Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Domo [sigh!] Arigato, Mr. [pant!] Roboto

The Sunday Times of London reports on a fashionable "Bridget Jones"-type blogger in Japan whose love affair with an awkward man who loves robots and dinosaurs is inspiring Japanese women to seek out nerds.

Much of the story of the anonymous blogger who calls herself Artesia and her boyfriend, whom she calls No. 59, is oddly touching. Those romantics of us who are geeks inside—I call myself a nerd in chic clothing—like hearing about a shy boy and shy-ish girl bonding over a shared love not of the Beatles, but of beetles.

But if you read between the lines, the article reveals a sad truth which I believe applies not only to Japanese women, but to Western ones as well.

Start with the boyfriend's nickname, No. 59. Artesia calls him that, writer Leo Lewis explains, because she dated 58 men before him: "She goes on to criticise suitors 1 to 58 as self-centered, and to denounce most Japanese men as utterly disinterested in their women’s lives."

I suppose it's cute that this woman gives her boyfriend a nickname that is a constant reminder of all the men she dated before him, and that she only dated self-centered men before No. 59 changed her life.

Not that I doubt Artesia's stats or her claim that 1 through 58 were self-centered. But her making such a blanket statement against all the men she's ever dated leaves out one important issue: What made her choose men like that?

The answer, according to our culture's present-day, "Desperate Housewives" aesthetic, is that men simply are like that: They're indeed self-centered, and the only heterosexual ones who treat women with respect are geeks.

Now, I have nothing against geeks, nerds, or anyone who finds pleasure in life's minutiae. I myself have been known to obsess on things that others would find boring, like underground train signals. But to suggest that men who socialize well, bathe regularly, and are unable to name all 17 casts of "Star Trek" are by definition self-centered is, well, silly.

When Artesia is saying that she dated 58 self-centered men, what she is really saying is that she was unable to wait for the right one—so she tried to settle. And she tried again, and again, and again.

It's possible that Artesia might have gone through a soul-searching period of personal growth after No. 58—resolving to find interests in life other than dating, and clearing her head and heart in the hope No. 59 would be her final pick. But according to the article, she simply puts all the blame for her long streak of bad relationships on the men she's dated.

I wish Artesia all the best with No. 59, and I applaud her efforts to confer sex appeal on nerds. But when it comes to lessons in love, Artesia's message to women—that they never have to ask themselves, in Neil Young's words, "Why do I keep f---ing up?"—is science fiction.