Birthday Scarf Panda

There’s still a part three to the Great Tohoku Road Trip 2007 (parts I and II can be found here and here, respectively). But it’s taking me a while to get to it since I’ve been kinda down recently, and busy at work to boot.

It was my birthday last week, the big 28, which means I’ve spent nearly a fifth of my life here in Japan. Kind of scary when you think about it like that, and perhaps more so when you consider how far people back in the “real world” have progressed with their lives in the interim.

scarf panda!

I’m not saying I want to get married or have kids or even hold down a “real” but boring job, but I do feel like the years are starting to catch up with me. I have a plan, and it’s progressing (sort of), but you know, the uncertaintity in the meantime is a killer.

I find myself being a lot less tolerant of people new to Japan – the “Fresh Off the Boats” (FOBs) that in my line of work I find myself having to deal with again and again on a yearly basis. It’s a complicated issue – there’s the “gaijin in japan” aspect (you go through “stages” almost, and sometimes the newbies/short timers (“the tourists”, as my more cynical friend referred to them once) can be aggravating in their naivete (to put it kindly). This is not to hate – we all had to go through those stages at one time – but when you have to deal with hundreds of people acting the same fool way year after year after year, you start to lose patience. There’s also the age issue as well. 28 is not exactly mind blowingly old, but when most of the foreigners I work with or know are 22 or 23 (and more importantly, often fresh out of college) the gap can seem nearly insurmountable. More than the number, perhaps it’s the maturity difference that gets me – often rude, inconsiderate, or just plain immature, it’s enough to make me want to throw my hands up and go “enough already, I’ve had it with you kids.”

The fact that I have had cause to feel this way makes the press of years weigh even heavier than before. Since when did I stop considering myself part of that group and start refering to it as a them, separate and distinct from myself?

scarf panda!

Last month, I had to give an orientation for some new foreigner teachers that had just come to the prefecture – in addition to that run of the mill jackassery that goes on at such conferences, I caught two kids blowing off the entire second day to fool around in the city. When I caught them, they tried to give me the lamest excuses I had ever heard in my life – I know junior high school kids who can lie better than those two – which I promptly called them on, then proceeded to scold them. The nerve! To skip a conference which you are being paid to attend at a job which rightfully you are woefully underqualified for and overpaid to do? What were these kids thinking?

I felt as if a parent scolding a child – and it really was like that, because if that was a battle of wits, judging from their lame stammerings, they came pathetically unarmed. But after dismissing them, I felt strange – since when I had I stopped being one of those fun loving fresh out of college fresh off the boat gaijin myself? It seems that sometime in the past 5 years, unbeknownst to me, I had (sort of) grown up. Now I was the adult, the suit (literally!), the one doing all the scolding and shaking my head at the idiocy that kids do. At the foolishness of young gaijin in Japan. I may not be an expat or a Japan lifer, but it seems like I’m headed on that path, and I’m not sure I want to be on it.

scarf panda!

I enjoy dressing like a doctor from the 1890s…

Who knows. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. At any rate, I am getting old(er), and birthdays, really, have stopped being special. Mine falling on a weekday last week, I had to work my ass off all day, and was too exhausted by the time I got home to do anything but sleep. I didn’t celebrate and actually, nobody (my parents and best friend back home included) even remembered to call me. It’s easy to get lost and forgotten about here in this eastern island, while the “rest of the world” moves on with their lives. Maybe I’ve even forgotten about myself, if this sentence actually means anything. We can forget about each other here in Japan as well – the one person – a friend, or so I thought – I asked to do something with on my birthday told me, more or less, that they had better things to spend money on. I suppose you can’t fault a person for that, but if I can be unusually frank for a moment, what they said – as well as the fact that no one even bothered to call me on my birthday – really hurt me. Then again, I had an idea this would be the case when I made my choice to come to Japan, when I made my choice to move near Tokyo more for the money than because my heart was in it, so I have no one but myself to blame. This doesn’t, however, make it any less hurtful, however.

I shouldn’t say I was completely forgotten, however. I did get two presents, both from very unexpected sources. One was an oven (which is a rare and precious commodity in this country and one that I have been dreaming about for a while) and the other was this wonderful Paul Smith silk scarf, which you can see Vodafone Panda and me modeling in the various photos above.

scarf panda!

I love how I’m looking up at the upper right hand corner for no reason…

It’s strange the way we change over the years – 5 years ago, I was dressed in baggy jeans and oversized hooded sweatshirts with purple hair. Now I pour over the pages of fashion magazine lusting after 3 piece bespoke suits, obsess over the finer points of habersdashery and men’s fashion, and dress my pandas in silk scarves.

