When I met The Boyfriend, he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of me talking about him to anyone. He’d not yet come out to his family, and had no plans to tell anyone he worked with. The idea that I would talk about him to people in an open and honest fashion was alien to him. Even now, he keeps his personal life very personal – not just as regards his relationship, but much of everything else. Unlike me, with a pretty broad internet footprint, he is barely visible at all. No Twitter, no Facebook, none of that.
He likes his privacy, is what I’m getting at, which is why I will be revealing neither his face nor his name. In fact, I’m sure he would really rather I not be writing about him at all, but I told him he would just have to live with it.Still, it would be thoughtless of me to do this Thanksgiving project without being thankful for him, which I am. I’d been dating another guy before him, one who turned out to be a spectacular jackass – he decided the best way to break up was to just stop returning emails and hope I got the message. A few months later, I tried dating again and met The Guy Who Would Become The Boyfriend. We got along well, dated for a while, and a while just got longer and longer. When I was kicked out of my company apartment, he helped me find a new place to live in Kyoto – up to and including fronting me some money so I could buy appliances, pay the initial startup costs and everything. It took me ages to be able to afford to pay him back, but I was able to do so thanks to his help.
When my family came to visit Japan, The Boyfriend overcame his internal shrieking horrors and came out to dinner with us. There he was, with a table full of people he hadn’t met before, all of them speaking English, and probably his first time really out as part of a gay couple. I don’t blame him for getting kind of freaked out, but he did it. He not only stayed at dinner, but he didn’t run screaming any time after that.
When he got a dog, he invited me to be part of that – I even helped pick the name. When he bought a new condo, he wanted me to move in with him, and I did. If there’s one major reason why I’ve stayed in Japan all these years, it’s him.
Sure, we have our differences – there is almost no overlap in our musical tastes, for example. Or our TV preferences. Or most of the movies we like. We don’t have much of a shared pop culture between us, which is something I wish we did have. But what there is, we appreciate. We’ve been able to tune ourselves to the other’s sense of humor and attitudes; we’re a couple of introverts who have no problem with sending a night at home; we even figured out that sleeping in the same bed would probably lead to murder – I have my bed and he has his, and that seems to work just fine.Probably the biggest hurdle has been our approach to getting the other to understand what we want. I’m very American – I like people to tell me what they’re thinking, as I don’t trust my ability to intuit these kinds of things. He’s very Japanese – he would like me to pick up on subtle clues and signals without having to be actually told anything. That will always be a challenge, I think, but we’re trying. I’m trying to get better at anticipating things, and he’s trying to get more comfortable with telling me what’s on his mind.
Like any relationship, it’s a work in progress. And, at least from where I’m sitting, it’s comfortable. We’ve been together nearly ten years, I think, and all is well. Without him here, my life in Japan would have been very different indeed.