Tuesday, January 17, 2012
There is much that I am able to take for granted, having the freedom to live as an openly gay man. I am not constantly viewed by women as potential marriage material, thanks to current times and my geographical location.
How awkward would that be, always?
I was lured once, in the mid 90's, during my first contract in Japan. I met Hiromi at a small gym in the suburban city of Miyazaki. She was one of the few women that came to exercise in the independently owned facility. She didn't speak any English, and my Japanese was limited. Still, we were able to make enough conversation for her to learn that I was 29-years-old and from America - and single.
I can't remember who invited me to dinner, whether it was Hiromi herself or her friend, Keiko. I went to the apartment home of Keiko and her husband, which seemed like neutral territory, a gift box of cookies in hand. I had lived in Japan before, so I knew not to show up as a guest empty-handed.
Dinner felt stiffly polite and mostly comfortable. Keiko and her husband had two daughters, and I am always more relaxed around children.
"Wasn't the casserole delicious?" Keiko asked me in Japanese. "Isn't Hiromi a good cook?"
I wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but I had the feeling of being baited. We finished dinner and dessert, and I made sure to thank both Keiko and Hiromi before saying good night.
I didn't tell Hiromi I was gay. I didn't want to step on any one's cultural toes, so I felt it would be polite to stay in the closet, at least around the Japanese who were not my coworkers. In the mid 90's even the Japanese male dancers were still talking about "my girlfriend in Tokyo" (which was the same thing as the "my girlfriend in Canada" claim made by the closeted puppet in "Avenue Q").
I saw Hiromi a few more times, but only at the gym. I finished my contract and went back home to America.
A few years later, I returned to Japan for a second contract. I renewed my membership at the same little gym. I didn't see Hiromi, not at first, and not at the gym. She had gotten married and had become a mother.
I was a little relieved.
Hiromi had married one of the regulars from the gym, a man slightly shorter than me, and more physically fit than I could ever hope to be. Her husband had won a local body building competition. A picture of him, holding his first place trophy and wearing only his competition briefs, was prominently displayed on the gym wall. I was glad that Hiromi had landed an honest-to-God straight husband.
I left my second contract feeling less guilty about Hiromi.