Forbidden. That’s what someone once called my writing back in 2004 when I started sharing my relationships with Chinese men. It’s not as if I put some adult-store-version of my life out there, complete with salacious descriptions that would have everyone heading for a cold shower. Sex never even came up.
No, I just happened to write about my former Chinese boyfriends.
I broke with Chinese tradition, where you keep your past loves buried away in your heart (to be sure, I never used their actual names and changed some of their details, though everything I shared was essentially true). That comment shook me then — I never realized I crossed a cultural line in my writing. If my old files from that time are any measure — I steered clear of intimate topics for years — the comment impacted me in ways I didn’t even realize.
Not for good, though. Starting in 2009, I once again ventured into the same “forbidden” spaces. On top of it, I delved into some blush-worthy territory with John (such as here and here), and then shared it with you. I knew the rules this time around, but I chose to break them, and still do. That’s because I believe these stories matter — they’re the kind of stories I wish I found years ago when I first began dating men in China, and my only guidance came from this short chapter to relationships in China out of a decade-old book about Chinese culture. Stories I longed for when I couldn’t seem to find another couple like me on the streets, and when I was tired of hearing another foreign woman announce why she snubbed local men in China. Stories that might just give another Chinese man the courage to ask a Western woman out.
Still, they’re not always easy to tell. Someone who submitted a story for Double Happiness once worried about having her story published, and then asked me, “Is it weird for me to be nervous?” She never guessed that I’ve tossed and turned on some of those late Sunday or Thursday nights, especially if I just scheduled a post on sex or something deeply personal. Let’s just say it’s a good thing my husband’s clinical strengths include progressive muscle relaxation and positive imagery. At the same time, I have to write the rules as I go along — and sometimes I’ve backed off from territory that would expose me or my husband too much for comfort.
Chances are, that same guy would still call my work “forbidden.” Only this time, I’d direct him right to this post — and never, ever, stop writing.
What do you think?