Jocelyn Eikenburg gives insight into the seldom spoken of (or seen) relationships between foreign women and Chinese men in “Red Couplets.” She writes, “From the first time I started to love a Chinese man, hiding became part of my life.” As she watches droves of Western men couple up with Chinese women, she feels alienated by her expat girlfriends, too, who openly express their romantic disdain for all Chinese men.
She’s referring to this portion of my essay:
“Whenever I arrive at the airport in America, the first thing I notice is our men, how handsome and how tall they are,” one of my white female colleagues mentioned over lunch just weeks into my first job in China teaching college English. “I’ll just stare at them for hours, as if I was Chinese and had never seen a foreign man before in my life.”…
At least that woman wasn’t as blunt as another colleague, who used to bicycle with me through the streets of Zhengzhou. As we stopped on the corner of a side street and watched the mostly-male populous pedaling past us through the intersection, she grimaced.
“Chinese men don’t really seem that attractive.”
“How can you say that?” I retorted in a slightly-insulted tone.
“I don’t know…they just aren’t.” She sounded too casual for a woman who just dismissed the entire male population in China.
Here’s what the reviewer thought about it:
In a past age, her girlfriends’ blunt commentaries about their preferences for partners would have been edgy, but in the global, expat realm, they are the close-minded and cruel characters of the story.
Her perspective reminded me of a topic I’ve yet to address on this blog — our peers’ perspectives on who we should or shouldn’t date, and whether or not that influences our dating choices.
My female peers didn’t consider Chinese men handsome, but that never stopped me from dating them and eventually marrying John. But I have to wonder, how many Western women will hear what their peers have to say about Chinese men and then decide not to date them? Are some people so worried about what others might think that they would rather not risk the potential “social suicide” that comes along with dating differently?
I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever heard opinions like those I mentioned in my essay? Did you ever experience peer pressure regarding potential dating choices — and did it influence your decision?
P.S.: For those of you who would like to buy a copy of this anthology — and read the entire essay — I will let you know ASAP when it becomes available on Amazon.com. Promise!