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Friday, Sept. 21, 2001


Modern Genjis swap the 'L' word for the 'H'

We used to know how to do this. Romantically, subtly, with poetry and elegance. I'm talking about the language of love, and how we seem to have lost the art of saying the "L" word in an endless variety of alluring phrases.

A thousand years ago, Hikaru Genji, the Shining Prince of the Heian Court, likened a lover's voice to the faint sounds of dewdrops falling at dawn from a morning glory petal, dropping to the bottom of a well.

The argument that she could have been suffering from laryngitis is, in this case, irrelevant. What's important is that the Prince had a way with words and he used them to full advantage in every one of his affairs. Now, a millenium later, we have sadly degenerated. No one today could discern the sounds of dewdrops from a morning-glory petal, and that's just for starters. . .

Lesson No. 1 in a modern Japanese love affair: Begin by initiating a process known as neji o maku (winding up the target), which ranges from outright and relentless flattery to flashing one's gold card (men) to crossing and uncrossing one's legs while wearing a short skirt (women).

The tighter the nejimaki, the greater the effect, and by the end of the evening the target will have become sufficiently wound up to be game for anything. This is when Lesson No. 2 kicks in: It is inadvisable to rush things at this stage, and one should instead ease into the torikomi (reeling the catch in).

The correct mental picture at this point? Imagine planting both feet firmly on the ground and slowly pulling in a net full of fish. After the torikomi, the target will find him/herself unable to escape. This is the moment to go for the big shobu (gamble), which can either culminate in a meaningful, long-lasting relationship, or turn out to be a run-of-the-mill ippatsumono (one-night stand).

What happened to the romance, the flowers, the stars in the eyes? No wonder so many couples split up -- they're not speaking the right language.

Take, for example, the phrases for sex. Most popular in this day and age is H [etchi] suru (doing the H), which simply deprives the act of all glamour, mystery and . . . sexiness. The Shining Prince called it "gliding on the floor in the shadow of the moon" or "sharing the same mosquito net."

The sad fact is that Japanese have become a lot more cut and dried about all this than the days of the Heian Court -- or even 30 years ago. It's an acceptable and common thing to have sefure (sex friends) among one's circle of acquaintances. Young demure women will say things like "Yatte minakucha wakaranai (You can't know a guy until you 'do' him)" with a completely straight face.

And the bad news is that the double standard is still going strong. Men with multiple partners are called nettowakka (networkers), but women are often referred to as saseko (let's-you-do-things girl) or even worse: gijutsu-kei (the engineer type), as opposed to hanayome-kei (the type one would want to marry) or the less-esteemed Zekushi-kei (dubbed after the oddly named marriage mag Zekshi, and referring to women who bring up marriage at the slightest provocation).

The jargon was cuter five years ago when the joshiko-sei (high-school girls) were in control and called their love objects rabure (lovely) and anything to do with dating was all categorized as rabu-rabu (love, love).

Still, even the girls used H-suru, and in case you're wondering, "H" stands for hentai (perverted acts). From gliding in the moonlight to mass perversion, we've come a long way.

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