Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Friend in Need?

"Hi. Here's your money."

"Hey, woe, how'd you know I'd be here?"

"Y told me."

"Well, it's good to see you. It's been a while -- you're looking well."

"Yeah, thanks. Anyway, again, here's your money. Sorry it took so long to pay you back. Thank you for all your help."

"Oh, no problem. I appreciate it. Is everything good with you guys?"

"Yeah.. Everything is ok I suppose. I'm working at the same place, so is he, but money is tight.. ....and you know, things have been different -- our relationship with you has changed since before. Things are different."

"Well, they don't have to be. You know that, right? You're welcome to stop by my neck of the woods whenever you want, just like before. I'm the same. Everything's the same, everything's cool."

"Yeah. Well, I have to go. Sorry again for taking so long to pay you back, and thank you for everything you've done for us. You've been a great help."

...and she left.

I was struck by how weird the conversation was -- the whole vibe of the conversation was similar to getting things left behind at an ex's house. "Here's your shirt and sunglasses. Anyway, take care. Have a nice life." That sort of thing. So I sat at the restaurant bar sipping on my Vodka Tonic and waited for Y to show up.

Shame on Me

I had lent my friend some cash about a year and a half ago, and his wife had just paid me back out of the blue. When I lent him the money, he had just gotten out of the Navy and was looking to marry his fiance and start a life here in Japan. He was back stateside and in a pinch, and emailed me asking for some help.

Now gather round, kiddies, and listen up. What I'm about to tell you is common knowledge, but bears repeating.

Rule #1: People [non-family members] who ask you for money are the least likely to pay you back. That's why they're asking you for money in the first place -- because they don't have any -- which is not a normal state of affairs in a market based economy. If you do go against your gut feeling and lend them money, assume you'll never see it again, because you probably won't. And if you are putting the "friendship" up as collateral for the loan, don't be surprised when you lose a friend.

...Because that's how people who borrow money roll, babies. And believe it or not, I've found that most respectable people will dig through trash for food before they will approach friends for large-ish sums of money.

Having been burned in the past I knew this, of course, so when I got the email I asked his [then fiance] what she thought about it. She said "Absolutely not," which I told him, to which he replied, "Just transfer it, I'm getting some separation pay and I'll hit you back right away."

Rule #2: They're always "Good for it" and will always "Get you back next month". They always have some money that's about to come their way, which they will use to pay you back immediately, not for alcohol.

Out of some sense of responsibility I have for my friends, I didn't want to leave him high and dry, so I told his fiance to give me most of it in the form of a deposit, over half of it in yen, and I'd transfer the funds to his bank account, which was the same bank as me. Easy peasy. This way I'd at least have over half of it if he didn't pay me back, which I was pretty sure would happen.

So he came back from Japan a newly hatched civilian, and did what many newly hatched civilians do, which is go hog-wild.

Rule #3: If you borrow money from someone and you haven't paid them back, don't go into detail on the amount of money you blew getting shit faced over the course of a week, especially when it is greater than the amount they lent you. Don't show them your new tattoos either.

One thing about my friend is that much of his life is a train wreck. And not one of those freak train wrecks that comes out of no where. During the course of a conversation with him, he would describe a series of decisions/plans, and I'd sit there not saying anything as my mind played out a series of consequences that were most likely going to occur upon the execution of his plans. It was like that Bad Idea Jeans skit from SNL in the early 90s. I might say something like, "Are you sure that's such a good idea?" and be ignored. I'm used to that though, as people love ignoring me almost as much as I enjoy seeing my ignored suggested consequences come to fruition, to the point that I feel like a modern day Cassandra. Thanks a lot, Apollo.

Rule #4: I give sound advice. If you ask for my opinion or advice, I'm going to give it to you straight and recommend listening to it. I base most of my advice on experience garnered from personal failure and the failure of people close to me, so it's sort've like "Here's how you fuck up, here's how you avoid it" type advice. And as is made clear by this post and from 5 years in the Marine Corps, there has never been a shortage of fuckups to be found in my life, so I have a large fuckup pool of fuckup knowledge to draw from.


A lot of funny (and maddening) culture clashes occur in "multi-cultural relationships". Or is it "cross cultural"? I dunno. Funny shit happens when people from different countries hook up. One thing a lot of American guys don't understand when they decide to marry a Japanese woman is the transformation she will go through once married. In Japan, roles, customs, and what a person is "supposed to do" are very important, and dictate much of their day-to-day behavior. A woman's role as "wife" is one taken very seriously by most girls here, and like everything else here, there is no middle-ground and they will go all out in their supposed role as whatever. Regardless of how things were before marriage, a Japanese woman will often transform into this wife role upon saying "I do", and naively expect her free-wheelin' husband to morph into a responsible 9-5 husband. The guys in Korea called this "Ajummosis", or the overnight transformation of a young girl into an "Ajumma", literally "aunt". In other words, remember that fun, hip, party girl who didn't mind going out and hanging out with everyone til 6am? Yeah, she's suddenly decided that such behavior is horribly inappropriate, and expects you to stay at home and rent DVDs. I saw this one coming too, and felt like ordering some popcorn as I sat back and watched what I knew was about to happen...happen.

In the case of my friend, the formerly "cool hang out girl" decided that it was not only a good idea to express her dislike for her husband's behavior, but to insist upon showing up to gatherings and try to ruin the entire evening for everyone. She'd show up and it'd be like, "Ohhh!!! Heey!!! Good to see yooooouuuoooooooohnevermind, she's mad." It got to the point where every time I saw her she was in a miserable mood, so I just didn't deal with her. I dubbed her "Scowletor", as she had a permanent scowl on her face. She was someone I had previously considered a friend, but I didn't have time for stupid bullshit and petty rudeness like that. She was cold to me and cold to my girl, and homie don't play that. The fact that I never pressured them to pay me back and only mentioned it once in passing (in a year and a half) made me wonder what the deal was, and I figured they were distancing themselves to break contact.

