Recently, a reader wrote the following to me:
I remember when I was back in [city in China] I was with a large group of Westerners for our orientation and a lot of us got to talking about potentially starting relationships in China. There was one American girl, who was very pleasant but kind of heavyset and nothing special to look at, who said she wouldn’t settle for anything less than Jay Chou or a local Chinese rapper we knew who was modelesque stunning. Another man on our orientation, who is fifty years old though not bad looking, also said he would only go for girls between the ages of 25-30 who were “drop dead gorgeous.”
From what I could gather from talking to these two individuals, they didn’t have the same attitude about dating Western people. When it came to dating Western men, the aforementioned American girl wouldn’t entertain the idea of looking for a Brad Pitt and so too with the older man. It got me wondering why, when it comes to dating, Western people feel a certain sense of entitlement with Chinese people that they wouldn’t otherwise feel with other Western people.
…Personally, when I walk down the street and see a stunning Chinese guy I of course ogle, but I also think to myself ‘He’s totally out of my league’, which I would also do back in [Western country]. Yet some of the girls I was with don’t seem to think that way.
As astonishing as this is, I’m not entirely surprised there are foreigners who actually believe these things. The “Charisma Man” phenomenon across Asia that foreign men experience makes them feel as if they are the next Brad Pitt. Meanwhile, foreign women — especially white women — are often showered with compliments about their appearance (something I experienced once in a beauty salon). And overall the fact that China still believes “foreign is better” means that foreigners of all genders — especially white foreigners — feel as if they’re standing on a pedestal compared to the locals. So then it’s easy to think, “hey, these people aren’t my equals because I’m clearly above them.” And that somehow translates into the idea that you deserve only a “9” or a “10” to date in China. It’s what you call social dominance — creating arbitrarily set hierarchies based, in this case, on ethnicity and/or race.
But I don’t care how much you can rationalize it — in my book, it’s just wrong.
I’m glad the reader doesn’t share those ideas, and she’s not alone. I remember when I first came to China and found myself falling in love with a Chinese man. Like the reader, I considered him completely out of my league — something I captured in this excerpt from my post titled Chinese Men Are Sexy:
In October, 1999, it was as if I’d finally met my long lost locker pinup guy in the flesh. A sullen, James Dean type in a black leather jacket with a perfect ass. The kind of guy that made cliches like “tall, dark and handsome” drip from your mouth. It didn’t matter that he was spoken for, with a modelesque girlfriend that seemed worlds (and heavens) away from the mortal girl I was. He drove me so crazy, I spent weeks taking cold showers and long bicycle rides just to cool down.
We ended up dating for a while, though our relationship ended months after he left China. But when I look back on our time together, I still can’t believe I dated him.
And I still can’t believe I married John — who is not only handsome but also talented, generous, caring and an amazing human being. He’s the entire package in my opinion, and I never considered him a “sure thing” just because I happened to be American and he happened to be Chinese.
So when I think about these foreigners the reader wrote of and their sense of entitlement when it comes to dating Chinese, I feel they’re entitled to nothing more than a good kick in the butt.