Today, I had a Bible study with two friends of mine, Ami Li and Jazmine. One of the scriptures that came up was Proverbs 31. I have heard many studies, thoughts, and feelings about that chapter. But going through it with them, an experience with them came to mind.
Last year, China had this week-long holiday break, so we decided to take a trip to Japan. Ami Li wanted to go to a butler café, but she didn’t think we could go because usually a person needed to make reservations two weeks in advance and our trip was a week away. I said challenge accepted, and I worked to get us reservations to the café Swallowtail. It took prayer, 4 hours, and using Google translate like a pro, but it was done!
She was ecstatic! I, was completely terrified. While translating, there is an option to choose what the butler can call you. There was no miss or misses option. It was optioned like, princess or prince, lady or lord. It was the fancy names. If you have read some of my previous posts, I have mentioned how I focused on superheroes and animals rather than Cinderella or Ariel.
I called my family freaking out asking things like, what should I wear? How do I eat? Should I put makeup on? What do I say? All these things ran through my head. I had to be formal. Still, I was excited about the trip because, Tokyo. I was going to Tokyo. So, I put my momentary freak out to the side and focused on that. Then came the day of our reservations.
I woke up super early, to pray and read. It helped to calm my nerves. I prayed as I put on my dress, and makeup, and as we were riding the subway to the cafe (Tokyo values silence). Then I saw the entrance to the café and its merchandise store. The nerves came back.
See, Tokyo values things like silence and politeness. I have manners, that wasn’t the problem. It was silence. I can be quiet, I’m just generally not that. Like my friend, Ami Li, who had been to Japan before, she kept telling me to lower my voice and stop saying sorry when I bumped into people (because then they would say it back and bow and I would feel worse and say it back, and it’s a whole thing). So, seeing that fancy blue sign with its pretty lights and the elegant butterfly logo, I realized that I was so out of my comfort zone.
We sat in this nice waiting room a few minutes before our reservation. Our time for the reservation came and immediately, an elderly gentleman opened the door. He recognized that we were not Japanese speakers and helped us accordingly. He made sure to tell us that they were there to serve us and all we had to do was ring the bell for anything we desired. He said this while taking off our coats and purses. This elderly man being so kind and taking off my jacket for me, complimenting my dress, it made my stomach turn. I kept saying thank you, until Ami Li whispered that I didn’t have to say that. So, I clamped my mouth shut.
The elderly man led us into the dining room. It was not super fancy, but it was an intimate fancy. There were gold curtains to draw, shining tea sets, a reverent silence that filled the room, and of course silver bells gleaming on the tables that were covered with white lace tablecloths. My head was literally spinning as I observed each painting, book, decoration, in the room as we were led to our table. We sat down, and of course, I said thank you loudly and my friends just nodded their heads. The elderly man smiled and told me there was no need to thank him. He called me a princess too.
So thoroughly embarrassed, I kept my head down as a young man came and introduced himself. His name started with an A. I was freaking out a bit and couldn’t hear him but let’s call him Asoka. He spoke amazing English, explaining the rules (like we couldn’t even pour our own tea), and gave us our menus. When he left, I finally breathed. I still stayed quiet though, looking at Ami Li and Jazmine to see how they acted.
Ami Li was simply looking at her menu, as if everything was fine and dandy. Quietly yet still in hearing range, asking what we were thinking of getting. As if this was just a regular restaurant, with regular waiters, and not a fancy café with butlers that wore embroidered tailcoats. Jazmine though, we caught each other’s eyes, and I relaxed a bit, knowing that I wasn’t the only one nervous. Asoka came back and we ordered our sets (we got a whole set) of tea.
As he collected the menus though, I tipped the bell over trying to give him my menu. The moment it rang, other young men in embroidered tailcoats looked at our table. I hurriedly waved them off as I tried to pick up the bell. Asoka gently told me it was alright and picked up the bell. When he left, I sat on my hands. Ami Li was saying that it was okay and that everything was fine. I just nodded, because everything was so not fine.
