Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Valentine's Day Recollection

I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  For most of my adult life, Valentine’s Day has been February 14th and nothing else.  There have been maybe three...  Four?  No...  Three times in my life when February came around and I had someone in my life that counted as a Valentine.  
They do things differently in Japan on Valentine’s Day.  There it is the girls who give the guys gifts of chocolate on that day.  And the chocolate is ranked, too.
First, there’s “giri choco.”  The ‘giri’ part comes from the Japanese word for obligation.  It is the chocolate the female gives to her male friends, co-workers and associates.  If your elementary school was anything like mine, you might remember the rule on Valentine’s Day that you had to give a card to everyone in your class.  Giri choco is something like that.  
There’s also “tomo choco.”  This is chocolate girls give to each other.  “Tomo” comes from the Japanese word for friend.  
The highest form of chocolate, though, is “honmei choco.”  This is the chocolate a lady gives to a fellow that she is romantically interested in.  “Honmei” is a term from horse racing in Japanese.  It refers to the favorite horse in a race.  The one expected to be the winner.  In the case of Valentine’s Day chocolate in Japan, it might be used because it’s given to the stud she wants to ride.  
Sorry.  That was crude.  But it was too obvious and I couldn’t help myself.  
The best honmei choco, they say, is hand-made.  This shows the lady’s sincerity in her feelings for the gentleman through her effort.  Of course, in our modern world, there are speciality stores in Japan that will sell particularly well made and decorated honmei choco to purchase and give to the man the woman buying the chocolate desires.  A small gift can often accompany honmei choco.  
When most of my American friends hear about this system, they often agree with me that it sounds ideal.  There’s a catch, though.  With women there always is a catch, isn’t there?  
This Valentine’s Day I found myself thinking about a girl who would have given me honmei choco had that been the custom in this country.  This was back in college.  I can’t remember her name.  She sat behind me in Directing Class.  I didn’t notice her at first.  A friend of mine taking the same class pointed her out.  
She was an attractive girl.  Very pretty.  She had a round, cheeky face and often sported this small, knowing, Mona Lisa smile.  Bronze-brown hair with clear blue eyes.  A genuine hourglass figure that my buddy couldn’t stop talking about.  “Jeez!  Would you look at those tits!”  That was closer to his exact words.  
Ironically, it was this same buddy that brought us together.  He had tried hitting on her, mercilessly, when we first started class.  When she remained aloof and cool toward him, he started drawing her attention to me.  I think he thought that if he couldn’t get her, he rather his friend get her instead instead of some random other guy.  He may have thought he would get some vicarious, karma sort of thing out of it.  
I don’t remember asking her out, but eventually we did start to date.  I found out she was very different from the cool and quiet persona she displayed in school.  She was given to making wry observations about the people and events that took place around her.  She giggled a lot when not in a group.  And she had a kooky, somewhat naughty, sense of humor.
One time, for example, just as I parted my lips to kiss her, she took a deep breath and blew her exhalation into my mouth.  Strong enough to puff out my cheeks.  When I pulled my head back to look at her in surprise, she gave me the most innocent of looks.  
“I tried to give you a blow job,” she said.  “Did I do it right?” 
I found out other things about her.  Her mom was from Central America and her dad was from the South, just like mine.  Her home life was not as pleasant as mine was growing up, though.  Her father had problems with drinking and gambling.  They lived in Commerce, near where all the card clubs and poker casinos used to be, when they were the only form of legal gambling in California.  She described her mom driving from one club and casino to another, each night, to find her dad.  Her mom would then drag him home, drunk and penniless.  
The relationship didn’t last very long.  I remember the day when I lost interest.  It was a Saturday.  She drove all the way from Commerce to the gas station where I worked on weekends to put myself through school in Upland.  Google might tell you that it’s a forty minute drive, but back then I remember it being closer to an hour.  She arrived just as I was getting off work after starting at 6 AM that day.  
As I was still getting to know her, I figured that I would ask her about her goals and dreams, and where she saw herself in the future.  I was filled with my new found passion for acting.  I had wanted to be a writer in High School, but thought that my characters were rather weak.  I started taking acting classes in college, thinking to reverse engineer the process actors used to create believable characters from what was written on a page in a script, to help me create believable characters I would put down on the pages of my stories.  The acting bug had bitten me hard, though, and I was filled with the desire to one day “make it” as an actor.  
“So...  You’re a directing emphasis, right?”  The school we went to, Cal State Fullerton, made all theatre majors pick an emphasis for their degrees.  Mine, as you might guess, was acting.  “What made you decide you wanted to direct?” 
She wrinkled up her nose.  “I don’t know.  They told me I had to pick something when I chose my major, so...”  She shrugged.  “I picked that.”  
Oh.  Ok.  Uh...
“But...  You do want to work in theatre one day.  Right...?”  
“I guess...”  Another shrug.  She smile at me.  “It would be a nice job to have, right?”  
I frowned.  “It’s a hard field to break into.”  
“I suppose.”  She lifted her shoulders again.  “I guess I’ll need to do something...”  
It went on like that.  I broadened the scope of my questions, trying to find something that interested her.  Some plan for the future.  Something goal that inspired her.  I was convinced back then that people weren’t really alive unless they were burning with some desire to do or achieve something.  
But I didn’t discover anything like that in her.  All of her answers were, “I dunno,” or “I guess...” or “not really.”  The only thing she seemed to have any interest in was, well...  Me.  And while flattering, it didn’t feel like that was enough.  
I didn’t ask her out again after that, though the relationship didn’t just end.  We still had classes together.  And she dropped her reserved persona, at least as far as I was concerned, making it obvious that I was the one she wanted.  My guy friends would tell me I was insane for not taking her up on her offer of herself.  My female acquaintances would tell me how nice she was, and how sweet and suggest that I continue dating her.  
“In Costume Design class,” one of them said to me.  “We were talking about our plans for Valentine’s Day and she said, ‘I thought I had a Valentine of my own.  I don’t know what happened, though.’”  
“If I took her out,” I replied, feeling a bit fed up with what I thought was no one seeing my side of the situation.  “It would only be for the purpose of using her for sex.  Would that be right?”  
“She’s so sweet, though...”  
That was years ago.  Lots of things have changed.  I don’t burn with that same passion to “make it” as an actor.  That ship ran aground years ago.  If you were to ask me about my job, where I’ve worked for nearly twenty years, and when did I decide to make being a production manager of a legal document company my career, my answer would be something like...
“I dunno...  It kinda just...  Happened that way.  Had to have a job, right?”  
I mentioned that the Japanese Valentine’s Day custom had a catch.  It happens a month from now.  On March 14, which the Japanese call “White Day,” the guys who received chocolate on Valentine’s Day have to reciprocate, giving gifts to the ladies that offered them chocolate.  The rule of thumb, I’m told, is that the gift has to be about three times the value of what the guy received.  
I wonder what would have happened if I had done that back then.  Given her back the gift of affection she was giving me.  It seems such a rare and wonderful thing now.  Finding someone who just wants you and no one else, sooo much.  
For those of you out there who have a Valentine to call your own, congratulations.   And, Happy Valentine’s Day and White Day, with hopes of many more to come.


Post a Comment

<< Home