The girls in the English Club at the School of Peace participate in English speech contests. The biggest of which is called Prince Takamado or something like that, and is held on the national level at Tokyo. Before getting to that point though, each prefecture holds a semi-final to determine which kids they would send to Tokyo to represent them in the contest. Both Ultimate Sweetness, and another girl I’ll call “Mel”, decided to enter this contest.
Sweetness was playing to win. She’d lost in a big competition the year before, and seeing as how many of her other English Club friends had won various other contests of their own, Sweetness wanted to finally win in something. She wrote a charming speech about how much she loves her family (it’s Ultimate Sweetness … would you expect anything less?), especially her father.
I’d known before that the Father of Sweetness was some kind of national judo champion. But apparently, in addition to that he was also handsome. *Very* handsome. The English teacher told me about meeting him once, and as she put it, “I couldn’t really look him in the eyes without getting all faint in the knees.” And this woman is not the swooning type. From reading Sweetness’s paper, Father of Sweetness was also a big advocate of free-thinking and gender equality. Are we sure this guy is Japanese? Seriously, free-thought and gender equality go against like everything Japanese men believe in. They go to work and do exactly as they are told to, then go home and order the missus to have dinner ready and bring him a beer. And to do that exactly the way it’s always been done, for any deviation would cause the Earth beneath Japan to crack and the whole nation to sink into the Pacific.
Sweetness herself has said that she never plans on getting married, because she will never find a man more perfect than her father and she doesn’t want to disappoint herself. Oh yeah, and the house they live in – Father of Sweetness built it with his own two hands. This entire family is tripping on some Leave it to Beaver shit, I’m telling you. This is just insanity. I’m sure if I were ever to pay a visit to the Sweetness Household, it would all be in black and white, they’d have a sharp-witted but ultimately lovable nanny, and Lassie. Not a dog that looks like Lassie, no, actual Lassie resurrected from the dead and granted immortality. All of their family problems are solved in 25 minutes or less, somebody always learns something new, and there’s a studio audience to laugh at all their jokes. Unbe-fuckin-lieveable.
Anyway, Sweetness as well as Mel practice their hearts out, and eventually the day of the competition comes. As the competition was on Saturday, the English teacher asked if I would come along as well. I’d been helping the students with their speeches for several months, and she felt it would be beneficial if I was on hand. I agreed to go, wanting to see the competition for myself.
Looking around at some of the other kids, this competition was serious business. There were a few students from ritzy private schools. There was a large delegation of girls from some school, I don’t know if it was private or not, what I do know is that they had the ugliest fucking school uniforms, ever. It was a simple white shirt, and then like a brown overall-dress kind of thing. It made them all look like moo-cows. Whoever came up with this design was either a homeless man on meth, or an absolute genius. I say genius, because I doubt any old men will be trying to feel up these Moo-Cow Girls on the trains. If you were a pervert and you wanted to fondle some 15-year old under-developed T&A, would you go for the girl wearing a potato sack? I think not. These are the safest girls in all of Japan.
However, going to the competition did give me one rare opportunity – to meet Ultimate Sweetness’s parents! Now, Mother of Sweetness struck me as just your average Japanese woman. Nothing particularly special there. However, Father of Sweetness, well, he was kind of good-looking. Sort of like a rugged, man’s man, which is rare in Japan. Japan is all about the pretty boys – you’ll see men who spend just as much time on their hair and wardrobe, if not more than, any woman. A lot of times, I’ll see a couple walking down the street, and at a first glance I can’t tell which is the man and which is the woman- the man’s hair is all done up and he’s wearing ambiguous clothes, and the woman doesn’t have enough of a girlish figure to distinguish her from the man. Gotta love Japan.
But Father of Sweetness sort of had this “I’m stylish, but I would still kill a wild boar with my bare hands and eat it on the spot” kind of thing going. I could see why my English teacher, who is very mature and othewise 100% no-nonsense, would get faint in the knees in the presence of this man.
I’m not gay. Honestly.
The teacher introduces me with “He’s a big fan of your daughter.” Given how fond this teacher is of telling the story about how I want to kidnap Ultimate Sweetness, I desperately hoped she wouldn’t say anything beyond that that would make this beautiful little man want to kick my ass. Because he could, y’know. More than anything, I really wanted to ask him how exactly he made Sweetness – what he fed her when she was younger, the types of bedtime stories he read to her, everything up to and including what he ate the night Sweetness was conceived.
My curiosities aside, we were all here for a speech contest. The competition started, and both Ultimate Sweetness and Mel performed splendidly. Neither forgot any lines and their pronunciation was on point. Ultimate Sweetness, who one day aspires to become a stage actress, smiled and tilted her head generously, and if only for a moment, there was peace all over the world.
