Monday, 2 November 2009

On Looking For Love In Japan

Nowadays, I hesitate to talk trash about online dating simply because I met my current boyfriend on the Internet (true story).

This is the wildly romantic story of how we met:

One day, after a few weeks of dealing with my former company going bankrupt, losing my company-leased apartment and subsequently resorting to squatting on my friends' couch tied up in a neat bow with the tragedy of my father's death in the midst of my own misfortunes, I got a message on Facebook. This professional basketball player had found me attractive, wanted to get to know me better, and after a few messages back and forth, wondered if I'd like to come and see him play. I had agreed to go and watch one of his games - I do love basketball, until he informed me that he wanted me to come (with one of my single girlfriends ) and meet him at his hotel the night before the game, spend the night and then go to the game together. I also discovered later that day that he was married with a five year old daughter. I promptly declined his invitation and blocked him from seeing my Facebook profile.

A few days after my exchange with the basketball player, I got another message. A guy living in Tokyo had noticed that we both had listed V.S. Naipaul's A House For Mr. Biswas as one of our favourite books and had thought it remarkable that he managed to find someone else on Facebook who even knew who V.S. Naipaul was. I sent back a snotty reply saying that yes, for someone who's not from the Caribbean, I could see why that would have been remarkable (or something to that effect). I tried my best to use a caustic tone in my message. I was done with assholes contacting me on the Internet looking for easy sex. I had my own problems, after all.

Still, he persisted. He wanted to talk more about how he felt about the book. I eventually decided not to be abrasive anymore and casually asked him about how he got introduced to a Caribbean writer. His mother had recommended the book. Also, he had noticed that I was working for the then ill-fated Nova, and wondered if I were planning to leave Japan. I casually replied, telling him my whole sad story of being unemployed and evicted. He never trawls the Internet looking for dates, but he wanted to meet me. I relented and after a few postponements due to my then part time job's crazy schedule and menstrual cramps, we eventually met, exchanged phone numbers, went on a few more dates, talked incessantly on the phone, fell in love and are now living happily ever after spending our weekends together playing Mario Kart, discussing politics and books, cooking, watching movies and occasionally going to museums.
So I can't say that looking for love via some medium or other that doesn't involve meeting people in person at the outset never works.

Being an English-speaking ex-pat in Kanto, I read Metropolis (a free magazine which can be found at select locations around Tokyo) regularly and a funny habit I developed when I was a teenager is that I start reading magazines from the back page and work my way to the big articles in the middle. I usually reserve the front pages for reading while commuting or while eating lunch. When I first came to Japan and first discovered Metropolis, the one thing that instantly got me hooked while moving from back to front was the classified ads section, which includes personal ads. Recently, the quality of the articles has changed, but the personal ads have remained entertaining and I admit that this is one of the reasons I keep picking up the magazine wherever I see it.

Here's a sample of what you will find in Metropolis' personal ads pages:

Submissive SJM [single Japanese male]. Cute, sincere and submissive SJM, 30, is looking for a woman who is into or interested in domination. I can be a pet, toy, slave or whatever. I can take humiliation, pain, abuse and more.

Email w/photo. Would you like a young, straight, black male to give you wild night of no-strings fun? It will be our secret. You can call me when you need me. I'd love to see you!

Filmmaker, new to the city, seeks fun! SWM [single white male], 25, seeks SJF [single Japanese female] for fun adventures in the city. Must speak some English, as my Japanese is poor. Love of food, film, and art is a plus. Creative types are very welcome!

Married but good-looking guy. Married JM, 35, seeks discreet partner. I'm good-looking and very friendly. White, Latino or mixed woman preferred.

Anyone in Kanagawa? Japanese Miss Piggie, 37, seeks serious relationship. If you are a gentle Kermit in Kanagawa, then please email her. Serious only.

Deep down I am superficial. Beautiful, sexy JF wants to be spoiled by a single white male, over 30, no children, successful generous gentleman, living anywhere in the world.

Spoil me! Young, hot, energetic European girl wants a sugar daddy to spoil her mind-numbingly!

Two Japanese girls are looking for two Americans or Canadians! We are looking for boyfriends. Let's have a party at an izakaya [Japanese pub] first.

Like I said before, I can't hand down judgement purely because these folks are looking for love (or something like it) by posting personal ads in a magazine. Still, I'm amused by the fact that there are people out there who expect their crazy expectations, which are often based on misinformed notions of race and sex, to be fulfilled by someone reading the personals in a free magazine. All I can say is, good luck to all the love seekers out there and if you happen to be looking for a "casual encounter" don't forget to Rap It Up.

I can't believe I just cited BET.