Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #15

Always Ready to Give You Advice on Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One. images

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I really really want to learn Japanese. How do I do that?

So serious,


Dear Kathy,

My advice is don't. However, if you really really want to learn Japanese nothing I say can stop you, you poor and unfortunate soul.

With that in mind, I highly recommend you watch Japanese dramas. They are the perfect guide to speaking Japanese like real people. (Forget that anime stuff unless you want to sound like you are perpetually ready to either burst into tears or attack pocket monsters.)

You also want to watch live action dramas so you can understand the grammatical value of Japanese facial expressions and what they mean. In order to speak Japanese like a native it's important to learn the fine art of being expressionless. When you master this, you will then able to not react to anything that you perceive as negative or unfavorable. As we all know, in Japan, if you ignore something you don't like, it will eventually go away like the homeless man masturbating in the station, the foreigner trying to get the station manager to stop the masturbating homeless man or the wife at home. It's a handy skill to have when dealing with the police and the NHK man. (And you will deal with them more than you ever wanted to)

Japanese dramas are hour long shows that run for three months and then they are over. If the dramas are popular, they may have a second or third season the following year but that is pretty unlikely.

Japanese dramas are always called dramas, even if they are comedies because if the network were to label a show a comedy they would also find the need to fuck it up with story stopping gags. I'll admit to watching and loving two Japanese comics take turns hitting each other as hard as they can in the shins with metal park swings for half an hour but I wouldn't watch an hour of it every week for a season. It is unfortunate that most Japanese comics on TV have very little or no control over their material or their career and make very little money doing it. If you ever wonder why the contestants on Japanese gameshows are never civilians but are always comedians trying to win things like cheese and ham, it's because they are broke and hungry. They are literally working for food.

Japanese dramas also let you in on some important and commonly held beliefs in Japan. The first being that if you are caught in the rain without an umbrella, you will get sick and probably die. A strange pair of shoes in your genkan or entrance means your significant other is cheating on you. A half eaten boxed lunch means a husband no longer or never did love his wife. Anybody with a necktie around their head is a drunk asshole over 50. Any drama with Kimura Takuya or Kimutaku in it is good. (Though the theme music will be bad.) Any drama where the lead is a female is antifeminist propaganda. Japanese people who speak English too well are evil. (American movies are also guilty of this. In them, the devil is always a white guy ridiculously good at speaking Russian or Chinese.) Marriage proposals are never romantic and if you fall in love with the wrong person (or your ordained by the gods soul mate) you will also fall into a coma or go blind.

Enjoy and good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #13

Always ready to give you advice on life and relationships because she never has one.
Rapunzel, the Tobacco chewing princess Dear Gaijin Girl,

A friend from the States is visiting me in Tokyo. What is the most Japanese place I can take them?

Sincerely searching,


Dear Samantha,

I am so glad you asked this question. Skip the temples, the sakura and the sake. The most Japanese place on earth is Tokyo Disneyland, possibly Tokyo DisneySea. I know you're probably thinking this is American imperialism at it's worst. It's not. In true Japanese fashion, Japan has embraced the brain child of my fellow Kansas City escapee and infamous chain smoker, making it her own. (It was bound to happen. Mickey's head and ears are so circular they are positively zen like and the Japanese love smoking more than Don Draper.)

For starters, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea are crazy crowded but never chaotic. People wait quietly yet excitedly for hours at a time to ride the latest Disney miracle with zero complaints or whining. (The only whining or crying I've ever seen there is by foreigners or children too small to feel the collective burning shame radiating from society.)

The park is ridiculously clean, even by Tokyo standards. Sure, you will find a bit of popcorn here and there.The physical evidence of a small child losing their mind when meeting the absolutely gigantic Mickey Mouse. Unlike Western toddlers, they seldom scream or cry in the faces of Mickey, Minnie or even the Frozen chicks. Instead, they silently implode. That is why the park smells of anticipation. That is to say that the park smells of strawberry and caramel popcorn farts.

