Category: Girl Talk

Girl Talk: Xmas Plans

Girl Talk: Xmas Plans

Even before I was teaching through The JET Program, I had heard that the winter holiday was better spent outside of Japan. My professor put it like this, “If you’re used to spending Christmas with family, you’re going to want to make sure you’re home during the break. Well… actually, yeah. You’re just going to want to make sure you’re home for Christmas.”

In my first year, I honored that and flew back. By the summer of  2010, I had spent a good chunk of cash on two more trips for friends’ weddings. Three trips back to the US before a full year of working was unheard of!

That winter I wasn’t going to be going anywhere for sure.

I was kind of excited, actually, to see what Christmas in Japan would be like with my own eyes. The year before, I had the break-up that turned my life around [ed note: I should probably put that story to rest in its own write-up, eh?] so I knew that even an uneventful holiday shouldn’t be so bad.

But I can’t lie, the decorations and scenery slowly started to eat at me. You see, in Japan they treat Christmas just like another glorified Valentine’s Day. There’s no sense of family, charity, and goodwill. It’s all about the Christmas honey, honey! Extra lovey-dovey kudos if you’re able to set up something on Christmas Eve.

So while I was trying to keep my feelings in check and not get too hyped on finding the girl of destiny, I started to think I should do something. I reached out to a friend I knew from college and was thrilled she was interested in meeting up on the day.

The only real “catch” was that I needed to go to her area. This meant forking up $100+ to ride the bullet train from Toyama Prefecture to Tokyo.

We hadn’t really been in touch. I was really trying to go into the day without any pressure. Seeing her again was nice– and just that. Nothing more or less.

I thought this was good. I could enjoy this time for what it was: spending Christmas day with a cutie. We chatted some at a cafe. We walked some around the block. And then, with a little twinkle in her eye, she had something she wanted to tell me.

Whatever could it be? Perhaps the key to all this romance stuff really was playing it cool and having no expectations.

“Anyway, I’m going to let you go. Have fun in Tokyo.”

It was a really long train ride back. I haven’t talked to her since.

Now what’s the lesson to be learned here? Despite my best intentions, were my expectations subconsciously too high? Maybe.

Quick sidenote: over the years, I’ve changed my attitude towards “setting low expectations”. It’s not so much you have to be so careful, and you shouldn’t live your life trying so hard to avoid disappointment. You just need to shape yourself to be able to move past disappointment.

But that’s a lesson that’s better served with a different girl story.

The big takeaway from this bad Christmas tale is this:

Don’t ever have your sights, your plans,
your sense of joy so dependent on another person.
That’s got to be all on you.
Your vision, your goals, your happiness–
that’s all on you.

It would take my several more years to nail down this idea. The romance, the girl, the dating– that stuff isn’t supposed to be a “payoff”. That stuff isn’t a reward that’ll turn your life around and make you happy.

Does it add to your life? Definitely! At least, a good relationship will.

More importantly: doing your own things, having your own plans, and then finding someone who’s excited to join them is way, way, way more satisfying.

Without family and friends around that year, I was right in thinking I should’ve done something. But that something should’ve been my own thing– plans that didn’t hinge on someone else to make it a success.

Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

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Girl Talk: Getting to Know Someone

Girl Talk: Getting to Know Someone

When I was in my first year of junior high, I remember falling head over heels (guys can use this term too, right?) for a girl who took the same bus to school. I remember picking a flower out of my neighbor’s garden, so I could hand it to her on the morning ride. She was embarrassed, but accepted the token.

Her friends were impressed-ish, but tried to signal early on that she wasn’t going to be interested. And soon after, I found out: she only liked me as a friend.

As much as the rejection stung, it dawned on me that “being just a friend” shouldn’t have had any kind of impact– we weren’t even friends! I didn’t know anything about this girl. I can’t even remember if I knew her name before her friends talked to me.

From that point on, I kept that memory to motivate me: blindly falling in love with a girl you barely know is dumb. You have to get to know the girl.

Unfortunately, I drove that notion into the opposite extreme. Through junior high and senior, I’d try to guard myself from butterflies in the stomach. I’d make a conscious effort to talk to girls, to get to know them, and to be friends first.

But then, I’d just “fall in love” with every girl who I felt like I knew “enough” about.

Reaching that level wasn’t so hard to do. I’d try to fact check myself. “This isn’t just some girl I have math class with! Her favorite holiday is Christmas. She likes food.”  As you can see, I was just a little too eager to draw conclusions that me and a girl had so many things in common.

Along the way, I kept learning to raise the level higher and higher, but getting to know someone became a lot of work. What really sucked was these rejections actually hurt more! The “crushing defeat” was especially crushing because I thought I really knew the person. And that’s the thing to glean here: knowing a lot of information about a person, doesn’t mean you know the person.

It doesn’t matter how many pieces of trivia you pick up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only person who’s been told the fact. To truly get to know someone takes time. And if it feels like it’s a lot of work? That’s probably because all the effort is one-sided.

When you’re getting to know someone who’s equally invested in getting to know you, that dynamic makes dating a lot of fun.

Girl Talk: Pick-up Lines

Girl Talk: Pick-up Lines

We all want to make a good impression, but I think we over-estimate our first words. While it’s fun to think back on how the connection all started, the encounter itself doesn’t always lend itself to a good story.

Even if you live by an “I have no regrets” kind of attitude, the bad first fumbles are still always going to sting. And on the flipside, even some of our best friendships and relationships have unmemorable beginnings.

We’ve been conditioned to think there’s got to be a spark from the get go. We think having the words to sweep someone right off their feet is romantic. I’ll cover the topic of false positives some other time, but let’s tackle pick-up lines for now.

Some are funny. Most are crass. But can they really ever work?

“The Toyota Effect”

“The Toyota Effect”

Why do you care so much about getting a girlfriend?

I remember being asked that by my friends, my brother, and my Mom. Being so fixated on relationships really effected the way I carried myself. My enthusiasm was just short of being desperate.

I wanted a “special someone”, but with each and every rejection I faced, I was constantly re-evaluating what that meant. I ping-ponged back and forth between thinking I was too picky and not picky enough.

And that was the truth! Back then, I rarely got the timing right. I’d be too idealistic when I needed a reality check. Then, I’d shoot for whoever when I should’ve had some standards.

Something that really helped me put everything in perspective was “The Toyota Effect”.

Getting a car is a huge investment. (People aren’t cars, Jon! Yeah, I know– just hear me out.) You really want to be sure that you get one that suits you. Horsepower, year, model, color– each factor’s importance depends on the person.

But once you’ve got your sights set, once you’ve clearly established your focus, a funny thing happens. You start to see more of it.

Let’s say you’re dead set on a blue Toyota. Suddenly, you start to see more blue Toyotas around you. Did everybody buy a blue Toyota overnight? No, of course not. They’ve always been there, but you just weren’t in tune to notice them.

Now to apply this to dating– Allan and Barbara Pease recommend making a list of what you’re looking for. Be open and honest as possible because this is yours, and you don’t have to share it with anybody. You might think this feeds into building impossibly high standards.

Actually, my list helped call me out on my bullshit.

Whenever I’d be all down and feeling sorry for myself, I’d check my rejector against the list. In the moment, it’s fun to get caught up in the butterflies and think of how things might work out. But the reality was– that girl wasn’t really what I was looking for in the first place. So sayeth the list.

My list kept me accountable. And remember, the list is adaptable! Over the years, I’d cross things off and add others. It helped me prioritize what really mattered.

What’s on your list?