Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

Dating While is a series from The Lily that explores the circumstances affecting women’s dating lives. Interested in contributing to a future installment of Dating While? Fill out this form.

Taryn Matthews, 26, currently lives in Ibaraki, Japan, about an hour and a half northeast of Tokyo.

How long have you been living in Japan, and what is your life like there?

I’ve lived in Japan for just under three years. I teach high school English and volunteer at a support organization doing public relations. That pretty much fills up my weekdays from 7 a.m. to around 8:30 p.m., when I try to squeeze in a workout, study or play with my turtle. On an average day, I’m at school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and I teach some really awesome (and hilarious) kids. My weekends are usually reserved for bonding with friends. Lately, we’ve been having a lot of movie marathons, but we also travel to new places (I recently got back from my first trip to Korea).

How does living in Japan affect your dating life? Do cultural differences come into play?

I’ve never been a very serious dater because I have a history of overscheduling social engagements; dating always took a back seat. I’m originally from Washington, D.C., and I spent my first adult years in New York, so I’m used to constantly being on the go and rushing from one thing to the next. Culturally, Japan moves at a much slower pace. That’s not to say that I’ve changed my ways entirely, but I am trying my best to slow down and be more intentional about dating. A pretty difficult hurdle to clear is that most people see foreigners living in Japan as temporary fixtures, not serious, long-term options. I’ve met multiple guys who say things like, “Wow, you’re so cool. I wish you could just stay in Japan.” Like, dude, I’m here right now.

Describe one of the best dates you’ve had.

I had a really great date going museum-hopping in Tokyo last November. We initially went to the teamLab Borderless interactive exhibit (the one you’ve definitely seen on your Instagram feed) and then ended up going to the National Museum of Modern Art, an exhibition on Japanese swords, and the Ghibli Museum on a whim. I studied art history in university but didn’t know much about the history or use of Japanese swords; each of us was able to share some information with the other. We had some great conversations and a similar sense of humor — we spent probably a third of our time together making up stories about the different people we saw while out that day. When we were saying good night, he mentioned that he had ordered the tickets to the Ghibli Museum ahead of time just in case I didn’t enjoy the first museum (since I had previously mentioned enjoying Studio Ghibli as a child). That was such a thoughtful gesture and showed that he had been paying attention when we spoke earlier.

Taryn Matthews. (Courtesy of Taryn Matthews)
Taryn Matthews. (Courtesy of Taryn Matthews)

Describe one of the worst dates you’ve had.

One guy invited me to a yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant in an effort to “change my mind” after I told him I am a vegetarian. I’ve been vegetarian since I was 10, so a guy trying to change something about me before we even really knew each other was super frustrating. However, years of practice and preparation (pro tip: if you have any dietary restrictions, it’s better to be safe than sorry and have a small snack before a date) allowed me to take advantage of the situation and turn the petty on full blast.

I spent the whole dinner refusing to try anything except the fries while lecturing him about climate change.

If you could give your younger self some advice about dating, what would it be?

Everyone’s just trying to figure this whole thing out. Don’t stress yourself out thinking that people know more than you do or worry about making small mistakes. Don’t lower your standards for that boy just because he’s cute. Stop trying to control everything and really stop trying to change people. Take a deep breath. If you’re ashamed to tell your best friend about seeing someone, you probably shouldn’t be seeing that person. Check your phone more often and be better at replying to people in a timely manner (this is also advice for my current self).

What’s your dating philosophy, in one sentence?

Every relationship will end in one way or another, so savor the time you have.

What’s your current outlook on dating, and why?

I’m pretty optimistic about dating. First, I caught the bouquet at a wedding a couple of weeks ago. Second, my New Year’s Omikuji (paper fortune from a shrine or temple) showed good luck for the year. Seriously, I think I’m at a point in my life where I’m super comfortable with and proud of the person I’ve become. There are still things I’m working on, but I have a job I enjoy, great friends and family spread across the globe and hobbies that make me happy. I’m perfectly satisfied with my life as it is.

Dating is just a way to “level up” my happiness a bit more.

What are you looking for in a relationship? Do you think you’ll find it?

Is it too much of a cliche to say I’m just looking for someone cool? Ideally someone who is kind, adventurous, ready for impromptu trips and good at decision-making (I’m guilty of replying with “Anything is fine!” one too many times, but I do actually mean it). Someone who won’t get too annoyed with me adding Netflix titles to my list for 30 minutes before ultimately playing “John Wick” again.

I’m looking for someone who is willing to do the vacuuming, because I abhor it.

I want a relationship built on respect and trust, where both parties make an effort to make things work. An appreciation for a good malbec and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” album isn’t necessary, but couldn’t hurt.

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