The staff are so polite and accommodating to guests every single need that after I left the park, I found it frustrating when my taxi driver was unable to read my mind. Even cast members hauling trash bags full of dirty diapers smile and wave at guests and tourists with a grace and gusto that puts royal families to shame. If you drop your purse or wallet under a seat in a ride or on Main Street, U.S.A it will show up in lost and found within minutes if not seconds and all of your credit cards and cash will have remained in tact. (Unless you'd just come from the souvenir shop. In which case, you wouldn't have anything left to steal anyway.)

If you've spent more than five seconds in Japan, you know how imperative it is to be or have something cute. Life just does not get any cuter than it does at Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea, nor could it be more embraced by every gender and age. Everyone dresses cute there, it doesn't matter if you're 4 or 400 years-old. You've got your Lolita on. ( I've seen the roughest, toughest pinky missing, pubic hair perm wearing "family man" in an oversized Winnie the Pooh hat giggling into his soy sauce and butter popcorn Donald Duck bucket. (Yes, that flavor exists.)

Each character has his/her own herd of groupies with season passes, many of whom remind you of the groupies depicted in Almost Famous.  Many of these teens,twenty somethings and kyoiku mommas  would let a character have their way with them behind the rocks of Thunder Mountain if Mr.  Big Yellow Shoes only asked. Sadly, the characters are not allowed to talk. Plus, it is damn near impossible to tell at a glance which groupies would take up an indecent proposal because Japan does not make a distinction between dressing cute and dressing sexy. They are one and the same. FYI, to stop dressing cute is to renounce one's sexual activity once and for all.

Just so you know, every one of the Japanese kids in the Disney character drawing class is going to kick your ass. (especially since erasers are banned) Just accept that and enjoy your glorious mistakes. You will be complimented on your "creativity" and "skill"  by the teenager sitting next to you with a flawless replica of Rapunzel as if your making Rapunzel look like she was chewing tobacco was a deliberate social statement on gender equality. Smile and say, “thank you”. Some of those kids think you have direct access to Disney himself. (You've got a better chance at being actual kin than they do)  Maybe you are an undercover quality control expert or an animation talent scout for the next Toy Story movie. Ready or not, you will become apart of their Disney experience. Don't assume they are being sarcastic and resist the urge to pop their Fantasyland bubble. (I still have bite marks on my lips for my last visit a week ago.)

The Japanese have temples and shrines but Disneyland, Disneysea and the Apple store truly is Church. It's where people gather regularly, if not weekly, to worship with varying levels of devotion. If the Japanese like something or someone they like them forever (For example, Mr. Big is still big in Japan)  maintaining a devotion and intensity that can be both charming and alarming. I once saw a what looked like a 6 year-old girl on her father's shoulders in tears screaming between hiccups, " I love you so much!"  like Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona ( as Cinderella passed by in the electric parade. Her surfer father, looking eager but unsure of how to support his daughter in her emotional outburst, thrust two shaka signs in the air screaming, " Hell yeah, we love you Cinderella!" It would be a pity for anyone visiting Japan to miss that.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #11

Always Ready to Help you With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One Unknown-1

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I’ve just started working at a Japanese office and I have been invited to go to a cherry blossom viewing party with my colleagues but I don’t like to drink. What should I do?

Seriously sweating,


Dear Tom,

Oh my poor, sweet and ridiculously silly Tom. If you do not like alcohol, why in the name of Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and Shirley Buddhist Temple are you in Japan of all places?! Did you fly in direct from Salt Lake City or what?

In Japan, alcohol does not merely help lubricate social and work events, it is the fuel that propels society, family and business into the future. As an employee and team member you will be required to eat and drink with your boss and colleagues more often than you ever will with your spouse. You’ll be obliged to pour your boss’s beer again and again whenever the tiny glass threatens to go empty. You are never allowed to pour your own drink. Someone else will be in charge of filling your own glass, probably a coworker that is three years your senior and already hates your guts because your English is much better than his and you get paid slightly more than him as you are as considered part guest, part circus sideshow and part office pet, in that you aren’t expected be around in two years time. This man will do everything in his power to oblige you to bow to the social pressure of drinking too much and then eating ramen until you are projectile vomiting all over your boss at the train station. (A sublime job perk not mentioned in your contract. )

Sakura (cherry blossom) season is upon us. It’s the time when the nation collectively responds to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” with “Who cares?! Look at the pretty flowers! Here, drink this and when you feel sick just be sure to aim away from the blue tarp. We don’t want anyone thinking it’s a monjayaki buffet.”

