Guest Post: She Broke My Heart and Saved My Life – the Cheerio Girl Story

How many of you have had your heart broken? I’m willing to bet pretty much everyone reading this has their own sad, crushing stories of love lost.

Well, Ning Li of Ning Li Dating has graciously offered to share his first heartbreak – and why, in the long run, he’s grateful for everything that happened with her, even the painful times.

Do you have a heartbreaking story or other guest post you’d like to see here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about having your words published here.

4569004476_1f3608b395_zYou always remember your first real crushing, aching heartbreak. The kind where you don’t sleep, your stomach feels hollow, and food tastes like ash.

Mine actually saved my life.

I’ve always been attracted to white girls my entire life. I grew up in a white town, hung out with white friends, and spoke like a white person.

I look… incredibly Asian.

On the scale of mouse to elephant, I would probably say my Asian eyes are probably about ant-sized.

Tiny, even for an Asian.

Nonetheless, I had a weakness for white girls that looked cute and innocent, like the kind you’d bake cookies with.

While the traditional “hot club girl” was visually (and mentally) stimulating, they were never the types of girls I could see myself sitting by a fireplace with, staring deep into her eyes, and uttering those three words that made your armor disappear.

Which was why when I met Cheerio girl, my brain basically exploded.

It was my junior year at Cornell, and I was at the running club, stretching out.

There were a couple other people there, and then she walked in.

She had green running shorts, a yellow “Cheerio” shirt, and a bouncing, brown ponytail. Freckles dotted her face, and she had big doe eyes that glowed hazel in the sunlight.

Her shirt read “Graham” across the back.

“Oh, you guys are running the Forest Home route? I was just thinking that!”

Smooth, Ning. Smooth.

We got to chatting on the run, and I found out that she’s pre-medical school, a swimmer, and was from a town only an hour away from Ithaca.

We walked back to our dorms together, and I thought to myself, “oh boy Ning, we’re in trouble.”

I saw her a couple times a week for about a month, and I eventually mustered up the courage to stammer through a dinner invitation.

We went to probably the most romantic place you could think of: the dining hall.

There, we were talking about our plans for the weekend when she dropped an anvil on the table that I tried to brush off:

“My boyfriend is coming up to visit …”


It’s okay, I guess we’ll just be friends, I convinced myself.

At the next run, I pulled a sneaky, devilish move that Jesus and my mother would both have been ashamed of.

Hey, I was thinking of doing a triathlon, and I’m terrible at swimming. Do you think you could give me a few pointers?”

We started meeting at the pool each Thursday, and then going to dinner afterwards.

I started thinking about her. Daydreaming about her.

I looked for her on Facebook under “Graham,” before I face-palmed, realizing that that had been the name of the cereal company, not her last name.

At the end of the semester, we met up after finals to feed the goslings. As we squatted next to the lake, tossing bread onto the grass, my heart hammered.

“What’s going on between us?” I asked.

She froze.

“I don’t know, Ning… I really like you, but I have my boyfriend…”

“I really like you, too.”

Ugh, were we in middle school or something?

That summer, they broke up, and in the fall, Cheerio girl and I became an item.

We started eating together, doing crosswords together, and one night, cuddling on a worn out sofa and on the edge of sleep, I told her I loved her.

“I love you too.”

Before it started falling apart, we spent the next five years on what felt like a rollercoaster ride.

It would be all love, daisies, and fuzzy warm blankets for a couple weeks, and then it would crash into jealousy, insecurity, and tears the next.

Over and over again, like a record on repeat.

For what it’s worth, we went on some life-changing adventures together.

I brought her to China.

We met each other’s families.

We went on two cross-country bicycle tours.

We went on vacation together.

We ran races together.

I visited her in Nicaragua on her study abroad semester.

Her family brought me to Mexico with them.

I thought that I was going to marry this girl.

Ning Li
Ning Li

When she moved to Buffalo, we naturally tried to make the distance thing work. I’d drive up one weekend a month, and she would come down the next.

One weekend when I was up, she was taking a test, and I was packing to go, when I noticed a note she had written, lying in a box.

Something about that note didn’t feel right.

I felt like a slug for snooping, but I took it out, and as I read, I felt more and more pressure on my chest.