I had to be a princess. I didn’t know how to do that. Prim, proper, poised, are not words I would use to describe myself. I can still clearly remember how my mom had to show me how to sit in a dress, like once every single year until I was 14. And not that people don’t treat me like a princess, but I was the girl that was quick to wrestle or chase after cats. I was loud and made silly faces because I could. Now though, I had to be a princess and I felt like I was failing at that.
Asoka came up again and asked if we were nervous. I loudly gasped yes, as Jazmine nodded her head. Ami Li was the only one that said no. He told us not to be nervous and that he wanted us to relax and enjoy our experience. When he left, I moved my hands from under me and began taking deep breaths. Ami Li was shocked.
She didn’t think that the experience would be nerve-wracking for me or Jazmine. But her father would take her to business dinners and fancy restaurants. Jazmine had been to a few fancy places but not being served and called princess. Me, well, besides Father-Daughter dances, Military functions, and Church outings, that was about it.
Though, those weren’t experiences where someone was serving me at my beck and call. Those were experiences to know the people around me. We talked, laughed, joked, and we even talked to the people serving us. I told them a game my family and I played every time we went out. We would all try to guess the favorite color of our waiter. In the end or during the meal we would ask and see who was right. If someone is serving me, well, I should get to know them, right?
Well, Ami Li told me I didn’t have to do that, and that it was their job to serve me. Just let them do their job. Then Asoka brought our tea sets. Ironically enough, I got the country rose set. A pink and white set with simple roses and simple design. It reminded me of the simple round tea sets in the animated Alice and Wonderland. Jazmine got a purple rose set, simple and elegant yet exotic in design (like her cup was almost a square). Ami Li received a blue rose set, elegant and fancy, like something you would see in the palace of England.
We laughed and discussed the sets and enjoyed our food. Then Jazmine needed more tea, but we weren’t allowed to pour it, so she rang the bell. Again, multiple eyes were on us, and someone came to our table to serve us. This young man spoke English as well and asked us things, like where we were from and why were we in Japan. He even talked about his time in America. Spurred by his talking, I asked questions. He responded and answered. Then politely told us he was requested elsewhere. Of course, Jazmine and I thanked him as Ami Li nodded, but no one told us not to. I smiled at Jazmine and Ami Li.
They asked why I was smiling. I explained how I could talk to the servers. Here I was thinking I would get in trouble for asking questions and talking to them when it was fine. They chuckled and said I could try. So next time Asoka came up, I asked what his favorite color was. I was thinking it would be blue, it was purple. I said cool! He seemed very regal and classy, I told him this. He chuckled and asked me for mine. I said teal. He didn’t get it at first so I said a mix of blue and green, waving my hands in the air. He said it was very cool. I smiled and said thank you. He just nodded and went on his way.
I was so relieved and relaxed, that I was beaming and bouncing in my seat. Ami Li and Jazmine were laughing (and had been giggling during the whole interaction) at how, me I was (or something like that). Especially when he didn’t understand me, so I got very animated when I was explaining my favorite color. I shrugged and said I felt better knowing that I knew something about him. That he just wasn’t a butler named Asoka, but he was Asoka, whose favorite color was purple.
Even at the end, as we left (they gave us a cake I surprised Ami Li with for her birthday, she was so mad-happy-surprised) I was so relaxed that when they asked how we were going to pay, I didn’t hesitate to bend down and get my card from my boot (it was a zipper boot with pockets). Asoka thought it was so cool. I told him I got them from America, but I thought his tailcoat was cooler (I have never seen an embroidered tailcoat before). The elderly man who greeted us saw this and laughed. I entered the café nervous and embarrassed, I left beaming with excitement.
That experience, and my friends taught me a lot. That it’s okay to be a princess. That there isn’t one type of princess. Some are elegant and refined. Some are mild-mannered and compassionate. Some, just have to talk to everyone and wear boots with zipper pockets. Each is a princess, who could one day end up being queen, and should be treated with respect as such.
God made us with different purposes and different stories. But at the end of the day, as long as we love Him, and what He created (ourselves) as it is, He will show us the wonder and beauty in each and everything, and everyone.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.Proverbs 31:30-31 NLT