In early August, my Chinese husband and I invited five of our closest Chinese friends to celebrate my birthday a week late. We met at a Thai restaurant in Hangzhou. And while I longed for the piquant curries, I never realized I longed for something else even more until that evening.We happened to discuss the wedding between Min and Lao Da, who just married at the end of May. I really wanted to know about what they did to plan their ceremony. I had asked Lao Da about this almost two months earlier, but he dismissed the subject by saying his wife handled most of this.
When I approached Min about the process, she started dressing down Lao Da before she even got to the topic of dresses.“He did almost nothing to help!” she moaned, her eyebrows furrowed behind her geek-chic black frames. “I kept on trying to get him involved, but he didn’t. He always told me not to worry, that it wasn’t a problem. But we had all of these details to take care of and it was hard not to worry!”I smiled at her words, because they seemed as familiar as the pad thai and red curry I sampled just moments before. “Sounds like John. I’m always the one who worries about things, and then he tells me not to worry, not to be in a hurry,” I said, thinking of the disaster week we had at the end of Spring semester in April, when I obsessed over moving out and getting our luggage together and he didn’t see the problem. “I feel like John and I are so different about this.”
But, to the women, my situation wasn’t different at all. “Oh, my husband is always like that,” said Min.
“So is mine,” chimed in Lu, shooting a look at her own husband that seemed flirtatious and ferocious at the same time.
Suddenly, all of the men at the table — my husband, Min’s husband and Lu’s husband — turned as red as the thai chilis in the red curry. But that didn’t stop Min and Lu from going off on their behavior, and declaring it oh-so-typical here. “Most Chinese men I’ve known are just like this,” Min said, crossing her arms. “They don’t worry about things as much, and don’t feel time pressure like we do.”
I’m not sure this really was, as Min and Lu suggested, really just a “Chinese” thing. But I was sure of one thing — I felt as if I wasn’t so alone anymore. These women livened up the dinner table more than the curries ever did, and created a sense of camaraderie that lasted long after we left the restaurant.
I thought about Ellen Graf, who wrote The Natural Laws of Good Luck. She learned a lot about her Chinese husband through Da Jie, his married sister. Maybe, in time, I would learn something too from the women I knew in China.
Which is why , the next time I eat out in China, I’m reserving the best seats at the table for my married Chinese girlfriends. 😉
What do you think?