There are a lot of Japanese people who do not drink. They are a silent minority that frequently “pass” as drinkers in order to escape being socially and ultimately monetarily punished for not “being a team player”. Many pretend to be wildly drunk, dancing around the bar or izakaya singing Elvis Presley until everyone looks as uncomfortable as George Bush did when Koizumi had a religious experience in Graceland.

Women have it easier in that they are not expected to drink nearly as much but also have to sidestep comments from male and female colleagues about their breast size, backside and speculation as to whether they’d be maguro (move like a dead fish) in bed. There may or may not be any groping to contend with. Oddly, I’ve been groped by Japanese women far more than I’ve been groped by men. Women have grabbed or “honked” my breasts on a train platform in the middle of the day.  I’d yell at them, “What are you, crazy?” Stop it!”  They wouldn’t. My offended reaction egged them on so I learned through exasperation that the only way to make them stop was to grope them in return. If  a woman  “honked” my boob, I’d honk them right back. If they grabbed my ample life raft of an ass, I’d manage to get a handful of their nonexistent one. It worked.

Once, I was groped on the street by a man on a bicycle. I had just stepped out of a taxi and turned around to go up the street and suddenly this bald dude that was sweating  alcohol was in my face. He gave my boob a hard squeeze. I screamed, he grunted and then he took off on his bike. If you have to be sexual assaulted,  that’s the kind you want, quick and relatively painless but it really irked me that someone could be so mentally ill and have such good coordination and balance skills at the same time. It’s just not fair. In hindsight, I wished I’d been grocery shopping earlier and had a tin can of tomato sauce to hurl and dent the other side of his bald head with as he rode away. Call me a romantic, it’s just a better end to the story.

Anyway, you will sooner or later be required to drink with your coworkers, clients, and future in-laws. Japanese style bars frequently have plastic potted plants near the table for you to discreetly dump your drink if you want. Learn how to act drunk. Also, develop a repertoire of different kinds of drunk, ranging from mildly tipsy to wandering naked in a park so you are ready for any occasion or alcohol level. Don’t be afraid to get yourself in embarrassing situations. Japanese love nothing more that to be told a story about how you woke up at the station in a pool of your own vomit, decided to write your bicycle home where you lost control, hit the curb, fell off face first into the sidewalk, breaking your jaw. They LOVE stories like that because it’s what their wife did last week after the PTA meeting. (Actually that example came from a Japanese grandmother. That jaw break earned her all kinds of street cred and is now considered a legend in her community.) It’ll bring you closer together as coworkers and comrades.

I don’t judge you for not liking drinking. I don’t drink much myself. (My drug of choice is sugar) It’s just so much easier to fit in Japan if you do. I’m not saying you’ll be any happier or more financially secure. I’m just saying people will be less annoyed with you and see you less as an outsider.  I guess what I’m saying is, “ If you’re not planning on becoming a drinker, GET OUT OF HERE!" If you don't, it's only a matter of time before you're cleaning up your inebriated coworker's urine puddle at the station with spare tissue you found at the bottom of your briefcase, on a Saturday night.  I seriously doubt your company pays you enough to put up with that.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl:Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #4

Always Ready to Help You With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has Onerabbits-wedding-cake-topper Dear Gaijin Girl, My American Husband and I have been married for three years and have two children. My husband still expects me to have sex with him. Is this normal? Sincerely Stumped, Mizuho