I’m not sure if this really is progress or not. But it is fun to play dress up, adorning oneself with the trappings of grown ups and pretending to be an adult every once in a while.

Or at least for your birthday.

Now listening to: “P. Diddy – Last Night (feat. Keyshia Cole)”

yeah yeah, I don’t normally listen to Puff Daddy, but for some reason I really like this song, plus the girl from the video is quite hot. She reminds me of Emmanuelle Chriqui from Entourage.

71 Reactions

  1. Lorelei

    Happy belated birthday! The big 28 – wow. (Omigod, I’ll be there in 5 short months)
    I’m sorry I’ve been so incommunicado recently, I’m insanely busy with my thesis and my sucky job; life is not fun these days. And the weeks are just rushing by, it’s fall already – still it feels like I just got back from my vacation at the Baltic Sea.
    But, thesis or not, today it is sunny and warm outside, and I will go somewhere, take a couple of pictures and have the biggest White Chocolate Mocha Starbucks has to offer.
    Have a great day! Love the scarf!

  2. Pia

    Happy (belated) b-day, Panda!
    I would get worried about the future when I was in Korea as well–I think everyone goes through it, even those in their home countries. It’s the quarter-life crisis! But feel good knowing you have a plan.
    I hope you had a wonderful 28th and here’s to many more to come!

  3. lizb

    i am SO sending you a birthday card. i’m going home this coming weekend so i’ll be able to get your package together.

  4. lizb

    ps i wanted you to know, last night i spent about an hour squished in the back of a jeep with some crazy jamaican queens talking about masturbating and getting head. i kinda wish i wasn’t starting to understand what they’re saying hahah.

  5. Marty

    I feel ya. Being a 32 year old bartender, sometimes I just want to slap the crap out of 21 year olds that want to show everyone how much they can drink. It’s terrible sometimes.

  6. Buffy

    I think you can still get away with a bit..being just 28 and all. But you’re right, there’s nothing worse than a group of 40 something lads heading to Ibiza.
    Darn spiffy get up there my dear.

  7. felix

    life sometimes provides perspective in the strangest ways. i felt like the “elder ambassador” during my year in south america – since most of the people in the grant program that sent me there were college grads. i didn’t exactly feel it was “me” vs. “them” – but did feel some sort of distance in terms of personal interests, perspective as to what is important in life, and feelings of responsibility.
    just know that you are not so lonely out there – a community (virtual, but virtually real) is out there that does care about you.
    belated happy birthday – our family sends you big hugs from over here!

  8. momo

    wait, are you on styleforum? or just ask andy? i think i’m registered on sf, but i don’t go to it. actually, i need to since i want to find a substitute for those frye brando lace boots. they don’t have them in black in my size! they won’t make anymore! wtf!?
    a lot of the stuff i see on superfuture – the forum i frequent – that i like are japanese interpretations of american work wear, but $$$. damn. unfortunately i am still dressing like i did as an undergraduate.
    you should uh, post photos of your outfits. i am loving the english feel of your suit. have you thought about finding a cheap flight to hk/china to get a three piece? i’m sure there are good suggestions for places online.

  9. vanny

    ich würde mich freuen wenn du dich in meine Freundesliste einträgst.
    Meine Freunde

  10. andrew

    Happy Birthday, a little late. Myself being 43 I can say it does kinda suck to be put in the position of having to grow up.
    Of course maybe it is better to do it voluntarily than to be 28 with a wife and kids to support.
    You didnt say anything about the taifuu so I guess you made it through with no extra ordinary problems.

  11. kitty

    lemme know if you wants some things from the states! i know you can get it all in Tokyo, but it’ll be the thought that counts, right?

  12. SabineM

    You are 10 years younger then I! And I still don’t want to grow up! Enjoy every minute of it!!! You have the life that many wishes they had. So enjoy it, make the best of it, and things will fall into place! They will, you will see! And age is just a number, there is nothing set in stone on what YOU SHOULD be doing at xx age! Live it up and HAPPY BIRTHDAY (again)
    Ps, thank you for commenting even if there were 58 other comments before yours! Yours count!

