It was quite an interesting weekend for me. After getting off work at 4:15 on Saturday, I immediately went home and changed and got ready for party-mode. Trey picked me up shortly after 4:30 and drove us to Tateyama, a city near the southern end of Chiba prefecture. I was surprised at how big Chiba is, as the trip took almost two hours. The second half was littered with tunnels, revealing that the south of Chiba is far more mountainous than the north where I live.
After some minor logistical difficulties we met up with Victor—Trey’s friend from New Years’ Eve—and his friend, an Indian-Canadian guy named Anand. All three of them are JET ALTs, and Victor was stationed in Tateyama. He was very lucky in terms of the residence they put him in, a giant house he has all to himself, but unlucky in terms of its location, about a 20-minute drive outside of town. The plan was to go to a Valentine’s Day party in Tateyama that was being thrown by some friends of Trey and Victor, then invite a bunch of people back (and by “people” I mean “women”) to Victor’s place for an after-party. Victor and one of the guys in one of the bands at the party had spent the whole day getting his place prepared for the after-party, getting the place spotless, rearranging furniture, re-working the lighting, and even setting up a beer-pong table. We were quite impressed, and found ourselves looking forward to the after-party even more than the party itself.
Trey wasn’t drinking because he’s losing weight for an upcoming fight (he does kick-boxing) so he was the designated driver. We took two cars there, which meant we could bring two back-seats full of people back as long as there was another designated driver. But Trey was very skeptical about the distance-issue, thinking Victor’s place might be just a bit too far away to bring people back to. He said the general rule-of-thumb is that an after-party should be close enough to the main party to stumble to—not take a 20-minute drive. Victor refused to get discouraged, so determined was he to make the night a success.
We got to the place, a club called Bliss, shortly before 9:00. It cost 2000 yen to get in, which was a heavy price to pay but at least not as much as clubs in Tokyo. It was a Valentine’s Day party, a repeat of an event they’d done last year which had drawn a good crowd of singles there for mingling, which is why Trey was so enthusiastic about going. Upon entering you had to choose between a red or blue bracelet depending on whether or not you were available. Red meant “stop, don’t bother flirting with me because I’m taken,” while blue meant, “I’m single and looking for love.” I would have preferred another color signifying “I’m single but not sure I’m looking for anything” but I had to go with the blue like the rest of the guys.
On the drive down, Trey had given me some advice for when it comes to the ladies. The main gist was that I shouldn’t just talk to and focus on one girl, but divide my attention as much as possible. Girls want attention, he said, so if you pay exclusive attention to them they’re satisfied, they got what they want from you, and they have the power because they feel like they can have you if they want you, and that leads to them not wanting you. You have to keep them guessing, give them some attention but always leave them wanting more. As much as I hate these stupid games, that’s just how it is. It’s a totally different matter once you get to know the person and your real personality takes over, but at a first meeting it’s all just animal instinct and you have to project coolness and confidence—two qualities that I’ve always lacked in social situations.
Upon entering the club Trey immediately spotted a group of six female ALTs standing in a circle on the dance floor and drinking, all of them equipped with blue bracelets. I was introduced to all of them and the mingling began. The fact that none of them were particularly beautiful put me at ease right away. The other guys were free to work their game on any of these girls—I’d much prefer someone a little more…Japanese.
I ordered myself a whiskey on the rocks and proceeded to loosen myself up a bit, lightly dancing in the circle with the girls and guys. I glanced around the room and took note that currently, nearly all of the Japanese people there were sitting at the benches and tables along the wall, just talking amongst themselves. I noticed one very cute Japanese girl who seemed a little tipsy, and when the first band started playing she was up on the dance floor. Trey pointed her out to me and told me to get in there and “do my thing”. What thing? I don’t have a thing.
I was supposed to dance with her, but I wasn’t nearly loose enough for that yet so I settled for dancing near her. Early on at one point she turned toward me for a split second and I used the opportunity to clink my cup of whiskey with her cup on whatever-it-was and say “kampai” so that “broke the ice”.
