Looking for love on the road
I’ve felt like this before. That feeling of traveling, of being on the road, and of desperately seeking connection but not quite knowing how to get it. Sometimes meeting a stranger at a coffee shop or the gym helps. Or having dinner somewhere lively and chatting with the wait staff.
This is different. I don’t speak Japanese.
My Airbnb is in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo. The apartment is small and the bathroom is painfully cold. So cold that not taking a shower for 3 days sound like a good idea.
The bed is nice however and I’m able to keep the bedroom warm by running the electric heater. The view from the 11th floor is stunning. “I’d be nice to share this view with someone” I think.
The loneliness starts creeping in as soon as I check in. The sight of the queen bed stirs something inside me.
The apartment is in one of the livelier neighborhoods of Tokyo. The place you go if you’re looking for a happy ending massage or a gentlemen’s club.
Maybe the sights and the advertising are getting me to.
Maybe it’s just been awhile.
You’re probably wondering how long ‘awhile’ is for me. 4 months. Not long for some and an eternity for others. It’s all relative.
Before leaving for my trip a friend tells me not to worry. I’m a tall white guy. Asian women love tall white guys.
That may be the case but they have a strange way of showing it. Japanese women don’t look at me. Most completely ignore me and the few that make eye contact break it immediately. Maybe I’m putting off that air of desperation that warns everyone not to look too long. Desperation stinks and you can smell is from a mile away.
Maybe I need to break the ice and say hello
But I don’t.
I don’t feel confident. I don’t speak Japanese. I’m recovering from a nasty flu that put me out for 3 days. My body is depleted and fatigued. You can see it on my face. It’s not attractive. I’m not in the mood to break the ice. I’m feeling lazy. I want connection to come to me and then I’ll decide whether to engage in it or not. This is fantasy.
I’d quit Tinder but…
I spoke to a friend last night and she told me about signing up for Tinder for the first time. We talk about how great and terrible it is. How it’s really not a great way to find connection but it’s so effective at giving us little boosts of self esteem. I could use a boost of self esteem.
I’d quit Tinder 8 months ago and told everyone how amazing life is without Tinder. I couldn’t possibly reactivate my account just because I was traveling.
Maybe I should just see what Tinder looks like in Japan
Just as I suspected. It’s full of Japanese women and a few travelers.
I succumb to the game and start swiping. I quickly run out of likes. Tinder limits you to a certain number of likes per 24 hour period. I’d exhausted them in about 10 minutes. Now what?
Doing the same thing expecting different results
I decline to buy a premium Tinder profile which would give me more likes. I close the app and hope that one of the girls I liked will like me back. In the back of my head though I know that’s not the kind of connection I want. I’m putting instant gratification over letting my life unfold without online dating.
I’d loved not using Tinder in the past so why was I suddenly so desperate to use online dating again?
With Tinder done and dinner a few hours away I have some time to kill. The restaurant is 5 miles away so I decide to walk. It’ll be good for me. It’ll get me out of the apartment sitting around hoping to get a Tinder match.
I walk the 5 miles and it takes me through parts of Tokyo I normally wouldn’t have seen. Residential areas, shopping districts, river side, park side. Along an expressway. I finally arrive to the fish market where I meet my parents for sushi.
The woman at the bar
We sit at the L shaped sushi bar. We’re on the end of the long side, facing the sushi chefs. She’s on my right sitting on the short side of the L looking in my direction. It’s effortless for her to look in my direction because she’s facing me.
I, on the other hand, have to rotate my neck a complete 90 degrees in order to see her. There’s nothing subtle about the movement but I do it anyways.
We make eye contact and…
She’s looking at me unlike any woman in Japan has looked at me yet. The eye contact we maintain in unwavering, and there’s no pretending we’re doing anything but staring into each others eyes. Time stops but I know I can’t keep it up for much longer.
I finally break contact after a full 5 count.
While it’s easy for her to look at me without moving her head, I can’t pretend to be doing anything but looking at her. Then I notice him.
Her ridiculously handsome boyfriend. I’m hoping they’re siblings but I know they’re not. These two are made for each other. She’s classy, beautiful, and striking. He’s handsome, rugged, and with a scruffy beard. He’s dressed in white and wearing a beret. Sounds bad but he pulls it off. They look great together.
I sneak a few more glances and we make eye contact again. Just a second or two this time. They leave arm in arm.
Maybe I’ll meet her in a bar
I part from my folks after dinner. It’s still early but I’m not sure where to go. I look up things to do in Tokyo.
I’m not sure what I’m looking for but I’ll know it when I see it. I settle on a bar in Ebisu that plays only old vinyl records.
I arrive and it’s just like I pictured it. Low sexy lighting, long beautiful wooden bar, a bit smoky, perfect music, and full of beautiful people.
I’m greeted by the host where I’m told there’s no bar stools available. Somehow the idea of standing around hoping to talk to someone fills me with sadness. Sitting on a bar stool makes it less desperate, more acceptable. I never meet women in bars anyway so I walk away.
I also never meet women when I’m looking to meet women
This is one of those times. I know when I’m in this mood, this frame of mind, that the best thing I can do is to let it all go, and go home.
I remember what I tell people who are looking for a partner. I tell ‘em they have a better chance of finding a $100 dollar bill on the ground. Same goes for me looking for deep meaningful connection. The harder I look the less likely I am to find.
He asks me if I want to see some titties
On the way home I walk pass the gentlemen’s clubs, the love hotels, the massage parlors, and the guys asking me if I want to see titties.
“Do I ever buddy.” I say to myself.
But I don’t stop. I walk on by. Until I see something so tantalizing that even I can’t pass it up. My willpower is low. I duck into the neon entrance.
And I duck out a few minutes later with some freshly baked Japanese rice flour donuts. Chewy. Sweet but not too sweet. Almost as good as human connection. Certainly easier to find. And cheaper than what’s being offered around me.
I crawl in bed as soon as I get home.
Today was a good Christmas.
I didn’t find love, but I realized that looking for connection wasn’t going to help me connect. I just had to accept that the big cozy bed with the lovely view was going to be just for me, and that’s OK.
Plus, I had donuts.
Shaun Galanos is The Love Drive. He lives and writes in Montreal.