  13. Singapore hater

    Yeah, 5 yrs ago I thought guys in baggy jeans and purple hair were cute. Now I like doctors :)
    Having lived in 3 countries myself, I understand what you mean about “the decision you made moving to Japan”. Everytime you move, people you knew grow further away from you. And the new friends you make don’t yet know you well enough to know it’s your big day. Even with the internet, eventhough good to help people keep in touch, sometimes creates an illusion that things haven’t changed.
    Anyway, one day you’ll wish people won’t remember it’s your birthday. That’s when you’ve reeeeally grown up. Well, grown old. :P
    Happy birthday. :)

  14. michaelpanda

    lorelei: you know, after i read that comment I went out and got myself a white chocolate mocha too! mmm…. (p.s. what did ‘vanny’ say below?)
    pia: thanks! how’s the photo exhibit preparations coming?
    lizb: that story makes the pic on your profile so much better! *laughs*
    marty: bro, when you coming back to japan, huh? and when did you start bartending?
    buffy: heh heh, you know, i’d still like to go dance the night away in ibiza one of these days. but alas, i might be getting too on in years for that dream ever to come true. plus, umm… i can’t dance. i look like i’m having a seizure.
    felix: thanks! and let me know where to send that letter too!
    vanny: is that spam? i can’t read german! Lorelei help!!!
    andrew: 43? no way! i would have guessed much younger from your blog :) and the typhoon was okay, though my house (erm, my WALLS) leaked.!!
    Momolo: I’m signed up on andys but i hardly evar poast. sometimes that place is too stuff with people trying to compare their “style p3n0s” and correct each other on the “rules of style”. *rolls eyes*
    i wanna start a japan fashion blog! like a sartorialist for tokyo.
    Kittah: Rawr! I’m gonna take you up on that offer! anyway, i’m going to nyc at some point in the next 6 months so let’s hang out then! (you can feed me turkey again for old times sake LOL)
    Sabine: awww! thanks! i might wear that scarf when i see ya in tokyo in a couple of months! (it’s gonna be my new winter fashion scarf methinks…)
    and last but certainly not least, the lovely and talented ms. singapore hater:
    are you saying you don’t think I’m cute anymore? I’ll be a doctor soon you know! (erm, well, in a few years, maybe…) i can always re-dye my hair if you want :P

  15. yunnermeier

    The panda is adorable and the scarf rocks!
    I feel very disconnected from everything back home when I live abroad. And I know that my friends will eventually drift away yet I cannot make long-term friends here because I don’t belong here – I don’t know how long I will stay . I’m quite sad about that but oh well.
    The job interview is only in mid-October so that’s still a month away. I really want it but I don’t think my chances are good. I’d have to commute 4 hours a day for instance and that means they’d have to pay for my travel by law. Also, I’m young and inexperienced BUT IF I get it… ?! ?!
    Happy belated birthday, Panda-san

  16. Scott

    Happy birthday Mike…Just happened to wander onto your blog today. Hope the next 5 years in Japan is as good (or even better) than the first 5)!

  17. The Lovely and Talented Miss Singapore Hater

    Haha.. You were trying to make a point about how you’ve grown up and now have better fashion sense etc. And you’re gonna throw that all away, go back to the purple hair, give up your beliefs and ideals about hair styles so easily, because a girl said so? Suddenly your blog entry doesn’t sound as convicted anymore haha..
    Yes please become a doctor. Dr. McDreamy… mmmm… The world needs more life saving cuties. Haha..

  18. michaelpanda

    haha i wouldn’t flatter yourself there my lovely s’pore fleeing friend. plus, if you read carefully, i think you’ll see that my poast was not about embracing this newfound “status” but rather about my discomfiture with the trappings of “adulthood” and how i uneasy i feel dressing up and pretending to be a “grownup”.
    you’d better hope that US immigrations doesn’t administer a reading comprehension test before they let you in tha country :) *laughs*
    (have a great trip, btw! DGR!!)
    and Scott: hey man! long time no chat! you still in Madison?

  19. moritheil

    Ah, it’s that dangerous “but.” It is a crucial hinge that holds back the weight of the world, especially when found in a sentence that begins “I’m not saying I want to get married . . . ”

  20. Veronica

    Happy Birthday! I’m so sorry you didn’t get calls from the people that should have called. You’re incredibly grounded about that. I’m glad you mentioned the friend that turned out not to be. That really was sucky.
    Kind of a melancholy post. Its strange to actual feel yourself growing up. Observing the changes. Feeling the newness and difference, and the outsider-ness of it.
    That suit is gorgeous. Cufflinks, and that bday scarf is to-die-for.

  21. adele

    Hello hello,
    Happy belated birthday! I’m horribly sorry to have missed even the week-after, but I hope you had a better time after the disappointment of the day itself. Won’t you tell us exactly when your birthday is so we may innundate you with all sorts of things birthday-ey next year forth?
    My blog is languishing away as I’ve just no time to post right now. A combination of having much reading and tests, a telly in my dorm, as well as no laptop is very detrimental to blogging. Wait not, and you shall not be disappointed. (sorry.)
    cheers from boring dc,
    ps: I do admire your keen fashion sense. That scarf is very tasteful. If only chic were more affordable!

  22. gidgetbananas

    Another belated happy birthday, to you! And, darling, you look faaaaaaaaabulous. The Clothesaholic would know.