To My Chinese Husband, I’m A Hero?

A plastic hero figurine painted in red
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Save the planet? No, I'm just a foreign woman who had the courage to go to China -- and my Chinese husband called me a "hero." (photo by Deon Staffelbach)

Hero. My Chinese husband John used that word to describe, of all people, me. That’s what he thought of me after we first had lunch together back in 2002.

“I thought you were kind of like a great hero, because you came all the way to China by yourself,” he confessed with a quiet grin.

I usually associated the term “hero” with people who saved lives, or scaled the walls of Gotham City in tights looking for the bad guys — not a single woman from the US who made a serendipitous choice to come to China on her own. But he reserved the term for, among other people, his future wife.

I cocked my head at John. “A hero?”

“Sure,” he replied matter-of-factly, as if my “knight-in-shining-armor” quality was so obvious to everyone but me. “It takes courage to leave your home and family, and come to a foreign country. When you’re on the outside, people will rob you and bully you.”

Suddenly, I thought of John’s grandmother back in the village. In her nearly 80 years of life, she had never visited Hangzhou, even though her village belonged to Hangzhou and was only a few hours away. I met many people like her this past summer, people who wanted to avoid the hardships that came with the act of traveling.

I never considered facing such hardships — petty theft, bullying and more — the equivalent of “leaping a tall building in a single bound” or other heroic deeds. But, then again, I never had the perspective that John did — one of a world where most people stayed close to home, sometimes for an entire life.

Of course, it’s not as if John called me a “hero” before. If I had never asked him about his first impressions of me, I might never have even known. But I know now, and can’t help but wonder what the “hero me” looks like in his mind — and if I really look that good in tights. 😉

What first impressions did your boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife have of you? Were you surprised?

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3 Replies to “To My Chinese Husband, I’m A Hero?”

  1. Honestly I’m not really sure what my Korean ex thought of me when we met. Later when I asked him, he told me he was attracted to my body. But about personality, most likely he was intrigued because I’m the one who started talking to him and gave him my phone number. Beyond that, I’m not really sure.

  2. To me too, a hero need not necessarily be one with superhuman strength or one who rescues damsels in distress or saves a whole city or village or nation. Just being ready to help others in whatever way one can and treating everyone with respect and not causing mayhem and murder so to speak is sufficient, to me, to qualify as a hero. And this also includes the guts to uproot oneself to go to a strange place so far away with an entirely different culture and not knowing the local lingo and not knowing anyone (what more if the fairer sex) and yet adapting so well and finally mastering the local language. So I can understand why John called you a hero.

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