As a gay man, I’m the first to admit that I love to jump on the pop-culture bandwagon, especially when it gives me good material for office banter. Like many of you, at the beginning of 2019, I did it. Together with my (now ex) partner, I sat down and watched Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. After three episodes, and a lot of grumbling in Japanese from my partner about how much he hates KonMari, I convinced him to help me throw out everything that didn’t spark joy, which amounted to about 50 percent of our stuff.
Bags were filled, cupboards were emptied. There was even a moment with a pair of scissors shredding three old futons to avoid paying the fee for large garbage removal.
After several heated debates and my partner constantly asking me why I kept moving a cushion cover from the joy pile to the garbage pile and back again at 3am on a Sunday morning, our house had become a minimalist paradise. This changed my life. I was a new person. I arrived at work early every day, started packing lunches and was drinking loads of water (mostly because every time I saw someone head for the water dispenser, I would arrive there first and ask if they had time to hear about our lord and savior Marie Kondo). This woman is a genius. No wonder she looks so young and happy. KonMari was like a drug. I could achieve anything. I was amazing.
Fast forward to the second week after The Big Cleanup. The house was in a state far worse than before, now with more empty surfaces for random household items to be placed on by my partner. There were bicycle parts on the breakfast counter, small boxes with things like extra shirt buttons scattered around the living room, and clean laundry dumped in a pile next to the sofa waiting for my partner to begrudgingly find joy through the life-changing folding method (it was his turn).
I stood there, looking around the apartment, and heard the introduction of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7 in A Major” playing in my head.
After all the hard work we had put in, I asked him why there was no follow through. His response: I don’t care. After some thought, I realized the house was not the main issue. I found myself analyzing the last few years of our relationship and eventually had to accept the fact: neither of us were sparking joy in each other’s lives. I had to KonMari my relationship.
Of course, it’s not that simple to pick up a 70kg adult human male and drop them in the trash (he fought back hard), so I did the normal thing you do after four years together: I respectfully and tactfully broke it off and moved out.
“The more I dated, the more I realized that men are like household items. They’re easy to accumulate, and the more you have in your life, the more complicated it is to keep things in order”
Jump ahead to now, in the midst of trying to live my best life, and having dived head first into Tokyo’s thriving gay dating scene. But here’s the thing: the more I dated, the more I realized that men are like household items. They’re easy to accumulate, and the more you have in your life, the more complicated it is to keep things in order. Also, there’s a lot of trash out there.
It was time to call on KonMari again, only this time I needed it to declutter my Tokyo dating life. Here’s how I applied the Kondo rules…
1. I Finished Discarding First
People in Tokyo are already living pretty complex lives with plenty of work and social commitments. So things get even more complicated when you add into the mix the fact that many gay Japanese men haven’t come out to their parents, workplace or even friends. Scheduling dating time with someone who has none is almost impossible. So in between dates with any one particular person, I was left with plenty of free time, phone-checking anxiety and an increasingly bad habit of relying on dating apps to help fill my calendar.
I’ll be honest; I managed to get myself into a situation where I was semi-seriously dating a couple of guys at the same time. But then I was haunted by that stupid proverb, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” I say stupid because why would you have cake and not eat it? Well, here’s why: if you are dating two cakes and both are self-aware and capable of speech and mobility, then cake number one can bump into you when you’re out shopping with your hand on cake number two’s chest, laughing. It was time to commit to that diet and clean out my fridge.
2. I Imagined My Ideal Lifestyle (and It Wasn’t Inside a 7-Eleven)
What do you do when you realize you’ve become a 7-Eleven, expected to be available at all hours for others’ convenience? You look in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk: “I get it, it’s Tokyo, but have some damn dignity.” I didn’t want to feel like a reluctant plus one any more. So that emotionally unavailable microwave burrito who wasn’t sparking joy when I held him up just wasn’t going to cut it. I was being lazy by not reaching for something healthier.
3. I Tidied By Category Not By Location
Tokyo is massive and the trains stop shortly after midnight. So dating someone who lives miles away from you, only invites you on dates in his neck of the woods, and then kicks you out after he’s decided the date is over is not ideal. So I tried making a distance rule. No more dating anyone outside a two-kilometer radius from my home station. But that turned into me reverting back to step 2 (see above) with the only payoff being shorter walks of shame. I had to be less fussy about where people lived and more fussy about who I was choosing. Nice guys will meet me halfway.
4. I Followed the Right Order of Things
There’s the old gay adage, “If it doesn’t happen on the first night, it’ll never happen.” This isn’t entirely true. Many Japanese guys don’t mind either way. Plus it can be pretty sexy if you don’t put out on the first date. You know, the whole cow and the free milk thing. I wanted to make sure that someone actually stimulated me and I did the same for them. On a side note: certainly don’t go into date number two and discuss your two-year plan together. Him, not me.
5. I Asked Myself If They Sparked Joy
Remember that scene from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark? The one where Harrison Ford has that little golden man and is running from the giant boulder? That’s what the gay dating scene is like in Tokyo. It’s hectic, you’re dodging arrows, doors are closing in your face, and you’re running from giant unwanted balls just to meet a guy you truly like. When you finally find someone in whom you’re slightly interested, you want to hold on to him like he’s made of gold (but not so tightly that you seem desperate). But sometimes he’s not gold; he’s the booby-trapped room. You’re just trying to get the hell out of the room and that whip you bought isn’t doing you any favors.
Were the men I’d met bringing something valuable to my existence or were they literally trying to kill me? If it’s the latter, thank them, then ditch them. When I say ditch them, I mean cut them off at the head. Delete their numbers, block their messenger apps, social media, everywhere. Because without a doubt, they’ll always pop up after a few months like those old Calvin Klein briefs with the holes and worn-out elastic that you keep trying to throw away. And while having a stalker does make for excellent water cooler banter, it definitely does not bring me joy.