Monday, January 5, 2015

Amway and Online Dating?

Happy New Year!

This year marks the countdown of my last few months on JET. I didn't expect to quit the YouTube vlogging and slow down on my blogging in recent years, but I feel more satisfied being able to experience various things without the need to constantly document it. Some people are great at doing that, but not me, unfortunately.

One of my most interesting adventures while in Japan has actually taken place online. Naturally, very little happens here in the countryside where I live, which leaves me with venturing out into the city and making contact with people over the Internet. It started with meeting weird people on mixi early on and eventually escalated to Japanese online dating sites.

Many people, whether they be Japanese or not, will tell you that online dating sites are "bad" and "dangerous." My mom really doesn't sit well with the idea of me using them. While the majority of the people I've talked to online were very normal (some just a little desperate but still normal), I did run into several incredibly strange and even scary situations:

  • There was a guy who seemed quite normal but quickly started advising that I'd better give up on dating Japanese guys and look for a foreigner if I wasn't willing to make myself look "cute." Then he started to feel sorry for me for being single for most of my adult life and started writing in incredibly terrible and hilarious Google Translator English that he likes "ugly" girls and that he'll date me because he pities me. I thought this guy was gonna murder me if I ever met him in person so I ended that.

  • I accidentally reciprocated interest in a 27-year old single dad's profile, not realizing that he was a single father (I don't want kids so that was going to be a problem). Based on his profile he seemed to really be looking for a serious relationship, so I tried to be open-minded but eventually had to tell him that I thought we could only be friends, without mentioning anything about his 8-year old daughter. As soon as I told him, he started begging me for sex, telling me that he hasn't done it in a long time, that I wouldn't regret it and that I should give him a chance. Woah.

  • And finally, I recently cut off contact with a guy who wasn't looking for a girlfriend, but in the end was actually trying to sign me up for Amway.

That last one is apparently more common than I thought it was. At this point I was actually in the process of quitting online dating--I quit two sites but left a few of them up because I wasn't getting a lot of contacts anyway. I decided to go ahead and try.

It started out as a very normal conversation--looking at his profile, he seemed sincere and mature, not wanting to rush into romance. We had a few interests in common and he invited me to play darts with him the day after Christmas, when I would be in Osaka. Playing darts and billiards is actually part of my ideal first date, because it doesn't demand face-to-face conversation, and provided that you and the other person aren't serious players, it's just fun. You can laugh it off if you happen to not be very good at it, and of course laughing and smiling is always great for a first date. Doing something fun eases tension if you're kind of shy.

Anyway, I agreed to play darts with him. As the day approached I was wondering about the nature of this "date," and then when I met up with him for the first time, he mentioned that about 20 people would be there. He had invited me to a party! And that made me incredibly nervous because I would be the only foreigner there around a bunch of Japanese people I don't know, including this guy that I had JUST met. But I ended up having fun, and figured that maybe this was just his way of getting to know me gradually over time.

He quickly invited me to another party, making mochi. That was also a lot of fun, even though it was incredibly cold outside. But it cost me 2000 yen and I was beginning to wonder where this was going. Both at the darts bar and here, although this guy invited me to join, when I was there he actually barely spent any time around me. I tried not to think about it too much, and I did end up meeting a lot of nice people, including one girl who spoke really good English, which made me feel super comfortable because there were at least 90 people at the event.

After the event, he drove me back in his Lexus into the city where I was staying during vacation. I heard the word "Amway" at least 10 times over the course of the day--that the party I was just attending was full of Amway people. I still didn't quite understand what it was about but didn't think it was too significant; I was just making friends and having fun. But we passed by the Amway building on the way in and he pointed it out, and he asked if I knew about it in America and I said I only knew about it by name, and then he said next time he'd tell me more.

The next day he texted asking me when I was free during the next week, and I said that I would be free Sunday. He told me to keep that day open and I said okay, and he said that it was fun being with me, so I was thinking that maybe he was starting to become romantically interested. I actually happened to pass him on the sidewalk the day after that on my way to the station, and he mentioned again meeting on Sunday. If it was really going to be a date, there'd be no reason to remind me, I'd remember pretty easily.

He'd often show me lots of photos of these dinner parties he went to, and every once in a while "Amway" came up and it was starting to irk me. Finally I asked him what he had planned for us on Sunday.

Me: Good evening! I went back to work today. About the 11th (of January), have you decided what we'll do? Him: Good evening! You must be tired from work. As for the 11th, we'll go out to eat, and after that we'll go to my place and I'll tell you about Amway! Ooooh, how romantic! *eyeroll*
Me: Good evening! I went back to work today. About the 11th (of January), have you decided what we'll do?
Him: Good evening! You must be tired from work. As for the 11th, we'll go out to eat, and after that we'll go to my place and I'll tell you about Amway!

The plan was to have lunch or something, and then go to his place and he'd tell me about Amway.

There it was again--the A-word.

I asked if it was another party and he seemed to imply that it would just be us, so that he could "properly" get a chance to tell me about it. When I asked if this was a date, he dodged the question and said he was thinking we'd cook, eat, and watch a DVD (sounds like a date but he wouldn't say "date") and that he wanted me to know more about him and what was important to him.

Then I asked why Amway was so important to him:

No no no, telling me about Amway over an instant messenger just won't do. He has to tell me in person! And I bet the DVD is actually just an Amway promotional video.

As soon as he said that Amway changed his life and that he wanted to tell me about it, I was done. I told my Japanese friend about what just happened and he said that in Japan there were plenty of those kinds of people using dating sites and social networks to draw in Amway customers. I've now heard a lot of people who have negative experiences with Amway and the kinds of people that are involved in it. It sounds cult-like, almost like a religion in itself, except this "religion" isn't faith-based but on the hopes of becoming financially wealthy. In reality, reaching that dream of wealth in such a way requires stepping on the backs of others, the "friends" that are recruited into selling Amway products.

If you're not sure exactly what Amway is by this point, I'd advise you to read about it on Wikipedia. What annoys me the most is that this guy used a dating site--where singles are looking for love--to make "friends" who are actually just potential Amway customers/employees.

I told him I wasn't going to talk to him anymore and ended it there. Just before I blocked him he had asked what was wrong all of a sudden and I said I wouldn't message him anymore, and he gave me the "I wanted to do more fun things with you" and "I thought we were friends" schtick, to which I didn't reply.

Even his choice of emoji is creepy...gotta keep that smile, even if you're in tears about losing a potential Amway recruit...

Afterwards I actually felt gross about what just happened, and I cringe every time I say or type out the A-word. Every little detail from our chat conversations to his behavior in person started to make more sense. After the first time we met he had two "presents" for me, an energy drink and a sample of shampoo, both Amway products. On our next meeting he asked if I had tried the shampoo yet and I said I hadn't, and he insisted that I do sometime. (I did have the energy drink, it was awful.) Before that, when I was just getting to know him and asked where in America he'd like to visit, he named NYC, Los Angeles, and "Ada, Michigan." I asked why (it's such a random place that even most Americans don't know, let alone Japanese people), and he said that there was someone (or people) there that he respected. I later found out on Wikipedia that Amway's headquarters are in Ada.

I'm wondering exactly how many people like him are on these dating sites. Since many Japanese dating sites (especially those that are Facebook-based) don't allow messaging until interest is mutual, there could be many guys who have sent me interest who may have also been Amway devotees. Even now I still don't really have a problem with Japanese dating sites, as shady and dangerous people can be anywhere. I have a problem with the kinds of scumbags that take advantage of these sites and give them a bad name.