She had written this to some guy in medical school, and she told him that she liked feeling his body next to her.

In a jealous rage, I leapt in my car and sped the three hours back to Ithaca. I left her a scathing voicemail, and alternated between screaming and sobbing on the phone to my sister the whole way back.

I sat on my porch and stared, a hollow, empty gargoyle.

Ten minutes later, she got out of her car and sat down next to me.

“Did you hook up with him?”

Her eyes flickered.

“No, Ning. It’s nothing. I care about us, I care about you.”

I was desperate to believe her, so I did.

When we stopped having sex, she told me it was because she was stressed and tired from med school.

When she made plans to do a “Floating Doctors” program in Panama that summer, she swore that med school guy was in the same program purely by coincidence.

Again, I was desperate, so I believed her.

I was an idiot.

At times, even when she told me she loved me, I knew that it was a wish, not a declaration.

Looking back, I learned my lesson.

A lie isn’t necessarily a manipulation as much as an agreement. To be lied to, you have to believe the lie.

Crushed, heart broken, and lost, I decided to pull some “Eat, Pray, Love” shit and go on a cross-country bicycle ride on my own.

Across New York, Ohio, and Indiana I cried.

I should’ve been having the adventure of a lifetime, meeting people and seeing places, but all I did was cry.

My lowest point came one night as I was camped out on Carlisle Lake just east of St. Louis. I remember the moon was full, and despite being on the shore of a serene reservoir, there were no mosquitoes.

She skyped me from Panama, and on the phone with her, I cracked and had a nervous breakdown.

All I could think was, she would’ve loved this place.

“I miss you so much,” I told her over and over again.

Having a good crying session is like having a lollipop. It always makes things better, at least for a little bit.

It wasn’t until the middle of Kansas that I started feeling better.

I met a wonderful family in the middle-of-nowhere town of Riley, Kansas that took me in, fed me, and listened to my stories.

I played X-box with their son, played basketball with the father, and they even let me drive around town in their golf cart.

It was one of those magical traveling moments where you realize that no matter how different people are, no matter how strange their culture, they are humans just like you and me.

In the middle of the sprawling, barren Kansas prairie, I thought to myself, I’m finally recovered.

It had taken almost 1,500 miles on a bicycle, but I finally felt whole again.

Naturally, the next day she Skyped me.

“What do you think about me flying in to Denver and joining you for the rest of your trip?”

She was supposed to go to Peru after Panama. Apparently she had had a change of heart.

How was I supposed to say no to that?

We spent the rest of the summer camping in the desert, climbing mountains, and falling back in love.

“Okay, let’s finally make this work,” we told each other.

When we flew back from San Francisco, I moved to Buffalo.

We lived a mile away from each other, and in November, she finally came clean.

She had been hooking up with this med school guy all throughout the spring, all through Panama, and had been lying to me about it for 8 months.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I had moved to a shit-hole city, taken a shit-hole job, all for what? For this?

I told her it was over.

I moved back to Ithaca, got my old job back, and focused on one thing: moving forward.

I got some graduate school interviews, and started filling the void inside me with a slew of meaningless hook-ups and one night stands.

In June, I stopped my overstuffed van at her house in Buffalo, ready to say good-bye one last time.

We both cried it out, and finally I headed off to Colorado, where I was to start my life anew at a PhD program in Fort Collins.

From the ground up, I built my social circle and created my universe. I immersed myself in my studies and started dating again.

I felt whole.

Cheerio girl still called and we still talked, but she was seeing someone and I was seeing someone.

I was happy, and I told her that after all was said and done, I was grateful for everything that happened.

I was grateful for all that we had been through together.

I was grateful for the challenges she brought me.

I was grateful for having the chance to grow and become stronger than who I was.

I was grateful because hey, what’s life without a couple curve balls, right?

A year later, she called me and said something surprising…

“Hey, I know that you’re seeing someone and I am, too, but I got a residency interview in Denver in January. Do you want to hang out, and maybe climb a mountain or something?”

I replied with one word.


