That Which Must Not Be Answered

The other day She Who Must Be Obeyed walked into my home office (aka The Temple of Half-Finished Projects) and asked “Do you want to see a bunch of high school girls?”

My first reaction was a silent “It’s a trap!” followed by a quick scroll through my file of standard responses to traps “You look great.” “It looks beautiful.” “You look beautiful in everything.” “No, they make you look too sexy.” “I’m sorry, did you say something? Wow, your butt looks great in those jeans!”

Unfortunately none of the standard responses seemed suitable to the situation.

Then I realized I might be walking into a different trap. One of the things the Japanese do that sets foreigners on edge is ask questions that seem like traps. The classic example is:

Japanese Person: Are you doing anything this weekend?
Foreign Person: No, I’m just hanging out doing nothing until pay day.
Japanese Person: Do you want to help us set up for sports day this weekend?
Foreign Person: I’m sorry did you say something? Wow, your butt looks great in those jeans!

To the Western mind we’ve been set up and walked into a clever trap. Now that I’ve confided in you and given away any chance of saying I’m busy, you ask me if I want to do something. Damn you, trappy and clever Japanese person.

In truth, the Japanese person is doing the opposite. To their way of thinking, they are being courteous. They don’t want you to feel obligated to do something, especially if you are already doing something. If you’re not doing anything, then they offer you something to do. (I hope that makes sense.) (I also hope you realize it doesn’t make the situation that much less infuriating even if it does make sense.)

In the case of She Who Must Be Obeyed’s question I had to decide if it somehow involved our oldest who will be attending high school next year–she’s a 9th grader which, in Japan, is junior high school–or if it would somehow involve the reading group SWMBO volunteers with, which occasionally reads at schools. If I wasn’t careful, I could be turning down the chance to help her out with something.

Or, she could be walking me into a clever trap.

I opted for the latter and said “Of course not” and then added “unless it’s really, really necessary and I totally won’t take a camera.”

It turns out it did involve our daughter, who is visiting possible high schools. She Who Must Be Obeyed, I suspect, didn’t want to play escort and was trying to get me to do it. In the end, our oldest went with her friend and both of us got to stay home.

The funny part is that if I’d gone, I’d probably have had to take a camera.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *