Heyyy, let’s talk morality.

I’m no Jeffy of Family Circus, but I have at least enough moral fiber left in me that I know when I smell foul play, and its stench amongst the gaijin population is overwhelming. I recall a certain odiferous Quizno’s customer from my time working there one vivid summer.

I’ve shed a lot of my childhood prejudices about right and wrong ever since the world got so much bigger, but I find that there are two possible truths–that most people are immoral, or that they are able to arrange and rearrange their morals to suit their current interests, but that in itself contradicts the very nature of morals, so I guess the only possibility is the former.

It always seemed to me that the value of a man’s character was to be measured by how much his behavior changes depending on who surrounds him and how much freedom you give him. I don’t mean like he says “Hello” when a guy is present and doesn’t say “Hello” when he’s alone. What I mean is, we all lost points when Napster came out all those years ago, and lost even more points when we talked bad about people shoplifting from Sam Goody. It’s easy to say stealing’s wrong; it’s a socially enforced principle. But what do people do when you nullify the negative consequences? Most people at least bend the rules a little, while an impressive number of them actually dedicate serious time and effort to committing what is, in actuality, a felony. Not only is downloading music virtually risk-free in a legal sense, it’s also a socially accepted form of theft. Teachers, mothers, bosses, grandparents, and most likely police officers all do it, and they do it for the exact same reason that so many gay guys in high school said they were straight.

But we all know all this already. What you might not know is that in Japan, everybody cheats. On their wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, or even mistresses, who I never even knew were cheatable upon, but in Japan they’ve found a way. Theoretically, monogamy is not originally a Japanese concept, whereas wabisabi and an adoration of imperfection and the fleeting heyday, are. Maybe this is why married salarymen are so quick to jump from one gnarly snaggletoothed girl to the next. Maybe this is also why said snaggletoothed girls care so much more about Gucci and Louis Vuitton than they do about the men they’re actually dating. Indeed, while this is the 21st century and the Japanese have since learned to dance, shit, and watch TV like us, the ancient familial structure is one thing that has remained relatively static. Hence you get husbands who put call girls ahead of family, and call girls who aren’t even really call girls, just regular girls whose concept of loyalty goes no further than the Yen mark. Or brand logo.

But if you’ve ever read any Heian era literature (and come on, who hasn’t), then you know that being a fairweather lover and keeping your girl waiting for weeks on end while you’re out gallivanting with other, younger girls (and boys) only to finally come visit so you can fuck her in the most impersonal way possible (from behind, through a curtain) is practically a cultural tradition here. As such, the Japanese can debatably be forgiven. I guess. Not really. But where I come from–and maybe I’m just out of touch (I certainly ought to be)–going out and hitting on girls when you’re married with kids, or even if you’ve just got a steady girlfriend, makes you kind of a big asshole. Unless you’ve got some kind of swinger’s contract with your significant other. That’s okay. Those cases aside, it makes you a big asshole. Bonus points if you sleep with said girls, and a times two multiplier if the merest glance of another man in your girlfriend or wife’s direction still hurls you into a frenzied rage. You are hypocrisy defined.

Here’s an anecdote. My coworker, who is, in name only, my superior, had a birthday event awhile ago. The attendees included a number of his gaijin buddies, all but one of whom were married, the remaining one having a live-in girlfriend. Also attending were said married men’s wives, and where applicable, children. Very nice. Families had their pictures taken together, men’s arms wrapped tight around women like fishermen posing with prize catches.

Afterwards, the men only migrated on to a bar, leaving the women to tend to the household. Yoko and I also went since our ride took us there instead of home. The place was filled with young and vibrant Japanese men, whom the gaijin ignored entirely, and women, upon whom the gaijin immediately descended like vultures. They approached aloof, disinterested Japanese women in groups, combining their best efforts to form intelligible sentences. And if you’re wondering why they would all put forth so much effort just to entertain aloof, disinterested women, the short answer is that they wanted sex, but my theory is that aloof, disinterested women provide aloof, disinterested sex. Can’t say I’ve ever put the theory to practice, but I’ve got low friends in high places. Or was it the other way around?

I myself was also approached several times by the gaijin men, who repeated the same three basic phrases:

1. “You should’ve left your girl at home, man. We could’ve had some fun!”

2. “We’ve got a couple masters here tonight!”

3. “Somebody who can speak, order me an even wussier drink!”