Ning Li blogs, and writes dating advice for Asian American men at Ning Li Dating (, and currently resides in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up now and receive an email whenever I publish new blog posts. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

45 Replies to “Guest Post: She Broke My Heart and Saved My Life – the Cheerio Girl Story”

  1. “A lie isn’t necessarily a manipulation as much as an agreement. To be lied to, you have to believe the lie.” Oh man, that is the painful truth.

    This might be my favorite fenshou I’ve read on here. It’s a classic break-up story and I love the way you told it. I can’t believe she had you moved to Buffalo and then admitted to it all. I suppose she, like you, really wanted to believe that it could somehow work. That somehow things hadn’t changed and you were still the couple you had once been. I don’t know if I want to know. . . but. . . did you see her again?

  2. Most of this story I related so well to…minus the dating part. It’s more of the fighting and the on and off sort of issues.

    I’ve always wanted to tell the story about Ruan Xiansheng (阮先生), he’s my best guy friend, Vietnamese….(yes, I know Ruan Xiansheng doesn’t sound Viet, but it’s his name when I talk about him to my Chinese friends.)

    Anyways, I’ve known Ruan Xiansheng since our freshman year in high school. He confessed to me if he was to pick a girlfriend, he’d choose me. Now, at the time, I was an 18 year old hopeless romantic girl who just had this stupid belief that we’re supposed to be together…and that he was supposed to be my first everything.
    oh I was wrong. He said he doesn’t want to date now. So for me it was almost 3 years of ups and downs and me almost ruining our friendship multiple times because I wanted him to be with me. But of course, no dating for him. He didn’t want to. So why confess to someone you would date them and not act on it? -sigh-

    Flash forward 4 years later after his confession, my life is good, he’s still my best friend, I view him more as a platonic friend than ever a romantic partner if that ever happens…which it won’t. Because not going back on that, I’m moving forward.
    I’m glad you did, Ning.

    Sometimes you learn your lessons the hard way, and sometimes you have to learn it twenty times over. 🙁

    1. It’s so true, human nature is sometimes a cruel dictator. I’m glad you’re moving forward, it’s the best way to move 🙂

      3 years… that sounds so painful. Ouchies.

      Yeah, when it was happening it was very up and down, up and down. It just felt like I didn’t have my hands on the steering wheel.

      I’m sure most people know the feeling…

  3. I guess it is better you found out sooner rather than later. However, it would have been nice if she had provided the information before you packed up everything and moved.

    And I am wondering the same thing as R Zhao – Did you ever see her again?

    1. Definitely true. I did in fact, see her again. She actually came to visit Colorado out of the blue…

      It’s a crazy story, and I didn’t tell all of it because I was trying to be mindful of space, but if there’s enough interest I’d be happy to write out the rest of the story.

  4. I love your story but not the end. When somebody hurts me like that they aren’t allowed back into my life again and I haven’t even tried it like you described your story. You must be strong or stupid, I’m not sure 🙂

    1. Hahahahaha probably both. I’ve long since forgiven her, but by no means does that mean that I’ll jump back on that rollercoaster again with her…

      1. Haha you’re a bigger person than me. Maybe I need to grow up first but I get rid of everything bothering me. Maybe it’s because I’m just such an over thinker haha.. 🙂

  5. Loved this story. It really resonated with me personally too.

    A few thoughts:

    It was really a dick move on her part. Like you (though not as dramatically), I’ve learned that it’s best to move on, rebuild yourself, and become a better man. That way if/when she comes around again you can show her your new (more) confident self and the ways you’ve grown. Then, if she has any regrets and confesses that she was wrong to do whatever, you can turn around and smile wistfully and say, “You had your chance and blew it.”

    That is the sweetest revenge (if you care about that stuff).

    1. I find that the most motivating times for a man are when you are broken down and at your lowest point. Either desperation or inspiration are most often the mothers of change.

      The times I’ve grown the most are when I’ve been the lowest.

      As for revenge, like I said I’ve already forgiven her in my mind, and I only wish her the best.

  6. I was beginning to get worried about you, Ning, until I read your comments here. I’m glad you’re at peace with the situation. I’ve been in the same place and finally had to just let go. It was difficult for a long time, but I could never have met someone who could give me his full attention until I let go of unhealthy relationships. I can’t wait to hear your Part 2!

    1. I’m touched you were worrying about me hahahah no I’m all good, I’m in an exclusive, loving relationship of 6 months right now 🙂 Thanks for the good words!