Since Mel and Sweetness performed fairly early in the contest, I was able to just sit back and try to get a bead on the competition. I thought they both had a pretty good chance. There were two kids who choked, and a lot of mediocre speeches. There were really only two that stood out to me. In one, a boy talked about people using their cell phones on the trains, and how bad Japanese people’s manners were becoming lately. It’s strange, despite the plethora of other bad behaviors you’ll find on a train, including but not limited to reading porn, groping women, putting on makeup, and getting drunk, the biggest train faux pas is having a cell phone conversation. You and a friend can be having a conversation by screaming at the top of your lungs at each other, and yet somehow this is less rude than whispering into a cell phone. Make the unforgivable mistake of being Gaijin AND talking on a cell phone on a train, and Japanese people will look at you not only as if it was you personally who dropped the a-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but before getting in the plane you decided to kick a few puppies around for good measure. I think I could actually just whip out my cock and slap a few obasan in the face, and that would be less offensive than talking on my cell phone on a train.
The other notable contestant was one of the Moo-Cow Girls. Although, maybe she was really only notable to me, because her speech started off with the line “I am a gothloli. That is to say, I am a lolita who likes Gothic fashions.”
GOOD MOOOOOOOOOORNING SUNSHINE!
If you want to make sure everyone in the room is listening, that’s your opener right there. I don’t care what the speech is. You can be the President of the United States, and if you get up to face the nation and are like, “My fellow Americans. I am a gothloli. That is to say, I am a lolita who likes Gothic fashions…”, Congress, the American public, the Canadian Republic, all 1 billion of the People’s Republic of China, the French Connection UK, I don’t care who, everybody will be giving you their rapt, undivided attention.
The rest of the speech turned out to be pretty good, but I had to wonder if the judges were going to be able to look past the gothloli thing. I was certainly having a hard time with it. I was having an even harder time processing the fact that this particular girl was a Moo-Cow by day and a Gothic Lolita by night. It makes my medulla oblongata hurt just thinking about it.
Everyone finished their speeches, and after a short break, the winners were presented. No, wait, this is Japan. Before the winners were to be announced, 41,983 people had to get up and give speeches about their impression of the speech contest. Because, God help you, if you actually enjoyed the speeches, we’re gonna take that little glimmer of happiness and stomp the shit out of it. Anyway, the top three speeches would be chosen as the best in Kyoto Prefecture, and those students would move on to the national competition in Tokyo. Ranking in at number three was our very own Mel! Number two was the cell phone kid. And number one was none other than Ms. Moo-Cow Gothloli. It’s nice to know that Kyoto’s #1 representative will be rocking the stage in either a how-now-brown-cow frock, or a black maid outfit with spiky bracelets and chains. Swell.
Thinking about it though, Moo-Cow Gothloli, Cell Phone Train Boy, and Mel’s speeches all followed a pattern – this is something I noticed in my life, this is how I believe it relates to Japanese society, and this is what we should do to all live in happy smiley-land harmony. Ultimate Sweetness’s speech, while well-written, excellently performed, and so Goddamned adorable you just want to kill something to restore balance to The Force, didn’t follow the pattern. In the months before the contest, I had noticed that there was something different about Sweetness’s speech, and was concerned, but ultimately I figured she could make it work. Unfortunately, I was being all American and thinking outside of the box. Remember that Japanese people are all about the box – they want to make tender, passionate love to the box and then immediately fall asleep afterwards.
However Sweetness, who had poured her heart and soul into this speech with the hopes of winning, was understandably crushed. She tried her hardest, but after the contest she couldn’t help but to cry. Her parents, the English teacher, and the other members of the English club formed a circle around her to try and comfort her. Sweetness tries to suck it up, and in between the tears she says “I’m sorry everyone. I know I let you down. I promise I’ll try harder next year and restore your faith in me!” Everyone in the circle can’t help but to smile and aww and gush at Sweetness. And while some of you may find it cold hearted that a group of children and adults would be smiling and laughing at a girl who’s crying her heart out, that’s just how off-the-charts adorable this girl is. There is nothing she could do that wouldn’t be heart-warming. She could be taking an explosive, diarrhea shit and it would somehow be cuter than Hello Kitty. She could be punching you in the face and under the bruises you’d still feel all warm and cuddly inside. Seriously, it’s kind of frightening.
At any rate, Sweetness loses this round, to a Gothic Lolita no less. In the fiction world, this is equivalent to Megatron besting Optimus Prime, Cobra sticking it hard to the Joes, and Skeletor beating He-Man in a bout of arm wrestling.
Meanwhile, with pretty much our whole delegation trying to comfort Sweetness, I turned my attention to Mel, who had done the not-insignificant thing of qualifying to go on to the national tournament. In Mel’s case, it was a particularly notable accomplishment. She’d transferred to this school as a sannensei, and being a somewhat shy and reclusive girl she’d had problems making friends. She joined the English Club, but often times found her separated from the other students, who were all ninensei and ichinensei. I told Mel that it was so small feat to qualify for any national speech contest, especially one in English. Mel seemed to accept her praise rather quietly, then thanked me for “helping her to grow up a little.”
Later, at the national competition in Tokyo, Mel performed her speech well again, but was unable to place. I do feel however that this is one of those situations where winning wasn’t everything. I think by just being able to go, and give a speech on a national stage like that was a huge accomplishment. And, up until her graduation, Mel was the English-speaking hero of the school.