My responses, quick-draw ready, were, respectively:

1. “But I am having fun!” Thanks to her. Not that we had come voluntarily. Yoko and I aren’t without our problems, but I still like her and like spending time with her, and talking to her sure beats talking to your average Japanese chick with an ego, whose two favorite forms of communication are sighing and making minute adjustments to the slackness of their jaws.

“Hey baby, you come here often?”

“I’m too busy being ennui–which is an adjective, by the way–to acknowledge you. Come back when I’m no longer imitating a ’90s art student, which will be, like, neverrrr.”

2. “I’ll believe it when I see it, friend.” I assume they meant masters of getting girls to have aloof, apathetic sex with them, though maybe that was just my own prejudice and they actually meant master chefs or masters of the pan flute. All I can say is that by the end of the night, it was still a mystery as to what they were masters of, but it was clear that none of them were masters of not looking like avid purveyors of tomfoolery (douches).

3. “There is no wussier drink. That’s the wussiest one.”

One of the alleged masters, an Australian man, took point. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked the prettier but less pleasant-looking of a pair of girls.

“I’m married,” she said. “For four months.”

No husband in sight. Nevertheless, when Australian man raised the topic of cheating on the husband, the girl drew back. “But…he’s my husband. I mean, we’ve been married for months!”

“Hey baby, I’ve got a girl myself. But if she doesn’t know that I sleep with other girls, she doesn’t get hurt.”

Ohh, he’s a logic master.

“Well, I guess if you put it that way…” she supposedly said, according to my friend whose comprehension ain’t so great (I wasn’t listening). But let’s assume she really did bite the hook, because she might as well have. It’s not like that’s a rare thing. That’s what marriage has become–or maybe what it always has been–for most people. Two people putting on an expensive show for everyone they know and making vows that don’t mean anything.

Meanwhile, my superior approached me and struck up a conversation, possibly because I was being aloof and disinterested.

Superior: “So Greg, does Yoko let you flirt in front of her?”
Me: “Well, uh, I…You mean with someone else?”
Superior: “Yeah, man, come on! You’re young, you’re allowed to make mistakes! See, my wife lets me have a pretty long leash. Pretty much anything goes. You’ve gotta stay in control, Greg. It’s always a game. Always.”
Me: “Hey, lucky you, man. I guess that must make trips to Denny’s pretty interesting.”
Superior: “You got that right. Man, we got some masters here tonight, I tell you!”
Me: “‘Eyyyy…”

He approached me again a little later.

Superior: “Hey Greg, I didn’t know Yoko smokes!”
Me: “Oh yeah, how ’bout that.”
Superior: “Why do you let her smoke?!”
Me: “She’s…I mean I’m…huh???”
Superior: “Why don’t you make her stop?!”
Me: “Because she’s…an adult. Besides, it’s not like she smokes all the time, in my face. She smokes, I drink. What better combo could you ask for?”
Superior: “Dude, if my girl smoked, that would be the end of it. You gotta stop ’em, man! Say you won’t stand for it!”
Me: “But…you’re the one who doesn’t like it.”
Superior: “Gotta make ’em stop. Masters, I tell you! Say, could you ask that guy to give me one o’ them girly drink umbrellas? I’m tryin’ to look cool here.”

I’m not here to judge how people want to live their lives, but it is striking to discover how many people in this so-called real world I’ve apparently entered seem to also want to live my life for me. Equally striking is the unwaveringly bad and hypocritical advice constantly being dispensed by a man whom our company is technically paying to advise me (and to educate children, for that matter). Control but don’t be controlled. Be free-wheeling and unapologetic, but crack that whip when she acts up. Make intentional “mistakes” because you can get away with them. But the most amazing thing of all is that it’s not just that guy, or that group of guys. It’s every bar, club, maid cafe, or other gaijin nest in Japan. The inevitable stripping of one’s dignity that accompanies living in a foreign land, particularly if one is ignorant of that land’s practices (but even if one isn’t), has terrified my bumbling, water buffalo brethren into forming a tight-knit brigade that stands for the only common bonds they can figure out how to express in their perpetual confusion: the ceaseless desire for fucking, drinking, and ego-boosting. This is what happens when a man is without books to read–he soon reverts to his original viking and/or cave-dwelling form.

And man, that’s so lame.

Anyway, the epilogue is that the only person to leave the bar that night with a woman was me, so I don’t know what they were going on about. Huh. Maybe they meant masturbaters.

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