As John, my Chinese boyfriend, and I spent more time together, it was as if we were creating a Chinese knot of our own, promising forever — a forever I had never known with anyone else. And I was tying myself up in knots, because in the world I had known before — where love came and went as effortlessly as the rain across the West Lake in Hangzhou — forever seemed so hard to find, and so hard to believe.
I found solace in my Chinese friend Swallow, one of the translators, a “spicy Sichuan girl” who knew John too. She gave me one of her easy smiles when I told her of my worries, and the experience I had with him during National Day. It was as if she had to laugh at all of the ridiculous mental knots I had created.
“You know, you’re forgetting the love and the understanding between you and John. There is so much good between the two of you.”
I nodded, sitting next to to Swallow, who seemed to enjoy being my therapist in residence. “He is a good guy.”
“Exactly! He’s very good. So maybe he isn’t perfect — he is short, smaller, quiet. Maybe not the kind of guy you imagined. But so what? There is no perfection in love.”
Swallow nudged my inner perfectionist with her words, and she was right. Sometimes I did expect too much. But as I pondered what she said, I couldn’t help but realize it was more than just hoping for some ideal. It was about embracing forever. “You’re right about all that. But what about the idea of a relationship lasting forever. I’ve never been with anyone where I could imagine a ‘forever.’ I think…I think it scares me.”
“Commitment is scary. But you don’t need to be worried about it. Just enjoy what you have with John now.”
Suddenly, my mental knots began to untangle themselves. I had been so focused on what would happen — would we be forever — that I lost sight of the happiness we already had. And maybe that was because John and I had spoken less since he went to school. On Swallow’s suggestion, I started calling my Chinese boyfriend more often, to reconnect with my love, to remember the same excitement of our first date beside the West Lake.
It’s inevitable that couples tie themselves together. With every day, every moment, our own Chinese knot becomes stronger. But sometimes, the most important thing is not what the knot will become, but what it is, right now.
Memoirs of a Yangxifu in China is the story of love, cultural understanding and eventual marriage between one American woman from the city and one Chinese man from the countryside. To read the full series to date, visit the Memoirs of a Yangxifu archives.