Over 35 and Fabulous asks:
You have a very unique column, though it seems very focused on the under 35 set….so I’d like to ask about the over 35 set. Being a divorced Western female with school aged children, how would someone in that situation find a Chinese guy about the same age, (maybe and hopefully) with kids of his own too? I’m in the US, by the way. Actually I did find an available Chinese guy about my age a few years ago when I went back to grad school, but he felt pressured by his cultural background (he was from a rural area in China) so he’s gone on his way in life. I know this has got to be a unique question but I’m wondering….anyone with advice/thoughts/experiences for me? It’s gotten to the point where I’ve thought of going back to grad school again to find someone…! …probably not the best reason to go back to grad school but it would jump start my career.
To find a Chinese man over 35 in your situation, you’re going to need a lot of patience and persistence. Or a magic wand. 😉
As you probably know, age 30 is like a marital expiration date for most Chinese. Basically, it’s just NOT normal to be over 30 and single. And, as I discussed in my answer about gay families in China, Chinese will do just about anything to avoid being abnormal — including marrying someone they don’t love, just to solve their “personal problem” on time.
They also realize, if they don’t marry by the big three-oh, they face 1) a very limited over-30 dating pool (NOTE: this is, admittedly, more of a problem for women, because most men will not date a woman over 30 — scandalous, I know) and 2) the ire of their relatives, who will nag them at every single holiday about finding a boyfriend or girlfriend (this has driven some Chinese to either avoid holidays at home, or rent a significant other to shut everyone up).
So, you’re already looking at a paltry dating pool of over-35 Chinese men. But that’s not all. Most over-35 Chinese men wouldn’t even consider a divorced woman with children, unless they had divorced themselves. This goes back to China’s divorce stigma (basically, that there’s something seriously wrong with you to have left a marriage). And then there’s another problem — adultery (usually because of him) is the main reason for divorce. Ouch.
While the odds are stacked against you, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good divorced men out there, or even single men willing to give a divorced woman a chance. As they say in Chinese, 好事多磨 (hǎoshìduōmó – good things take a LOT of persistence to come true). After all, Jo at Life Behind the Wall found her Chinese husband after age 35, and with two grown children.
First, start with your Chinese friends (that’s how John and I met). Tell all of them you’re looking for a good over-35 Chinese man, and you’ll have an army of matchmakers scouring their little black books on your behalf. Plus, since they have a personal stake in it (your friendship), they’ll take it seriously and do their best.
But sometimes even the best of friends can’t come through. Barring a move to China (currently impossible for you), what then?
Get involved with your local Chinese community through the university. At the risk of revealing my own location, I live in a humble Idaho college town, yet we put on a huge Chinese New Year celebration every year at the university (in fact, it’s so explosively Chinese that people reading this blog actually thought I hosted it in China). And it’s not just for students. They welcome anyone from the community to pitch in their time and talents — Chinese and non-Chinese alike. At ours, laowai did everything from strutting their stuff on the catwalk for a fashion show to even singing traditional Chinese songs. You might meet someone there, or make a connection that leads you to a future laogong. Look for the university’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association and get in touch.
Another possibility is Chinese Christian Churches. Even if you’re not remotely Christian (which, amazingly, was the case for a number of Chinese I met at said churches), these places are fantastic for meeting people. In fact, one of my close Chinese friends once confessed that he attended Chinese Christian Churches just to, uh, meet women (he, obviously, is remaining anonymous). Personally, I’ve discovered that Chinese Christian Churches have become the de-facto Chinese community centers for many a city, putting on celebrations for everything from Mid-Autumn Festival to Chinese New Year. In many ways, they feel like Jewish community centers (and, with any luck, have women ready and willing to play yenta to you). And did I mention they host some outstandingly authentic Chinese dinners?
You might also give some online dating sites a try. For example, Match.com has a Chinese version.
But, please, please, don’t go to graduate school just to get your MRS degree. What if you spend that time, but still don’t meet the one? It’s bad enough to graduate with thousands in debt and a useless degree — don’t add heartbreak to that list. On the other hand, if school really would boost your career — and, as my husband always says, you have specific goals in mind — then go for it. Just don’t expect enrollment to lead to engagement (but be very pleasantly surprised if it does).
What advice to do you have for Over 35?
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.