Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Rude is Better

Since I'm in a bit of a fluster, I am having trouble locating the place that I ought to begin this rant. Perhaps I should remind you again about 空気読めない or kuuki yomenai or being unable to read the air. I wrote about it once here: Heavenly Evil Spirit Maybe I just suck at reading the goddamn air, even though I always thought I had a knack for it in my own country. Tonight I'm plagued by the feeling that I'm really just living in a vaccuum.

I have decided to begin by recounting a recent experience which happened amongst strangers, so I am the least bothered by it. Although, the truth is that this recount is the perfect representation of how experiencing and dealing with differences in culture can become increasingly more difficult to shrug off. I feel like I have continued to deal with the difficulties, but it's hard to figure out whether I am receiving any new knowledge or understanding rather than only accumulating more and more examples of how things are just fucked up.

So last weekend I accompanied my new buddy, James, and my even newer buddy, Melissa to a couple of the gay men bars in Shizuoka. The two of them had gone to these bars the previous weekend, so they were familiar with us when we entered the door. We were welcomed by the "mama-san" which is what the women of straight Snack Bars are usually called, who entertain their male guests. So, at the gay bars, there is also a mama-san. Anyway, Mama-san welcomed us kindly, took our orders, and after a short while, we began to mingle. By the end of the night, at four in the morning, we were sitting amidst 5 Japanese guys who could barely speak English in a full-fledged conversation about to whom they had lost their virginity. In Japan, a virgin male is called a "cherry boy", so the way they phrased losing their virginity was "when they broke their cherry".

Everyone was laughing, having a good time and when we left everyone was smiling and waving. We departed from the bar rather drunkenly, cursing the soft rain while we galavanted the empty streets in search of a cab back to James' apartment. The next morning, we talked about how the last two trips to the gay bars, the first in Hamamatsu and the second in Shizuoka, had been so fun and refreshing. We spoke about how friendly and open-minded they seemed, willingly and comfortably able to make comversation with gaijin, happy and in a good mood. It was fantastic, we thought. I had even discussed my surprise and admiration for these new friends to my other friends who had not joined us that evening, telling them that they've gotta come to the friendliest place in Shizuoka.

Two days later, I felt like a fool. I was chatting on the phone with James, as he talked of his adventures the next night that he decided to go visit the bars. He began by saying, "I think it might be awhile since I take chicks to the bar again." I, at first, assumed he meant because he could spend more time talking to the locals rather than chatting with his gaijin friends, but he went on. He told me that a new guy who could speak English fluently, told him that it is not customary, or even allowed to have women in male gay bars in Japan. He went on to say that many of the customers, even some of those we had spent hours chatting seemingly happily with, complained to Mama-san that there were women in the bars. My response was nonchalant, "ah, too bad because it was actually fun. What a shame", then my thoughts and our conversation floated into a new topic.

It wasn't until today, after another experience I had with a co-worker from school, that I thought again about what I had learned over the weekend. I feel like my relationships with certain people at school are slowly disintegrating. I'm not sure what the cause is, or whether they were ever so solid in the first place. But, it's definitely causing me to become more sensitive to the little things. I shouldn't give details, as this blog of mine IS public, but it generally revolves around people smiling with their mouths as their eyes show something different, then later, only to learn that there was a complaint about whatever the topic was that was smiled about. I don't know how many times I have uttered the phrase "but if you don't like this, I can change it and try something else. What do you think?" That's my standard answer when I see those eyes with the strange, seemingly insincere smile.

So when I thought more about the gay bar situation, I thought, "ya, you know, Japan IS pretty backdated in the eyes of Westerners concerning woman's role in society, gender, and sexuality in general. So, I definitely understand the rules of the bar and why they have been erected". Yes, I understand the rules, but I don't understand why were weren't just shoo-ed out of the bar in the first place. Why didn't they just say "no women allowed" when we all walked in together? Why did they sit and chat it up with us for hours, smiling, pretending to have a good time with us, when they were only later to complain that it made them feel uncomfortable. Seriously, what the fuck?

I feel that as I become more aware and increasingly more sensitive to this element of Japanese culture, I am simultaneously trying to combat feelings of annoyance because I don't want to close myself off from people just because of differences. On the same hand, I do recognize that I also have kept negative thoughts and opinions locked away in my head, only to complain about it later to another trusted friend, while never considering the consequences of how rude it could be constrewn as being if those opinions were to ever be blown into the air for others to read. I have also partaken in hypocritical behavior, which has now spurred me to try to pay attention to how and when, and to try to cease these actions.

I don't know what I should do, or what I should think. Whenever I try to discuss it with other like-minded gaijin, it ends up turning into a bitch fest that doesn't seem to have any positive result besides blowing off steam. That's not really what I need, I'm able to let my steam out without complaining to others, though it is nice to have someone listen to the stories once in awhile.

However, what I wish for is someone to help me in the search for a way to figure out how to make people understand that it is more hurtful to find out someone is pretending to like you, faking their smiles and laughter than to just have someone flat out ignore you or say, "hey, i don't want to talk to you" or "I don't want you around me". The sentiment is the same, but at least the latter doesn't allow you to build your hopes up that you might be making a real connection with someone, only to later learn that it was fake. The fake politeness seems to be nice, but in reality, it is so goddamn rude. I am not interested in changing this, nor do I think I can, I just want to figure out a way to explain that sometimes rude is just better.

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