Dear Mizuho, I completely understand how you feel. Actually, no, that’s a lie. I cannot understand why you’d want to turn down a reliable and ready source of the coitus unless it’s your husband is really bad at sex or you don’t know how to enjoy it. In the West, sex is always considered a dish on the marital menu that may or may not be ordered every day but is never completely removed from the bill of fare unless the restaurant burns down. (Even then, I’m sure some people would roast marshmallows over the still burning flames of the building hoping against hope that their charred bits of sugar fluff will taste like sex or at least, a hand job.) As I told the Japanese wife of a Welsh neighbor, “If you want to have a long and happy marriage, learn how to like sex because your husband is going to want to have sex with you until you die and probably after.” (The Welsh husband smiled, nodded and drooled in agreement.) There are many resources you can go to to learn more about how to enjoy sex but I recommend staying away from Japanese porn or anything else that suggests woman are not voluntary participants in the act or involve girls so young they technically haven’t been born yet. Contrary to popular belief, your sexual prowess does not peak at twelve years-old and a satisfying sexual encounter does not have to include tears. If your husband is just plain bad at sex, I have nothing but sympathy for you. Men are very sensitive about their penises. It’s very hard to talk to them directly about how they use it. Japanese people often assume that Americans are super direct about everything, we’re not. The Russians are. You could probably tell a Russian man he was bad in bed and he wouldn’t get upset or take it personally. He’d just wonder why you expected anything positive out of life in the first place. For women, sex is 90% mental and 10% discovery. (You want to put what WHERE?!) I think your safest bet is to practice getting your head in the right space for sexy time. Try to practice fantasizing about things that will really get your juices flowing. Picture him paying all bills on time, for once. (That’s in my spank bank but you might want to aim for something a little more realistic and attainable.) This will take time to figure out and that’s ok. You’re married, you’ve got nothing but time. I suggest trying sex with a side of intimacy. It’s an item on the menu more exotic in Japan than whale, plus you won’t have to worry about Sea Shepherd documenting and live streaming your sexual exploration for the world to see. Good Luck, Gaijin Girl

Delicious Pain: A Tale from a Tokyo Hospital

IMG_0464.JPG Since being born blue a month early, head to head, with my identical twin in photo finish fashion (Nobody knows which one of us was born first. I think it was me because she was dead at the time.) I've spent more time than my fair share in a hospital. Over the past ten years, I've had four knee surgeries in Tokyo. Several years ago, I snapped my ACL ligament doing a jump kick in karate class. (I know, I'm a jackass.) The doctor at the time wouldn't fix it because, in the doctor's words, "You're not an athlete. You're a woman." As a result, I've needed patch up surgeries over the years. This year, I've finally got the ACL repaired. Here's one thing I've learned over the years.

In Japanese hospitals, pain is considered a relatively good thing. When my kneecap broke in three places and my leg started to spasm, causing me to internally stab my thigh over and over, I screamed for morphine. The doctors and nurses laughed. " You're not getting morphine! You don't have brain cancer." I was encouraged by the ER nurse to look around and see all the other patients correctly suffering in silence as they waited to be treated. I look up and sure enough, there in front of me was a salary man with a samurai sword through his head waiting patiently as he pretended to be asleep, or maybe he was dead. I don't know. All I know is that the only other people screaming were two, what looked like 7 year-old boys with broken fingers. The three of us locked eyes and began screaming in unison, creating a Bermuda Triangle of Pain. By that, I mean everyone around us pretended we didn't exist. A few minutes later, the doctor agreed to give me a "mild morphine". However, they only had suppositories. Yep, that's right, the home of the space-age toilet doesn't have chewables. The nurse said,"We will have to remove your clothing." "I can't move!" "What do you want us to do?" "Cut them off and stick the morphine up me!" "But they are nice clothes!" "They are from Uniqlo. Cut them OFF!" Had I been in America, the nurse would have been cutting through my clothes with massive shears as I was wheeled into the ER saying something along the lines of, " Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to wear your wedding dress again?"

Perhaps the best example of just how comfortable Japan is with pain is the fact that friends smuggled drugs into the hospital for me. Yup, I routinely got gifted chocolate, Starbucks and a bottle of valium. I soon became a model patient:)

Famous People in Japan

Being a Westerner in Tokyo has it's perks. One of my elusive favorites is spotting famous people from back home. Stars look so cool, calm and "king of the world" until they arrive in the Land of the Rising Sun. Once they come through customs where they've been shown a picture hard core porn and heroin needles and asked, "Did you bring this with you?" A look of, " What the fuck is going on!?!" sets in on their faces and doesn't go away until they are back sleeping in their own beds in the old country. My first hour in Japan, I saw Sting. Rather, I would have, had I not been in the toilet. All of the other exchange students saw him walk through the gate. ( Apparently, he owns a house in Japan somewhere.) One of the students yelled, " Hey Sting! You're great!" Sting looked at him, decided the student wasn't dangerous, smiled, waved, and disappeared into the crowd. ( Yeah, it's possible for white people to do that here.)

