On Becoming a Gay:sha

  aka Crea:sha:nism

Feelings are like treasures. Bury them.

Varla Jean Merman in the most seriously underappreciated comic film Girls Will Be Girls. (2003)

My psychiatrist, Dr. Mitchell -- Dr. Mitchell says that I am self-destructive. So WHAT? What do I do about it?

Neely O'Hara (Patti Duke), Valley of the Dolls, 1967.

Bando Tamasaburo
This is not a woman: Bando Tamasaburo

So Gay:sha does indeed differ from Geisha.  Whereas all fans of Arthur Golden know that Geisha learn their trade at an okiya, there is no school for Gay:sha.  It's not a calling but more like a revelation, albeit a very gradual one.

水揚げ

The mizu-age, er, ceremony, as fans of The Book will recall, is the defining moment of the geisha's careeer. Mizu-age is the euphemism for her de-flowering.  It is the point, like a bat mitzvah, when she graduates from maiko [apprentice] to geisha, the professional adult.

The literal translation of the term is "landing, unloading, a catch, takings," which collectivley are quite revealing.  The poetic connotation is of water flowing.  Reverse the characters (excluding the most simple, which is a Japanese letter serving a grammatical, not semantic, purpose) and you have yoosui:

揚水

or "pumping water" [as in from a well], whose english connotations we'll tactfully skip over.

By contrast, there's no such ceremony marking the transition from maiko ["dancing youth" or "flitting youth"]

舞子

to a gay:sha.  As Gay:sha said earlier, one discovers these things retrospectively, and in slow motion.

In fact the notion of a gay:sha withholding his virginity for the, er, client is rather far-fetched for the urban gay boy who's even remotely attractive.  In fact inexperience would likely be a liability; to wit, early Imperial Rome's unoffical wag and master of the bon mot, Martial:

Why won't I marry you? You're a blue stocking.
And my cock is educated something shocking!

Epigrams, Book 11.19

In '92 & '93 the Gay:sha was living in Tokyo working for a US Investment bank of middling rank and fortunes.  Gay:sha never did see real geisha in Kyoto, though Gay:sha did see maiko tottering around on their geta in the Gion district of Kyoto.  It is quite a site to behold, especially if the sun is still out and catches the silk in all its glorious colors, patterns and contrasts.  It's definitely not a sexy look, not by American standards.  But it's infinitely alluring, and makes you want to know more; and because even if you speak Japanese moderately well, as the Gay:sha did, you know you're forever on the outside, that the world of the geisha, hidden in the shadows of okiya and chaya, is essentially inaccessible to you, forever, by birth, by virtue of not being Japanese -- much less a Japanese sucessful or beautiful or accomplished enough to enter this stage from whichever side.  This state of affairs makes for quite the masochistic love interest.

Because the Bank was not a first-tier US Bank, its securities operations were perpetually downsizing.  The gay:sha was caught up in one of these hiccoughs in Late '93 and, using his severance, decided to decamp to Beijing to study Chinese with Matthias --a German friend from Yale who was studying calligraphic brush painting at the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts-- and his girlfriend, Tina.