The first band was all Japanese guys, the lead singer a small guy who took his shirt off apparently to show off his abs. His whole thing was to get up there with the mike and shout things like “Say what” and hold the mike out to the audience to repeat “what!” and then “Say what what” for us to go “what what” and “Say what what what” for us to go…you get the idea. This seemed to go on for eternity, and it wasn’t just one song, so that whole “what what what” thing seems to be the band’s entire signature, and I certainly don’t remember anything else about them.
As I was dancing near that girl she’d occasionally lose her balance a bit so I’d use my free arm to keep her on her feet, and she’d turn and thank me when I did. So it felt nice to actually make physical contact with her and I definitely got vibes of friendliness and possible interest, but after a short while I noticed a red bracelet on her arm. So much for that possibility.
But I heeded Trey’s advice and went around talking to a whole bunch of people, both male and female. One of the girls helping with the event, upon hearing I’d lived in Germany for awhile, pointed out a guy sitting at one of the tables and told me he was German. So I went and sat by him and started a conversation in German, which reverted to English after a few sentences but he definitely wasn’t expecting to hear any German that night. His name was Timo and he was there with his friend Stephen who is Canadian but “born and raised” in Japan. They were both really nice guys and I talked to them on and off throughout the night.
I also turned to a Japanese girl sitting at the seat next to me and spoke to her in Japanese. I was able to do my whole self-introduction, as well as ask her basic personal questions about herself like where she was from and what her job is. I couldn’t have taken it much farther than that, and I didn’t have to anyway because she was wearing a red bracelet. When her boyfriend came back I met him too.
The night got later, I got drunker and looser, and I was as resolved as it gets to have a good time and enjoy myself no matter what. I hadn’t been expecting to succeed with a girl so I felt good enough just interacting with as many of them as I could. Once I was loose enough I even got a few of them to dance with me, even though they all had red bracelets.
It being a Japanese party, there of course had to be a round of Bingo. We’d all got a Bingo card on our way in and whoever won would get a chance to draw a random prize from a bag, among which was a pair of tickets to Disneyland. I didn’t even come close to winning, but near the beginning of the game I noticed the really cute red-bracelet-wearing drunk girl also not getting any numbers called, and I pointed out with hand-gestures that we were both having terrible luck. She came over and stood by me for a few minutes then as we listened to the number-drawings together and waited for one of us to finally get one called. That felt nice, but she didn’t stick around for too long. She was pretty drunk at that point and might have had to throw up or something.
I later found her nearly passed out on a bench in another room, her boyfriend tending to her. I met him and he turned out to be friendly enough. I even remember his name—Akishiro, who happened to be the “what what what” guy from the first band.
The second band of the night was a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band, and as I happen to love the Red Hot Chili Peppers and happened to be pretty buzzed at that point, I really enjoyed the hell out of them. I’d dance and sing along with everyone else, getting lots of smiles and high-fives and whatnot from the Japanese guys in the crowd who were also digging it.
But unfortunately, the rest of my party was not on the same page at all. Trey had gotten discouraged from the very beginning when the only available girls there were those female ALTs, only two or three of which were somewhat desirable and even then not particularly so. There had apparently been a lot more single Japanese women there last time, but this time there didn’t seem to be any. The only girls at the whole party who were wearing the blue bracelets were the ALTs, and they were—as Trey later put it—“not conducive to having a good time.” They were standing around talking among themselves for the most part, and they seemed to deliberately keep away from the four of us as though we were a group of predators who couldn’t wait to take them back to our lair and have our way with them.
Of course they were invited to the after-party, but the main reason was to give it legitimacy to try and draw other people—perhaps some Japanese girls—there as well. But they refused to come so nobody else wanted to come either, with the exception of Timo and Stephen whom I mentioned earlier. They didn’t care that there wouldn’t be any women there and I certainly didn’t care either, but it was Victor’s place and he told them not to bother coming, that we were all just going to go home and pass out and try not to think about this utter failure.
And that’s all we talked about for the rest of the night. Victor could not stop going on about how much work he’d put into the preparation for the after-party and how pitiful it was that absolutely nobody—not one single solitary girl—had come to it. Trey kept explaining in perfectly logical detail all the reasons why that was the case and why it wasn’t really our fault.
