Last night, I asked my Chinese friend Caroline about her “personal problem” (个人问题 or, gèrénwèntí).
This wasn’t some euphemism for her latest gynecological issue, or a death in the family, or some neurosis that sent her running to the counseling center.
Caroline bust out in an embarrassed laughter. “No, I haven’t solved my personal problem yet,” she sighed. This “personal problem” was about solving the “problem” of being single.
Sometimes, I feel weird even asking friends like Caroline about their status like that. I don’t want her to think of me like, in the words of Bridget Jones, another “Smug Married,” just reminding her of the “tick-tock-tick-tock” reality of being a leftover woman in her thirties.
“It’s not like that,” John, my Chinese husband, emphasized. “Asking about someone’s ‘personal problem’ doesn’t make them feel burdened. It’s a way of showing your concern for them, and their well-being.”
And in China, being well includes being married, at any cost.
Maybe Caroline is even more grateful that I ask — since I’ve promised to help her find a boyfriend, somewhere. It’s only fair; after all, she was the matchmaking friend who schemed to get John and I together.
But this means her personal problem is now my personal problem.
Now, if I can just find a Mr. Right for my 34-year Chinese friend…
Have your Chinese friends ever discussed their “personal problem” with you? Have you ever helped solve someone’s “personal problem?” (Do you have any leads to help me solve Caroline’s “personal problem”? 😉 )