From Left Field
In one sannensei class, they were asked to prepare questions to ask me. I actually kind of hate this; I’d much prefer it if they asked me questions of their own volition. But that how the whole “internationalization” thing goes in Japan – with all the romance and motivation of a shotgun wedding. Goddammit, you will internationalize and you will like it.
The students were given half an hour to come up with at least five questions they could ask me, and the final twenty minutes of the class was reserved for answer time. As I expected, the questions were rather stale: “Do you like baseball?” “What’s your favorite color?” “Where’s your favorite place in Japan?” I don’t blame the students. Put a foreigner in front of me and tell me I have thirty minutes to come up with questions to askfor him or her and I doubt I could do any better.
One girl, though, completely broke the mold. No, she didn’t just break the mold – she shattered it into tiny little pieces and then incinerated them into ash. What I love about my life is that, for me the unusual, odd stuff doesn’t just come out of left field, it comes from the neighboring parking lot. The girl stood up and proceeded to ask me, “What do you think of lesbians?”
Say what now?
Take a moment to imagine that. I’ve been telling a class of 30 students who my favorite singer is and if I like corn and mayonaise pizza (for the record: no), and then suddenly a 15-year-old Japanese girl is asking me what I think about lesbians. How do these things happen? I would have never in my wildest dreams pictured myself in this scenario, and yet here it is. Even better – how was I supposed to answer that? “Well, I really like their porn…” Somehow, I didn’t feel that would have been an appropriate response.
I was an English major in university. I am now convinced that those four years of hard work, dozens upon dozens of classes built upon writing and creative thinking and analytical skills were all meant to prepare me for this very moment in my life. The dean might as well have handed me my diploma and said, “Here you are…you are now sufficiently prepared to tell a teenage Japanese girl what you think about lesbians.” With the culmination of higher education behind me, I cleared my throat and said, “Well, there are many kinds of different people in the world. I think that’s what makes the world nice, because there’s so much diversity. I also think that love is a wonderful thing, and if you can feel love, then no matter who you feel love for, then that’s also very nice.” Wow, it was like every cheesy feel-good TV show I’ve ever seen in my entire life. And today, on a very special Saved By The Bell… I almost had to resist the urge to turn towards a would-be camera and say, “And now you know…and knowing is half the battle. GI JOE!”
The girl smiled at my answer and sat down. I began to fear her remaining four questions. The teacher must have seen the look of profound bewilderment on my face, so she asked the girl to elaborate on why she’d asked me such a question. The girl explained, “I have a friend who is a lesbian. Sometimes, her life is difficult because people don’t understand her. So, I was just curious.”
Fifteen-year-old Japanese lesbians. OK, now I have officially seen everything. Hmm… Japanese schoolgirl lesbians… actually no, let me stop that train of thought right there. The last time I had that thought, it landed me in a whole world of hurt.
We ran out of time in the class, so after the Lesbian Inquiry (boy, if you think nobody expects the Spanish Inquision, try the Lesbian Inquiry on for size), I wasn’t able to field anymore questions. Somehow, I can’t help but to think that’s for the best.
Post Note: After graduation, this girl went on to a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant in my town. I saw her a couple of times, and in small talk she said there was a boy at her new high school she was interested in. So I guess it really was a friend, and not the whole “I have a friend…not me…” bit.