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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Who Was That Masked Man?

Matthew sent me this interesting little story about a speed dating service in Japan where people wear masks to help them overcome their shyness.

But wait - it’s not anything as hideous as a demon mask or those cool French-style cat-eyed ones… rather it’s the old Japanese stand-by surgical mask one wears when sick to avoid spreading germs.

Wow… are the Japanese really that shy?

It’s a dating service, this speed-dating thing…

Or… is it actually something more ingenious: you don’t base your decision on whom you like solely on looks, though Buddha help you if you have pink eye that day… then again, why would you go on a speed-dating event with pink eye?

I have probably been on-line earlier than most people on the planet - back in the late-1970s/early 1980s when I placed the telephone receiver onto a dial-up modem device so I could connect my home computer with international message boards - usually university message boards.

But, before Internet dating services became popular, telephone dating was a thing.

You created a telephone profile for yourself (guys paid, women were free - pretty much like with dating services or martial aid services like Ashley Madison), women on the service could dial in and listen to the new guys advertising themselves and then opt to call that person by leaving them a voice message in their dating service account.

I had 34 messages waiting for me after about eight hours, probably because I have a deep enough voice that could melt chocolate outside in a February Arctic storm. Plus I sounded intelligent, and hit all the major points women might like, such as: owned own condo; owned own car; was gainfully employed.

I was also in the best shape of life and looked it, had grown my hair half-way down my back, and had enough confidence in myself to not be an ego-maniac… after all, I was on a telephone dating service more than likely because I couldn’t meet women in person at a bar.

At a bar, looks are everything. I’m okay-looking, but I’m no demigod and hardly fit anyone’s image of an ideal. It’s okay. I’m okay with that.

(Regardless of your gender) Ever walked in to a bar or club? There’s one hot guy and one hot woman - away in separate corners… every person who is interested, is looking at that person wondering how they can get with them… ignoring every other person who might actually be a nicer person, smarter, have better hygiene, but don’t have that demigod appearance.

It’s okay… it’s shallow, but it is human nature. Some people grow out of it, some people don't.

Maybe I’m a little less human.

In Japan, rather than do the obvious and step on Japanese solid and immediately start hunting Japanese women to be my plaything, I, because of my lack of Japanese language skills, hit on the foreign woman in Japan (my fellow AETs—assistant English teachers) for comfortable times.

Anyhow… when it came to the telephone dating, the women couldn’t see me, but they could learn about me.

I called every single woman back (all 32 of them, but not the two guys) who left me a message (it’s not homophobia… my message was specifically left in the section for “men seeking women”. There was a “men seeking men” section, however, so I don’t feel bad bad about ignoring two men who obviously weren’t smart enough (or didn’t care enough) to follow the rules of the telephone dating system.

I was upfront and said I was interested in getting to know a few of them better, and narrowed things down to six individuals.

I went out with three of them, the last one ended up becoming my wife and mother of my son. So you can’t win’em all. Kidding.

The point is… just like in the speed-dating event in Japan, neither ‘seeker-of-love’ could see each other initially.

Me, separated by kilometers/miles of telephone wire; the Japanese, in this case separated by a surgical mask worn by all participants to ensure everyone was on equal footing.

Of course, with the speed dating/mask event, everyone can still be initially judged on their clothing, fitness level, shoe care (a big deal, I would think), hair care, and even true manner of speech.

Hiding behind telephone distance, many people do not speak in the same style as what they might do in person. I’m the same, but others may not be.

I do not have any issues with the surgical mask speed dating service offered in Japan, such as the one offered by Tokyo-based Def Anniversary (

As the agency says, the masks encourage participants to focus on each other’s personalities and values, rather than skin-deep beauty—everyone gets old, eh.

Def Anniversary leader Matsumura Kei (surname first) says: “In order to achieve marriage, it is important to provide chances to know a partner’s personality and values in the early stages. We chose surgical masks as an essential tool for that.”

Hey… if it works, it works.

Andrew Joseph

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