One of my friends stood behind Ray Charles in immigration for a minute until an officer recognized him and called him by name as they opened up a new line for him.

Another friend saw Aerosmith spill out of a McDonald's one morning in Kabukicho, Tokyo's pink district.

I will forever have warm feeling for Downtown's legendary Matsumoto Hitoshi for telling Janet Jackson she never " wanted to talk about anything interesting on his show. Will you please talk about the nipple slip!? You know that's all we want to talk about!" and how well the interpreter managed to ask her something about the weather instead.

I will never forget how a reporter asked the then Governor of California Shwa-chan, who was on a tour to promote California produce to " take off his shirt and flex his muscles for us." (He would not.)

My biggest celeb sighting was a few summers ago at Shibuya crossing. The busiest crossing in the world with over a million people using it a day. shibuya crossing The area is full of 25 year-old girls in micro-mini skirts year-round. Not a single one of them has cellulite, not even a hint of a dimple. I know that because when, in the corner of my eye, I saw cellulite in motion that didn't belong to me, it stopped me. I had to get a better look at this otherwise skinny person in a hot pants. That's when I realized I was looking at Tayor Swift then with a string of flowers in her hair and her entourage flanking her. At the time, she wasn't that famous in Japan but the poor bodyguard treated every single passerby in the crossing like a potential threat. He really need not have worried about them. He should have been walking behind her.

What's a single girl gonna do? Lie, of course...

I travel alone a lot. It's not that I don't like traveling with other people, I do. I just hate worrying about whether or not other people are having a good time doing things I like to do. People may assume it's Japanese culture rubbing off on me but I think I've always been this way. In my experience, there are two types of traveling people: people who care too much about whether everyone is having a good time or not, and people who are determined to have a shit time no matter what. My first year in university, I went on a two-week road trip with two Japanese exchange students from Kansas City to San Francisco and then up to Vancouver. Three days into the trip everyone hated each other. The trip wasn't cut short because we all made a commitment to doing this trip and somehow believed the trip was so bad it could only get better. How wrong we were.

In hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea to go on a road trip with people I didn't really know all that well; but, one could argue that you don't really know anyone until you've been on a road trip with them. In the end, one exchange student and I decided we hated the driver more than we hated each other and took the greyhound bus from Seattle back to Kansas. It was a three-day, shower-less funk fest of a bus ride, but it was paradise compared to sharing a car with that prick.

It turned out that the driver had invited me because, as an American, I could be his personal tour guide of the great American west. He was very upset when I couldn't fill him in on the details of exactly where John Wayne took a dump in Utah. When the other exchange student ( who was invited on the trip by me and could rightfully hate me) landed in the hospital due to all the stress this vacation was causing, the driver chewed him out for being weak.

Since then, I've pretty much travelled alone. I meet up with friends when I travel; but, I always plan plenty of, " in case this all goes to shit" escape routes, so that, by the end of the trip, I still have friends. That said, it's not easy traveling alone as a woman. I meet foreign men, like I did tonight, that believe all American women act the way women in American porn act.

A man from Pakistan followed me to the train platform when I returned his " Hello" at the ticket machine. ( I was on my way home from church and was feeling happy and carefree, sue me) At the platform, I realized that when I returned his, " Hello", what he heard was, " Hey there big boy, why don't you come back to my place?" I then went on and on about my wonderfully big, strong, imaginary boyfriend...a Navy Seal. The Pakistani man promptly shook my hand, wished me a happy life and took off.

I wish that I didn't have to lie about such things but I just didn't have the energy to explain I'm single, not a lesbian and not in need of his sexual services. I had a feeling that if I did try to explain that, all he would hear was, " single, available, open to girl on girl action and in desperate need of your sexual services" So imaginary Navy Seal boyfriend it is...

In Memory of Jon, the best boss ever

This week, my boss unexpectedly died of medical complications. He is without a doubt, the best boss I've ever had and he is sorely missed by everyone who knew Jon, especially those who were fortunate enough to work for him. He was a master in the powers of persuasion. I will never forget his soft voice asking me, " Would you mind doing such and such, Spring?" Then, after I've agreed to the request, he'd turn to a manager and say, " Spring said she'd love to do it."