Rule #5: Most people out there can put a price on friendship. Most people out there will sell you up the river if it's in their best interest. The trick is to identify those people early on and not put one's self in a position to get fucked. Some may call me naive. I disagree -- I know the risks -- but every once in a while I go against my gut feeling, and while it usually ends up bad, it doesn't always, which is worth the [occasional] risk for me. Besides, it's not like I do this all the time.

Anyway, she probably sensed my displeasure when I was around her (try as I may, it's hard for me to mask my feelings for people), and I noticed that interaction between me and them was becoming less and less. I'd shoot him an occasional text message to say what's up, but usually didn't get any response. After a while I figured "Whatever" and wrote them and the money off -- tough titties, I guess, but again, whatever -- I knew what I was getting into.

.....aaaaaaaand Present!

When Y came back from Hawaii last week, he told me he was meeting the two of them for dinner, and I filled him in a little bit about how my relationship with the two of them pretty much nonexistent. Y may have said something to them about it, maybe not, but I was still surprised when she showed up out of the blue with the money. I know it was awkward for her, because she didn't want to borrow the money, and for all her faults, she's a straight-up girl and I knew it hurt her pride to be in debt to me. This society has a lot of obligation issues too, and owing someone something is enough to drive people nuts, resulting in these weird obligation one-upman-ship situations. They even warned us about gift-giving before we came here as students. Anyway, while she thanked me up and down for being such a huge help to them over the past year and a half (not just monetarily -- I used to give her pep-talks and calm her down when she was freaking about his lack of employability), it was in true, formulaic Japanese fashion. Sort of like, "I'm saying this because it's appropriate, and while I may mean it, let's just understand that I'm now free and clear of any and all obligation to you, case closed, peace out." Japanese people seem to have an innate ability to be the coldest people in the world -- I made it clear that things were A-OK, we were good, shit was cool -- I just don't like awkward situations and I don't want people to feel like they owe me something, but she wasn't having any of it. She just wanted to get out of there, so I didn't press the issue. It also seems a bit ironic that the source of weirdness would come from the person who borrowed the money rather than from the person to whom it was owed. Then again, maybe Y told them that I mentioned they owed me money which pissed them off, but fuck that. Why?

Rule #6: If you borrow money from a friend and don't pay them back for a year and half, you forfeit the right to bitch when other people inevitably find out about your deadbeat behavior. Your integrity has a price, and it so happens to be the exact amount that you borrowed from them, and maybe an apology or two thrown in for good measure.

In the end, I could be just as naive as she is in an opposite sort of way, expecting things to somehow magically stay the same and not considering the thousands of other variables that can cause the other thousands of variables to change for whatever reason. I guess I'll just chalk it up as one of those cultural things, because sometimes that's just easier than pointless over-analyzation of a lost cause, even if it was important to me in the past.


Blogger Jinxy said...

What a fucked up society.

I can't wait to read that book.

Oh. Was that me not being understanding of diverse cultures?

Screw that.

I just don't have friends. Period.

That solves a lot of my problems.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

yeah i saw it was on ur reading list.. i ordered it too. the review said it shouldnt be anything any new for people who are over here, but im still curious to see what it says.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that Senior.
I delt with something along those lines a few years ago with my Mom of all people. She was being gifted large amounts of money from my Grandfather's estate. She was turning around and blowing all the money on random things and giving huge amounts to whatever random Spirit of the Earth-like church she was involved with. Without asking, she sent me a large some of money that I quickly refused. She guilted me into taking it which made me feel pretty uncomfortable. About a month or so later, she ran into a cash flow problem ad called me and said that she was wondering when I was going to pay back the money that she "helped" me out with. WOW. The whole thing really knocked me out of my tree and pretty much ruined my relationship with her. I came to the descision that I would give the shirt off my back for my friends, but I will never loan them money. They can either have what they ask for or don't ask at all because I will never "loan" money.


10:41 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

i think we talked this stuff before. i remember one time you said something like "if someone loans you money, you pay them back the exact amount that they gave you. anything else you give them is separate from the monetary amount they loaned you."

everyone should understand this, so that when you ask where that $20 you lent your friend is, they don't start tallying up all the nice things they did for you and converting it into a monetary equivilant. "oh well remember that time i drove you across town? well i had to get gas. and i gave you a piece of pizza and some beer which isn't free, and you watched those DVDs i rented. so we're pretty much even steven."

and yeah, the no loan money thing (and im not talking about the occasional kinville spot) is definitely a sound policy.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's my take- if you lend money, lend it knowing you'll never see it again. If you lend someone money, establish the repayment upfront. Example- I owed my friend money for a hotel room. She said I didn't have to write a check, but I could pay for her part of stuff on the trip until the amount equal to the hotel room cost. This was fine by me...

You should only give me money. :)
your sister

6:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, came across your blog quite by chance and found it really interesting, so consider it bookmarked.

anyway i'm not sure if you've heard of this. your story certainly reminds me of the 'uncertainty avoidance' thing.


2:30 PM  
Blogger Never A Dull Moment said...

dude when are you gonna learn not to lend out money to friends... remember AH?... All I gotta say is fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

oh btw, you gonna respond to my email asking you to lend me all the cash you have in savings, checking, 401(k), and any future large sums of money you may gain from an inhertitance?...

1:54 AM  
Blogger Never A Dull Moment said...

dude, again?... remember A?... remember,fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

btw, you gonna respond to my email asking you to lend me all the money in your checking/savings account, 401(k), and any large sum of money gained thru an inheritance?....

write back sucka!!~

1:56 AM  

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