The Emotional Stages of Being a Single White Female in Japan: An Honest Account

Please note: The majority of these events may or may not have taken place. They may or may not have happened to me or may or may not have happened to friends or friends of friends. All names have been changed to protect the individual’s privacy. Just kidding, are you serious?! There’s NO WAY I was including names! 😛

REALLY IMPORTANT ‘Please note’: If you are easily offended, do NOT read this article. I suspect you will be offended because you know deep down that it’s true, but nevertheless. It probably IS offensive, but I will not apologise. I can’t please everyone.

Being a single white female in Japan (SWFIJ) is both a blessing and a curse.

CONFIDENT STAGE: In the beginning, life is like a Hollywood movie with you, the star of the screen. You are showered with attention (albeit from afar… Japanese boys/men are very shy) in the form of curious sideways and sometimes slightly lustful glances. You are told you are cute, beautiful or cool, depending on what you’re wearing and you start to believe it. It’s a wonderful confidence boost!

Some may tentatively approach you to speak in halting English, learned and mostly forgotten (then suddenly remembered in the presence of an attractive female!) from years of study in junior high school. The occasional bolder man will ask if you have a boyfriend or husband and when you say no, their interest is sparked. But woe, usually it ends there. These kinds of conversations rarely lead to anything and unfortunately are all too common.

You might be very attractive and interesting, but chances are, they just want to practice their English. Granted, the majority of these men you will have no interest in at all, but sometimes you’ll find yourself grinning at someone who you think might have potential.

DOUBT/PARANOIA STAGE: Can you see the rose-coloured glasses have already lost their tint? It’s nice to think that you’re special and that someone might actually like you, but after awhile, a little voice called ‘Doubt,’ or perhaps, ‘Paranoia,’ whispers in your ear and says, “He doesn’t REALLY like you…” You begin to question every guy’s motive but eventually, that fades and is replaced by… something that is difficult to define. Acceptance maybe? This is just how it’s going to be, you say. 仕様が無い(shoganai), say the Japanese. That’s life; it can’t be helped.

At some point you realise you need to stop thinking and questioning so much because otherwise you will lose your sanity (if you haven’t already). When this happens you suddenly think, fuck this. I’m not going to bother anymore. They can all get fucked. This stage lasts all of about 10 minutes until you spot someone unbelievably gorgeous in a suit at the train station and make eye contact with him. Not that I’ve ever had this experience of course! 😉

Oh, let me point something out… the only time a Japanese guy will actually approach you is when he’s socially ‘lubricated.’ In other words, tanked to the eyeballs with alcohol and full of Dutch courage. If you’re equally as drunk this can be fun. Your bad Japanese will be unleashed and you will lose all inhibitions about speaking it. This is where it starts to get dangerous.

‘FUCK IT!’ STAGE (ALSO KNOWN AS THE ‘DRUNK’ STAGE): If the man actually speaks English quite well and he’s confident, chances are he will try to take advantage of you in some way. This might be a simple grope but may include kissing you or suggesting you go to a love hotel. Remember, by this stage you are so jaded by dating/whatever with Japanese men and so frustrated with a lack of ‘wishy-washy’ men that you figure fuck it. I should just take what I’m being offered. And you usually do. And it’s usually fun. It’s your call. HELL! I’m not judging!

Some of these men may or may not be married. Unfortunately, the confident ones are ALWAYS married. You will find yourself struggling with whether this is moral or not and at different times you will swing between ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and you will justify whatever it is you decide. Marriage in Japan has traditionally and historically been more about security (i.e. money, good job etc.) and less about love, so infidelity has often been and is still considered to be more acceptable… or perhaps tolerated, by both men and women than in Western/foreign countries. Whatever the case, it is totally unfamiliar to you and you’re still not sure exactly where you stand. Do you do as the saying says, “When in Rome…?” or do you hold fast to your Western/foreign views and values? The verdict is still out.

DISGUST (at Japanese men for being cheating bastards and yourself for allowing it in the first place) STAGE: This usually goes on for a few months before you think, hang on, I’m just being used (and you’re doing the same of course! It’s much easier than facing a real relationship with real issues. You realise that you’re a piece of white meat being tasted once, maybe twice and then being discarded because fish is what they’re used to. I know this all sounds very depressing but I guarantee you, keep being yourself and don’t change for anybody. You are Western/foreign, you will never be Japanese and besides which, isn’t that why Japanese men are interested in you in the first place? Exactly! You might be just what they’re looking for!

SELF-WORTH STAGE: So where was I? Oh yes… eventually you’ll come to realise your self-worth and decide that if someone genuinely likes you they need to take the time to get to know you and you to know them. You will also decide that you’d rather have a single one than all the drama that goes with a married one. You’ve finally decided you want a REAL relationship. Take a chance, go out with someone who asks you but remember what boundaries you’ve put in place to protect yourself (A) Ask if they’re married. B) Ask if they’re single C) Check again by asking if by single they mean absolutely no girlfriend).

HOPEFUL STAGE: One day something amazing happens. You meet a guy or you realise the guy you didn’t notice at the NYE party (then meet later on but decide is boring and social awkward isn’t quite as boring as you first thought and is actually really funny) is someone you want to date. Now here’s where it gets tricky. What do you do next? Being Western/foreign, chances are, you will ask them out. You know this is not the way to do things, but you have no patience waiting around for them to ask you out. You’re not Japanese, so you figure it’s okay to break with convention.

CONFUSED/UNSURE STAGE: Just as a side-note, in Japan, dating starts in groups at a sort-of ‘introduction’ party known as 合コン (goukon). You meet with other people over the course of a few outings and then if you’re both interested someone will suggest one-on-one dating. Members of the opposite sex in Japan rarely hang out with each other unless it’s a date. And in this situation, they KNOW it’s a date.

Now being a SWFIJ, this isn’t generally the case, so when you both decide on a one-on-one activity, the question looms over you: is it an actual date or is it just two friends hanging out? You might assume it’s a date, but unless you’ve used the word ‘date’ when asking him out, there’s a high chance that it’s not. The more you think about it, the more you realise that dating in Japan may be a lot simpler than in the West. If it’s just you and him after all those parties, then it’s definitely a date. Being a SWFIJ, it’s No Man’s Land. Sigh.

What’s the next stage? Who knows. I haven’t reached that yet. Not that any of this actually happened to me. Remember all of these events may or may not have taken place. They may or may not have happened to me or may or may not have happened to friends or friends of friends. You decide.

Oh and let me know whether you agree or not. SWFIJ, I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!


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