He looked out for all of us and always brought the staff American sized bags of candy we'd almost forgotten existed, such as the frosted pink and white elephant crackers and Reese's peanut butter cups as souviners from his latest weekend trip to Guam.

A fellow techie geek, he was always helpful with personal computer problems, and if he didn't know how to fix it, he'd let you know who could. When I was contemplating buying a NetBook earlier this year, he offered me his old one for ten bucks, saying, " I've got a better one now, I've just been using that old thing as a flashlight." He even recorded the Macy's parade for me , the whole thing, when I commented that I kinda missed watching it. He always approved every staff request happily, in a country where heming and hawing and a dash of guilt is often a prerequisite for any approval given by management.

I will miss sitting with him in the office chatting and joking about TV shows, the eccentric people in our lives and the random information he'd gathered living in Japan some 30 years. ( i.e. Japanese and East German dentists used the same material for fillings and crowns so if you're of a certain age and go to an older dentist in America, he'll assume you've lived in East Germany.)

My coworker worried, " Do you think he knew how much we loved him?" I think he did. When it was announced last month in the break room that he'd be transferred to another office in 2012, it was met with a barrage of "That sucks!" and other expletives I won't write here. I remember Jon smiling at that.

Jon, we miss you and will never forget you

The Tokyo Taxi Driver

Tokyo taxi drivers come in two distinctive types, the silent Shunsukes and the chatty Kentaros. I don't have a preference for one or the other. I just hope they don't overcharge me or try to pass off a one yen coin as a one-hundred yen coin when giving me my change. ( that's happened to me three times and I've called them on it every single time.)

One late night, coming home from a party after all the trains had stopped, I got into a chatty Kentaro taxi. He asked me the regular questions, " Where are you from?" " How long have you been in Japan?" " Why don't you go home?" He also gave me the standard compliments, " You speak Japanese very well!" and " I'll bet your parents miss you. You should go home."

Then the driver asked me if I ever went to any of the U.S. bases. I said that I had been to the bases a few times for special events but hadn't been to any in a long time. The taxi driver went on to praise the "open mind" of Americans and how wonderful it was that they brought it to Japan. " Sure. OK." I said.

He went on to describe how wonderful restaurants and clubs near the base were. " I wouldn't know." I replied. When the taxi reached my apartment, he didn't let me out. (Tokyo taxi drivers have control of the back seat doors and are supposed to open them as soon as you reach your destination, giving you the light you need to find you wallet and pay the driver.) The driver turned to me stared into my eyes and informed me he was going to go to an S&M club that weekend and waited a minute for me to invite myself. I panicked, in other words, I smiled the biggest smile I could muster and said, "YOU HAVE A GREAT TIME! I'M SURE IT WILL BE FANTASTIC! " I stayed in my frozen smile for a few seconds as the taxi driver realized I wasn't going to go with him and that not all blonde American women act the same as the ones in all the porn he's been watching. He deflated a bit, sighed and opened the door to let me out. It's not the first or the last time I've gone Pollyanna on someone's ass to get out of a jam. I just hope I don't run into anymore creepy Kensukes.

Japanese Hugs Suck

Having lived in Japan for over ten years and staying in Scotland for a month this past summer, I've realized something about myself. I hate Japanese hugs. I love Japanese people but Japanese hugs suck. Nothing makes me feel more like the carrier of a potentially pandemic disease than when a Japanese person tries to hug me without actually touching any part of my body! I can see it in their faces, the calculating of how they are going to avoid the physical contact that they themselves have initiated! And these are just the hugs from the people I've slept with!

I never got that in Scotland, in Scotland I got wonderful bear hugs that made me feel loved and accepted.

A few people did grab my ass but I didn't worry about it. We were in Scotland, the weather was shit. I just thought their hands were cold.

FYI, in any Japanese TV love story, more emphasis is put on the first hug than the first kiss. The hug can get pretty intense. Depending on the camera angle, it can look like one of the lovers is trying not to fall off a cliff or if they are going to fall, they're determined not to plummet to their death alone.

Like many things, this TV version is infinitely better than the reality.