Friends with the Other Sex

性別友達

I don’t think “friend zoning” is a thing here.

RANT WARNING! ALL YE WEARY, STEAR CLEAR!

For those not hip with the timez (Kids still replace “s”s with “z”s, yeah? That’s a thing?), “friend-zoning” is the act of telling a friend of the opposite gender that you don’t want a relationship with them—relegating them to the deadly “friend zone”, where they will forever remain “just friends” in spite of one person unrequitedly loving the other.

It’s kind of stupid, I think. The whole concept that if you’re friends with someone of the opposite gender, you are somehow owed a relationship because you’re such a good person. Never mind the fact that most people in the friend zone are those that’ve never stepped up and confessed their love. “Why won’t she date me!” “He keeps going out with hoes. Can’t he realize that I’m his perfect match?” Maybe it’s because your rivals are doing the tough job of asking your dream mate out? If you are one of those that’ve been friend-zoned after asking them out, fair enough. Doesn’t mean anyone is owed a relationship though. No amount of friendship points can buy a relationship. They use different point-systems.

Tldr; I don’t like the concept of the “friend zone”.

Anyways, one of the prerequisites of the friend zone existing is having friends of the opposite gender. That…is a much rarer phenomenon in Japan. So rare that I’ve begun to think of it as a “phenomenon” and not just an aspect of daily life.

In America, one of my best friends was a girl. We’d do all the things friends do—play video games together, shop together, go places together, the works. If you saw us, no doubt some might inevitably see a couple. People tend to assume and extrapolate. It’s natural, I hear. But I’d gander that most people in Boston would just see two people hanging around, going about their business.

We were roommates too, a fact that may be odd to some Americans but downright unthinkable for the Japanese. “You shared the same roof but not the same bed!?” Yeah. It’s called being a halfway decent human bean*? When my predecessor (a woman) stayed at my house overnight, the next day, one of my coworkers winked and said something to the effect of:

「もしかして…そんなことを…やった?」
「え?」(Of course I knew what he meant. He accompanied it with a bit of a gesture too.)
He smiled.「なんでもない。忘れてね」I don’t forget that easily.

It’s a little rude to me, but I’m sure he meant little of it. It’s a joke amongst men. Of course I must have done something if a woman stayed over! But it speaks of a deeper problem: one where the relationship between men and woman is inherently carnal.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve thought of many women in a sexual way. If a woman is in any way attractive, they’ll crop up somewhere, sometime in my imagination. But that’s in the realm of my mind. And I have a pretty good separation of church and sta…er, mind and action.

Getting back to the point, having men and woman separated on sexual lines sucks. If a guy and guy are hanging out together, it’s friendship. (The silver lining to this is that “being gay” in Japan is unbelievable. Even if you hang out with a single guy every day, you’re just friends. Even if you hold hands and kiss. No need for ‘no homo’, if you care about something like that.) Girl and girl, friendship. Guy and girl, bound for marriage.

But whatever, that’s just public perceptions, yeah? Who cares what others think? That’s certainly true for the foreigners in my life. I’ll hang out with them 1-on-1 here and not worry about the rumors the old men and women in my town are making. Totally different story with the natives, because the perception doesn’t break down on the old fogey level. If I want to hang out with a girl mano a mano, she’s going to think we’re on something akin to a date. Even sitting in the front passenger seat could suggest a relationship! I’ve met two girls now that I think would make awesome friends and terrible lovers, and it sucks that I can’t really have them in my life in any meaningful way.

You say, “Give it a shot! Just be forward and let her know your intentions.” Fair enough. But my Japanese isn’t quite at that level, I don’t think. There’s this idea that the Japanese aren’t straightforward. “Idea”というか”fact”. When you announce your love to someone in Japan, you don’t say “I love you”. You say “I like you”. Love is too forward. Wait until you’re months or years deep into a relationship for that. Maybe it’s too forward in America too. But we can hang out alone for months to build up to that point. Most relationships in Japan start in this formal way of professing your love. I worry that “Let’s be friends. Just friends. Do you want to play video games together?” will be interpreted as a confession of true love. Or worse, true true love.

It’s not all bad. Two guys and two girls can hang out like nobody’s business. But they’d better all be single! If two of them pair off and leave, the remaining two rarely shoot the excrement like friends. The couple leaving is a sign! That’s the signal that you guys are meant to hook up. Alone, you’re now suddenly in relationship territory. Watch out!

End of the day, I just wish I could hang out with Japanese girls under the pretense of friendship. Have some companion to go on walks with that doesn’t expect roses later. Play some games of Mario Kart and not worry that she’ll be worrying about introducing me to her worried parents.

I complain. It’s probably (Japanese “probably”) worse in Saudi Arabia. But this isn’t the Saudi Arabian Role Playing Game here. When you play a game, you can like some of its features and dislike others. I love most things about Lost Odyssey, but its battle system was a little old-fashioned. Suikoden V was everything I was looking for in an RPG, and yet it’s random encounters can be frustrating at times (not to mention having the teleporting person and the castle being out of sync at the end of the game, but we won’t go there). Japan is a pretty great country, but it’s not all land of the rising sunshine and L’Arc~en~Ciel. Work life and gender equality are some noticeable downsides, I’d argue.

Just because homeless people in America have it better than homeless people elsewhere doesn’t mean that we should ignore the problem in America.

Two solutions:

-Public perception changes so that guys and girls are not just for relationships.
-Guys stop working super late at their jobs. Really, I’m fine hanging out with guys too! They just need to stop being busy after 5:00…

Sorry for the rant. I think it’s time for a walk.

*The Room is a great movie.

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4 thoughts on “Friends with the Other Sex

  1. Not to give away my obvious dorkiness, but that really seems to be a pattern in Japanese manga as well. When a guy likes a girl, there’s no befriending her first. They don’t become friends. He just straight-up confesses his undying l̶o̶v̶e̶ like.

    That sounds rough! Having friends of the opposite gender is great, and it’s a shame that it’s not a part of Japanese society. Hopefully you’ll find a good MarioKart buddy soon!

    • Give away your dorkiness! Share it with the world!

      You’re absolutely right about the manga confessions. I’ve heard manga and other Japanese material being criticized for not showing real human relationship progression. In actuality, it seems that manga does a pretty honest job of showing how it works in Japan.

      As for Mario Kart, thanks! At dinner last night, we may have decided to do a tournament soon. While the 1-on-1 thing may be far away, group Mario Karting is on the horizon! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Becoming Friends With The Gym Teacher | The Japanese Role Playing Game

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