This article from slate.com is among the most interesting I've read all this year. It is about a new trend among otherwise eligible, heterosexual Japanese men - a rejection of the hyper-materialistic, paternalistic, occasionally misogynistic traditional male archetype in favor of a new model, dubbed the "herbivore." Read more to get the full scoop. I found it fascinating, and for the last day or so it has bounced around my brain, as I wondered what other types of folks would think about this, particularly feminists, or at least the various different waves of feminism. It seems to me that among the most anti-feminist positions being voiced are those by the women who feel jilted that they are no longer being pursued in a manner that previous generations might have expected.
Anyway, it is a good read, especially if you, like me, have found other unique Japanese social trends (i.e., the young men who decide not to leave the confines of their bedrooms for months at a time, the online suicide cults, the "ninja villages" where people dress up like ninjas and sit in trees, etc.) to be poorly explained by the usual suspects: the struggling economy of the past two decades there and the entrance of women into the workforce in more equal ways.
All this is fascinating (to me), but what is most interesting is a slight parallel I see between the female responses to the Japanese trend and the responses my friend and I have received when we tell various folks, mostly women, that we are on the bench, romantically speaking. The responses typically range from disbelief to an assumption that this is somehow strategic to apparent anger that we have decided it is possible to just jump off the merry-go-round of misery that is dating. The idea that we have just decided that, as professionals with social lives that are plenty rich already, we have enough on our plate to deal with and thus choose to postpone dating for a while, well, that is just unfathomable to most, especially since they usually respond by saying something like, "I have this friend that also hates dating - you two would totally get along." Uh, no.
As before, I'm aggresively hostile to the notion of dating, as I look at it as another commitment that requires finite resources (i.e., time and money). Think about it this way: when you start a new relationship, you need to give up certain number of hours per month, a certain amount of money per month, a certain amount of flexibility per month. When you are young, those resources (some more than others) have a different value than they do now. I earn a lot more at age 31 than I did at age 19, but I also have a lot less time to give. If I started dating someone and hung out, say, 2 nights a week (on the low side), that is still two nights I wouldn't have to myself, wouldn't be able to do things I like to do solo, wouldn't be able to sit around in shorts and write meandering blogs, etc. To me, this situation seems entirely rational, but so does the situation when I meet someone who feels their biological clock ticking ever louder and is dating up a storm to find someone before the clock stops. That's cool, do what you do. But in the meantime, I'm staying on the bench, regardless of whether you understand why. And the fact that my life has been infinitely more entertaining and relaxed since I made this decision (I call it my "not calling girls till 2010" decision) makes it all the more unlikely that I'll abandon it soon.
2 years ago