it was definitely conspicuous and if fans could talk, this one would be shouting, whitie over here! whitie over here! It's taken me a few weeks to get used to it, but I now feel comfortable using my neck fan with fairly reckless abandon, even when the office is dead silent. I do still get a little jumpy when people come by and are in earshot of my tiny wonder, but I banish the embarrassment by telling myself they must think the noises are emanating from my computer vents.