Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Strange Repast

I got a mysterious invitation to dinner after practice this morning. Someone was getting married or something--I'm never too clear on the details...the unspoken agreement seems to be that I show up to these spur-of-the-moment events, get paraded around a little bit like an exotic pet with a good erg score, and in return I get delicious Japanese food shoveled down my throat. Who loses?

I show up at the restaurant, enter the tatami sitting room, and sure enough there's a post-wedding party in full swing. We're greeted at the door by a Japanese woman. The guy I arrived with loudly tells me she's a "Japanese doll," then nudges me. Everyone feels awkward except my friend, who laughs.

We get into the room and sit down, and the hostess comes by and gives us drinks. She can speak some English, and tells me that her daughter spent time in America. My friend says that her daughter is very cute, and nudges me. Everyone feels awkward--he laughs. Suddenly I feel someone's hand on my thigh--it's a different friend and teammate. He's drunk, and covetously gauging the diameter of my thigh, and then shoots a disgusted look at his own skinny leg and says he has no power because his legs are too small.

Meanwhile, another guy I haven't met comes up behind me. He's the hostess's husband. He is very drunk. He shows me his index finger, which is 20% shorter than it should be. He says he slammed it in a door and cut the tip off. Hopefully I'm not accidentally hanging out with Yakuza guys! Then he leans in a bit closer and tells me that his mind is divided into 4 equal parts. 25% golf, 25% drinking, 25% wife, 25% mistress. His friends tell him to shut up because his wife is all of 5 feet away and speaks more English than he does. Everyone laughs.

I feel another hand, this time on my arm. It's my other friend again, encircling my arm with two hands and comparing that the diameter to his leg, and not liking the results. I tell him that I am very fat, and that he shouldn't worry. He looks unhappy nevertheless.

A new guy comes up to meet me soon after. He is rowing the double for Japan at the Olympics this year. We talk about rowing for a bit, and he asks me why I didn't try out for any national teams past high school. I can't just say "because rowing sucks," because he seems to love the sport very earnestly. I say that it's because I was tired of rowing after doing the sport all year at university. He seems surprised. "But, there's a rule where you can't row in America...so you can study, right?" This is the 7 week rule, where all Ivy League sports are supposed to give their athletes 7 weeks away from training to catch up on homework. I tell him that the rule exists, but all the rowing programs just ignore it. He looks confused. "But...it's...a rule." I try to explain that Americans don't care about such formalities, but there's a cultural barrier.

Almost all at once, everyone gets up and leaves. This happens very quickly. There must have been some hidden signal. I receive a package of eel and some squid mixed with squid viscera for my breakfast tomorrow.

All in all, a successful evening in Japan.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Imagine an eight crewed by Yakuza stripped to the waist. Their tattooed backs beaded with sweat gathering and then meandering in rivulets down colored vertebrae.

Nate said...

Well, that's certainly the best fat anime nerd/rower/gay porn fantasy I've heard today. But it's only 11:30AM so don't get TOO excited.

Tom said...

Great post Nate, you brought it all back to me and made me feel very uncomfortable. It appears the role of "pet gaijin" has not changed. Excuse me while I have another beer to see if that helps my Japanese...

Best,
Tom

Nate said...

Haha, but it never does!

Actually one guy last night said "When you're in Japan, you should speak Japanese..."

I was like "Thanks dickhead, because it's really easy to just go ahead and pick it right up in six months. How bout you go change out of your pocketless monogrammed white dress shirt into something that doesn't look so stupid."

Actually I said something way more polite...but yeah, it can be a challenge.