Tokyo (AFP) — From lonely pensioners to Japanese schoolgirls with shattered dreams, Takanobu Nishimoto and his crew of middle-aged men will lend an ear to clients who would never dream of spilling their guts to a therapist or worse, their families.
Anyone in need of company can sign up to his online service to rent an “ossan” — a man aged between 45 and 55 — for 1,000 yen ($10) an hour.
“For me, the service is a hobby more than anything,” says Nishimoto, who first came up with the concept four years ago and who now has a growing network of some 60 men across Japan. …
“There’s a different ‘me’ depending on whether I’m with my friends, my family, or my boyfriend,” says 24-year-old Nodoka Hyodo after her session with Nishimoto.
I’ve missed my calling. Up until now I thought I was suited to writing, sports radio and stand-up comedy. But that was before I found out you can get paid to listen to women vent about their problems. Which is something I’ve been doing most of my adult life for free.
First of all, I completely understand the age requirement to be a Rent Man. Sure, if you’re under the age of 45 you might think you know how to listen to women, but you don’t. That is a skill that takes a lot of flight hours. And until you reach that age there is no way you’ve logged enough time in the cockpit to understand the finer points.
Not to give away trade secrets, but I know that earlier in my career I used to make the common mistake of talking with a woman about her problems. Trying to work through them. Offer advice. Look for solutions. Which us utterly futile. “Well, if Susan doesn’t know that Kelley took credit for your work, maybe you should ask for a meeting and talk to them both directly?” and stuff like that.
Seriously, looking back, I shudder to think I could have been so green as to think that could work. But it’s what inexperienced Rent Men – paid or unpaid — do. When really, the key is to say nothing other than off short list of pre-approved phrases. “Yeahhh …” “Really?” “That’s awful.” “I feel so bad for you,” and the like.
Beyond that, the hard part is occupying your brain so you can appear to be listening as you hear for the fifth time she’s repeated herself about how her mother doesn’t respect her or how rude the snotty woman in the coffee shop was. It’s a discipline that takes years to master, because if you get caught tuning out mentally, it’s curtains. Personally, I’ve mastered the art to which I’ve written entire days worth of blogs in my head while pretending to pay attention to stories about how bad the traffic was and there was no place to park.
The bottom line is that if Mr. Nishimoto ever opens a Boston branch of Rent Men, I’m his guy.