Hero. My Chinese husband John used that word to describe, of all people, me. That’s what he thought of me after we first had lunch together back in 2002.
“I thought you were kind of like a great hero, because you came all the way to China by yourself,” he confessed with a quiet grin.
I usually associated the term “hero” with people who saved lives, or scaled the walls of Gotham City in tights looking for the bad guys — not a single woman from the US who made a serendipitous choice to come to China on her own. But he reserved the term for, among other people, his future wife.
I cocked my head at John. “A hero?”
“Sure,” he replied matter-of-factly, as if my “knight-in-shining-armor” quality was so obvious to everyone but me. “It takes courage to leave your home and family, and come to a foreign country. When you’re on the outside, people will rob you and bully you.”
Suddenly, I thought of John’s grandmother back in the village. In her nearly 80 years of life, she had never visited Hangzhou, even though her village belonged to Hangzhou and was only a few hours away. I met many people like her this past summer, people who wanted to avoid the hardships that came with the act of traveling.
I never considered facing such hardships — petty theft, bullying and more — the equivalent of “leaping a tall building in a single bound” or other heroic deeds. But, then again, I never had the perspective that John did — one of a world where most people stayed close to home, sometimes for an entire life.
Of course, it’s not as if John called me a “hero” before. If I had never asked him about his first impressions of me, I might never have even known. But I know now, and can’t help but wonder what the “hero me” looks like in his mind — and if I really look that good in tights. 😉
What first impressions did your boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife have of you? Were you surprised?