I actually had another topic planned for my next post, but I ran across a bit of unexpected 'wisdom in the rough' today while surfing the net and I felt I needed to share it with you guys. Most of what people write on the internet is complete crap, and the rest needs to be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism, which is why I was so surprised that underneath the prickly exterior, this bit of wisdom actually really makes sense.
In a post entitled "Why do only a few Japanese men go for foreign women," user Mask of Zorro responded with this theory: "Japanese women are molded to fit with and adapt to men. Western men are molded to fit with and adapt to women. It is no surprise whatsoever that those trained to adapt can adapt to each other, and those used to being adapted to have no time or patience for the other."
When it comes to dating, the standard gender roles for western men and women can be described as gentleman and princess. Men are expected to be charming, considerate, and put their lady's comfort and delight before any desires of their own. Women are expected to be sweet, beautiful, and appreciative of their man's dashing courtship. According to the "normal pattern" of western dating, the man actively endeavors to win the woman over through words and actions that will draw her interest to him, win her affection and sustain her love for him. It seems to be mandatory that women feign aloofness even from men they are interested in; women who make a man "work for the prize" are somehow viewed as being of a higher caliber and more worthy of the man's affections than an "easy" woman who is won over by sincere by in-extravagant courtship.
I can't speak as authoritatively about asian dating patterns (since I'm not asian!) but my impression is that it's almost exactly the opposite in asian countries; women are the ones who wage a passive-aggressive campaign for men's hearts by being adorable, approachable, and flattering. Men are still the ones responsible for making all the moves, but it's the girl's job to make the guy interested and to let him known in no uncertain terms (but without actually saying so, most of the time) that she's absolutely receptive to his invitation for a date.
It makes sense then that asian men and western women who are completely adherent to the gender norms of their respective cultures would have a hard time getting together, if both are in the custom of being the pursued, not the pursuer. Luckily, stereotypes are not always true! Kazu and I were able to get together because we both pursued eachother. I think that to some extent he plays the male role from western culture and I plays the female role from Japanese culture.
Personally, I think that my relationship works so well because Kazu is extremely, EXTREMELY laid back and because I'm very driven, as well as more than a bit paranoid about missing "uncommunicated Japanese communication." What I mean is, he really doesn't have much of an opinion about anything. It's not that he squashes his own desires in order to appease other peoples (as Japanese are famous for doing); he really honestly does not care one way or the other about most things. If I want to go to a party on Saturday night, he's down for it. If I wanna stay at home and watch DVDs all weekend, he's down for that too. If I want to eat Italian for dinner, he'll find a wine that goes good with it (he loves wine), but if I want fish for dinner he'll roll out the Japanese veggie side dishes for me. He's extremely easy going and doesn't have strong impulses about many things. I think that he spent an extraordinary amount of time sitting at home eating cup noodles before he met me, simply because he didn't have enough desire do other things to actually go out and do them.
I, on the other hand, am a force to be reckoned with. I think you can compare me to a car: once it's in drive, it just GOES, even if you don't put your foot on the gas. I have a lot of drive. I make my mind up quickly and once it's made up, whatever I've decided is as good as done. I don't take my time doing things. I attack.
HOWEVER, don't get the wrong idea; I definitely don't walk all over my boyfriend. I am not so great at subtlety or 'reading the air,' even in my own language and culture, so I just assume I'm completely incapable of it in Japanese and thus have developed and extreme over sensitivity to 'possible clues' about what Kazu might be thinking or wanting. Sometimes it blows up in my face when I overestimate how serious he is about off-handed comments (ex. One time I mentioned on Tuesday that curry was on the menu for school lunch that day. Kazu said he really wanted to eat curry since he hadn't eaten it in a while, so on Friday night when I went over to his place I brought all the ingredients to make curry, only to find he'd ordered a pizza for us for dinner. He'd been simply remarking offhand that he hadn't had curry in a while, and had already completely forgotten about the conversation by Friday, whereas I not only remembered but read too much into the comment and actually went the next step and bought all the ingredients!)
I think you could describe Kazu and I as the sails and the wind to a ship. Kazu is the sails; he guides the direction we go in. There are a lot of things I don't really know how to do in Japan, or that I would do a lot differently by myself but when we do them together we always do them his way because he knows the best and easiest way to get things done in this country. But I am the wind. I get us going in the direction he points, and keep us going at a steady speed. Neither sails nor wind are going to move the boat without the other, so I think we are a good pair. I wonder if the dynamic of our relationship would work as well in America (where I know the best way to get things done and he can't speak the language) as it does here. I suppose that's a topic best left for another post.
My final message for this post is this. Kazu and I made a promise to eachother early in our relationship. It was a compromise promise. We both agreed that, in cases where one of us has a feeling about the way they want something done, the other will do it that way as long as they don't strongly disagree with that way of doing things. There are a lot of things he does that I am indifferent to or even think are dumb/pointless, but I do them because he cares about them and I don't care one way or the other. For example, Kazu really feels strongly that we need to have 2 kitchen towels in the kitchen at all times. One is the "clean" one, to be used only for drying dishes, and the other is the "dirty" one, to be used for wiping the counter. Personally, I just use one towel for both jobs until it gets dirty, then wash it and replace it with another, but Kazu is very picky about this, so I agreed to use 2 towels. On the other hand, he has told me that he thinks I should fold my towels in half before putting them on the hanger, but I absolutely hate doing this because the middle never dries, so I refuse to do it, and he accepts that. There are tons of stupid little demands like this that I put on him, some that he accepts and some that he denies, but I can't think of any good examples right now. In any case, compromise is the name of the game!