If we’d done anything wrong it was to not get a solid group of people—male and female—to agree to go to the after-party beforehand. By just going and expecting it to all work out, we’d opened up the door for failure. But we had no way of knowing there would be so many fewer people there than last year and that the only single girls at the party would be foreigners like us who—to be brutally honest—sucked at having a good time. I didn’t waste much time on them, but they gave off the impression that they were actively trying not to enjoy themselves.
I, on the other hand, steadfastly refused not to enjoy myself, and I’d had a great time. One of the major advantages to being so woefully unexperienced when it comes to women is that I’m now virtually immune to disappointment. Those guys had been expecting to bring some ladies home and get some action. I had expected to be politely shot-down numerous times. What actually transpired fell far short of their expectations, whereas I greatly exceeded mine. I’d been loose and happy the whole time, projecting all the coolness and confidence I could muster and discovering there’s a lot more there than there used to be.
And while it didn’t actually pay off in any concrete sense, the few minor successes I had were enough to put me in good spirits. That really cute drunk girl definitely liked me. So what that it couldn’t’ have gone anywhere because of her “what what what” boyfriend? I successfully introduced myself and carried out small-talk in Japanese with several girls, all of whom were as friendly as can be and gave off no vibe that I was imposing on them at all. I even danced with a handful of girls, almost all of whom seemed to enjoy it (the ALT chicks were the only ones who didn’t). Having done that and seen how easily I can do it, it’ll be that much easier to do next time and the time after that. My confidence shot up a few degrees from that experience. Perhaps in a few years (or decades) I might actually be confident enough to succeed. Perhaps.
As for those guys, they were not happy about what had (or rather, what hadn’t) gone down. When we got back to Victor’s place we hung out for a couple more hours, ate some of the snacks that had been prepared, and continued to talk about the night’s disappointments. Well, Trey and Victor did. Anand and I mostly just listened and laughed. The discussion wasn’t morose or depressing—it was actually pretty light-hearted and full of humor. The group wasn’t brooding over our failure but laughing about it, though inside we all knew Victor was genuinely upset and Trey was a little angry too. But Anand and I had a good time anyway. He struck me as the kind of guy who also doesn’t have much experience with women. His expectations had probably been almost as low as mine, and so he too was shielded from disappointment.
I tried to tell Victor that he needed to stop focusing on what could have been and just appreciate what is—here we were, a good group of guys who enjoy each others’ company just hanging out and having a good time. His only response was yeah, but it could have been a much much better time.
Perhaps, but probably not for me. In any case, it was ultimately decided that the fatal flaw in the plan had been to make Victor’s place the after-party as opposed to the party itself. He stands a much better chance of attracting a crowd if he has the party in warm-weather, making use of his large yard for a barbecue, or his close-proximity to the beach for a beach-party. If the party was to take place elsewhere, it would have to start at his place, relocate there, and then end up back where it started. He’s got a great place with great party-potential, but the stars were just not aligned properly that night.
Trey and I drove back to Togane the next morning, him telling me that the next time we do this we’ll do it right. That basically means going clubbing in Tokyo, where if one place is dead there are eight hundred other places to choose from. (In my case, it also means there’s no pressure to bring a girl home—you just get her contact info and take it from there).
But he said he was glad he brought me because I had a good time and that made it a good enough time for him. He said he feels like we may have a budding friendship, and we’ll probably actually start hanging out more often instead of just talking about hanging out more often.
I hope so because he’ll be a valuable friend to have. He’s only 23 now so he’s just starting out his life. He was just accepted into Vanderbilt law school and has applications at places like Stanford and Yale pending. His plan is to get his Master’s or Ph.D. in law and then go into politics and probably run for office one day. He’s already got connections in Tennessee politics, having met both the mayor of Nashville and the governor. Of all the people I’ve ever met in my life, he’s the most likely person to become President of the United States. That’s not a job I would ever want, but maybe he could make me his ambassador to Germany or something.
Anyway, that was this past weekend, an experience from which I drew two valuable lessons: 1- I’m waaaaay more confident than I used to be, and 2- It still works to my advantage to keep my expectations low.