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Saturday, July 29, 2006
WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST
When Crete meets NEET
An unholy union with an unholy result -- a monster!
Yet even a monster needs a home. To hide this creation of lust and madness, the King of Crete bid his master craftsman to design a labyrinth like no other, a place where the child beast could grow and do no harm. Thus the mighty "haafu" settled in the labyrinth -- alone.
Such, in part, is the myth of the half man/half bull Minotaur, retold here as a "Flactured Fairy Tale."
Foreign dad: (shaking his head) I'm not going in there. Uh-uh. No way.
Japanese mom: What? I feed him lunch. You feed him supper. That's the deal.
Dad: But his room's a mess. Chicken bones, pop cans, chip bags, spent tissues -- sometimes I think if I go in, I won't ever find my way out. You've got to make him clean it.
Mom: I've got to make him clean it? Why me? You're his father.
Dad: Ha, he's no kid of mine!
Mom: (gasps) I can't believe you said that!
Dad: I mean he's far too bull-headed. That's not from my side.
Mom: So it's my fault then, is it? Is that what you're trying to say? After all I've sacrificed -- my family, my culture, my promising career as an office lady. We have a child who is a tiny bit different, and it's my fault!
Dad: If this is a tiny bit different, then I'm the king of Crete. The boy sits in his room all day long. He won't go to school. He won't get a job. He won't even bathe unless we leave a trail of bean paste from his room to the shower nozzle.
Mom: So? He's "hikikomori." Don't you know what that is?
Dad: Sure. A new term for what people used to call "lazy bum."
Mom: (laughs sharply) My, but you are living in the past! You think it's easy to grow up in today's world? What with "ijime," entrance exams and job dissatisfaction? Not to mention that the boy is caught between two cultures. Why, the other kids used to treat him like he was some kind of brute! Just because he was different. It was so unfair.
Dad: (remembering) He should have fought back. He should have chased them around or thrown stones, or even eaten them alive. Who would have missed those bullies? But no, he chose to be hikikomori -- to lock himself in his room. Apparently forever.
Mom: It's just a phase. We have to be patient.
Dad: That's what you said nine years ago.
Mom: So what? He not only hikikomori, he's NEET -- not engaged in employment, education or training.
Dad: Right. He's only engaged in computer games.
Mom: (sags shoulders and sighs) But he needs encouragement, not wisecracks. The boy has low self-esteem.
Dad: And I have high utility bills.
Mom: All he needs is time.
Dad: Bull! What he needs is to be yanked down to the employment office. He can't make friends -- and he can't make money -- playing "Final Fantasy" all day!
Mom: OK -- I wasn't going to tell you this -- but I've been given a reference for a very good doctor -- a Dr. Theseus. He's coming tomorrow.
Dad: A foreign doctor?
Mom: Yes, he's Greek. And -- you'll like this -- his initial consultation is free.
Dad: A Greek? Bearing a gift? Hmm . . . I'm not so sure. Besides, I don't want my son to see a shrink. He's not nuts, he's lazy.
Mom: What he is is sick. He needs understanding.
Dad: What he is is overprotected. He needs someone to walk in there and whup his butt. Will Dr. Whozit do that?
Mom: (aghast) Of course not! He's a trained psychiatrist with cutting-edge technique. At first I'm sure he'll only try to make a connection.
Dad: You mean, lie around, stuff himself with chips and play games? That sort of thing?
Mom: Yes, but in a professional manner.
Dad: (nodding) Then you'd better give him some rope to mark his trail, or he could end up lost. The last thing I need is two hikikomoris in my house. I have enough trouble feeding one.
Mom: Then you don't mind?
Dad: Certainly I mind. But it's time to take the bull by the horns. If Dr. What's-His-Name thinks he can lead us out of this tangle we're in, then I say let's give him a try.
(Just then a door slides open. There stands a small, pale boy with his brown hair peaked at the corners. Both Dad and Mom jump.)
Dad and Mom: Minosuke! You've opened your door!
Boy: Because I'm hungry and I have a craving for blood. Yet Oreos will probably do. Seven packs of regular and seven packs of double fillings. None of that half-sized crap. Make it snappy or I'll roar real loud and ram my head against the wall. Got it? Good.
(The door slides shut, and Dad and Mom stare at each other, then start talking at the same time.)
Mom: See! He's getting better already!
Dad: For a second there he almost sounded human!
Mom: That's all hikikomori people want -- some patience and understanding.
Dad: Plus years of financial support.
Mom: Yet we have a responsibility. We can't just close his door and forget he's there. We have to stay positive and strive for a solution.
Dad: Ah, but why couldn't we have had an "anime otaku"? Or just some run-of-the-mill nerd?
Mom: Well, we didn't. What we had was Minosuke. He's special and he has special concerns. We can and will find a way. It's not like we're trapped in maze.
Dad: Some people say there's no cure.
Mom: That's not true. It's just a myth.
Dad: Is it?
Mom: It is indeed. And I don't believe in myths.
To contact Thomas Dillon, send e-mail to email@example.com