I was told the only way I’d ever get a boyfriend in Japan was if I made the first move. All I had to do was take the lead and the men would follow.
Well, what a load of crap that turned out to be. I’ve transformed myself into a brazen hussy and I still can’t get a date. My attempts at seduction are about as subtle as a baseball bat to the skull. But no matter what I do, I just can’t crack their pathological shyness.
Lest you think I’m exaggerating, let me give you three examples of how my not-so-smooth moves have been rebuffed.
Name: Nobuo (or, as I like to call him, Nobu-oohhh!)
Occupation: Employment status unknown
How we met: He plays on my volleyball team
Okay, so the real reason why I’ve been enjoying volleyball so much is because of Nobuo. He is, quite simply, one of the sexiest guys I’ve ever seen. He’s tall and lean with thick black hair and beautiful brown skin. Don’t even get me started on his body. The boy has abs you could break glass on (I know this because he takes his shirt off after every practice and, oh my god, I can’t even write about it without getting hot and bothered).
Plus, he’s fun and playful. He’s always bouncing around and cracking jokes with everyone. Everyone but me, that is. Up until last week, he barely said more than a single word to me. He’d mumble hello at the beginning of practice and mutter goodbye after it was over.
I asked one of the girls on the team why Nobuo went out of his way to avoid me. She gave me the same tired excuse I’ve been hearing for the past four months.
“He’s shy,” she said. “He’s afraid to talk to you because he can’t speak English.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” I thought to myself. “I’m so sick and tired of this shy and timid bullshit. If that’s the way he’s going to be then I’ll be the man and wear the damn pants and show him how it’s done!”
At school the next day, I went straight to the vice-principal for help. He does nothing but practice magic tricks and surf the Internet all day so I figured he’d jump at the chance to do something useful. I pulled out a pen and some paper and asked him to translate a list of phrases, such as “Are you single?” and “I think you’re handsome” and “Let’s go for a drink sometime.”
I showed up at volleyball practice last Monday armed with an arsenal of Japanese pick-up lines. Nobuo gave me the perfect opening when he walked into the gym wearing his hair in a different style. I pounced.
Me: Nobu-oohhh, sumimasen. (Excuse me, Nobuo.)
Nobuo: Hai! (Yes!)
Me: Kami wa . . . (Your hair . . .)
Me: Hai! Hai! (Yes! Yes!)
Me: [batting my eyelashes, flashing him a huge smile and throwing in a little shoulder shimmy] Kakoii desu ne! (You’re soooo good looking!)
His response? He sort of half smiled and then turned and ran (yes, ran) out of the gym. See what I mean? How the hell do you ask someone out for a drink when they run away when you try to talk to them? Okay, moving on to Exhibit B . . .
Name: I forget
Occupation: High school English teacher
How we met: At a bar
I was out drinking with some of my co-workers when a handsome stranger walked in from out of the cold. He strode into the bar wearing a black leather jacket, baggy jeans and a striped scarf. His motorcycle was parked out front. He was like a Japanese version of George Stroumboulopoulos.
He joined our table and I swapped seats so that I was sitting next to him. I introduced myself in Japanese and was surprised when he answered back in perfect English. He told me he was a high school English teacher but his real passion was writing poetry. I asked him if he was single. He said he was. Things were looking up.
Late into the night, the conversation turned to romance. Everyone around the table took turns describing their dream date. When it was my turn, I pulled out the metaphorical baseball bat.
“Well, I’ve always wanted to ride on the back of a motorcycle with my arms wrapped around a cute guy,” I said, looking directly at the cute motorcycle-riding guy sitting beside me.
Someone asked me to describe what the guy on my fantasy date would look like.
“Well, he’d be wearing a black leather jacket,” I said, looking directly at his black leather jacket.
“And a striped scarf,” I said, looking directly at his striped scarf.
“And glasses,” I said, looking directly into his bespectacled eyes.
His response? Stunned silence. He just sat there blinking, not saying a word. I tried to drop more hints but I couldn’t penetrate his fortress of shyness. I haven’t seen him since. And that brings us to Exhibit C . . .
Occupation: Art teacher
How we met: He teaches at my school once a week
Every Tuesday, a foxy young art teacher visits my school. He always sits next to me between classes (but only because there’s nowhere else to sit). Our desks are so close our elbows touch.
It would be highly erotic if Kashida-sensei wasn’t so ridiculously shy. In four months, he has never initiated a conversation with me. He won’t even say good morning unless I say it first. And he never, ever, looks me in the eye.
So I took it upon myself to make the first move. Every week, I share my secret stash of chocolate with him. I slip him cookies under the table. I always pack an extra mandarin orange in my bag just for him. And he just sits there and giggles. Not because he thinks I’m funny but because I make him so uncomfortable. (The vice-principal pulled me aside and spelled it out for me, “He’s shy.”)
And even though I make the effort to speak to him in Japanese, our conversations are painfully one-sided. For example, I once asked him what he did in his spare time. He said he liked fishing. I said I liked fishing too. He giggled. I told him we should go fishing together. He giggled some more. I asked him if he would take me fishing. He giggled even harder. After about five minutes of this, I gave up and rolled my eyes (not that he noticed since he kept his head down the whole time I was talking to him).
The thing is, it’s hard for me to sustain interest in any of these guys when I’m doing all the work and getting nothing in return. It’s like a game of tennis. I’m hitting easy serves across the net and these guys are just standing there letting the balls pile up on their side of the court. It’s no fun if they’re not hitting the ball back.
Who knows? Maybe they’re not shy at all. Maybe they’re just not that into me. Maybe I should go back to being less brazen and wait for one of them to take the lead. Or maybe I should just resign myself to a life of celibacy in Japan. I don't know what to do. These guys are driving me crazy. And not in a good way.