  7. Most Asian guys suffer due to physical disadvantage (height issue). I am glad that you are able to overcome the challenge with your will and charm.

    Here is some unpleasant truth about Asian males.

    In recent history of USA presidential election, it is very much like male beauty contest of candidates height. Ross Perot was unlikely to win if he had became major candidate. John McCain also suffer image disadvantage comparing to Obama. People naturally felt tall guys as protectors, stronger, big brothers. The feeling is subconscious resistant to rational reasoning. Small guys really have hard time to achieve such nature feeling for average folks. They had to work much harder like Napoleon or Lenin. Maybe people still have doubt about those poor guys. President Lincoln on the other hand felt like a natural leader.

    <b.Almost across all cultures, women naturally seek taller men as potential mates due to this subconscious bias.

    I was personally elected as class presidents twice in my life (middle school, college) though I openly rejected offer. My classmate always felt I should be. Such examples happened to my male family member numerous times.

    Do tall people truly make better leader in term of intelligence and strategy? I doubt it. But psychologically they do make better leaders due to respect from average height majority, which makes policy implementation easier to subordinates.

    1. I’m actually lucky in the fact that I’m tall (6’0″), and it definitely helps in terms of dating. That being said, one of my best friends is a short guy but he’s a killer with women.

  8. Height definitely matters. Tall always commands a lot of respect, which can be translated into leadership quality. Unfortunately modern Han Chinese are much shorter than their ancestor Han 大汉. According to tomb record, Han Chinese were tallest during Han dynasty. The terracotta soldiers height (5’11″)from Chin dynasty , immediate predecessor to Han dynasty, was actually reflection of real men height during the era. Since guys from Han empire looked taller than other ethnicities in east Asian, 大汉 da han (big men) was respected by people nearby.

    quote from the follow link

    “the ancient Chinese were taller when compared with foreigners during the same period, which interestingly, is contrary to the current situation”

    Information here for Han dynasty was average height of entire empire. Northern Hans were actually close to six feet.

    Even prehistorical site revealed tall Chinese ancestors in northern China.

    Today, only northern Chinese countryside might still have some village preserved the similar height. All of my male direct relatives (northern han) have height above 6 feet. During world war 2, winning Japanese never received any respect in northern Chinese eyes due to their unfortunate short stature.

    汉 Han is highly respected words in East Asia due to many factors including military victories over barbarian (especially northern Hun, 夫胡兵五而当汉兵一, “明犯强汉者,虽远必诛” ), physical features. A respected Chinese man is often called “大汉, 汉子, 好汉”

    If modern han Chinese ever achieves their Han Ancestor height, there is hope.

  9. Wow, this was an excellent story–what a great read! I think it’s something that all of us can relate to, especially when it comes to past heartache and wanting to make something desperately work (even though it just needs to end).

    I have a steadfast rule: If you leave me, you’re gone for good. I rarely give anyone second chances, especially when it involves cheating.

    Hope you can post part 2 soon 🙂

    1. Thanks for the kind words! Yeah you know, it’s super easy for me to say the same, like having a logical rule against giving second chances, but I’ve found that human beings are emotional, illogical creatures and in the moment, sometimes people just cave into their emotions

  10. Glad that you share your story here, Ning.

    The entire time while reading, I smiled and admired. It’s not your “White” girl per se. It’s your “Attitude” and “Outlook” in life and your confidence in building up your life again.

    So many times, when I heard the story from Asian guys, it’s always about “Racism” stuff and how they are downplayed and discriminated against. Media portrayal, etc etc. After some time, they become cliche while we’re seeing no improvement from Asian guys at all.

    First ever heart break when you think you’re going to spend your life with that particular girl for the rest of your life, THAT feeling, and THAT imagination, and finally realizing they always just fade out, is what I attribute to “normal” situation in every race. White guys heart broken by white girls, Asian guys heart broken by Asian girls. That’s the part and parcel of changing from childhood to adulthood. But so many times, Asian guys tend to put all blame on “White racism” and whatever stuff they think discriminating against them, while downplaying their own weaknesses and their part. Especially replaying “Asian stereotypes” over and over again while spending much of their time in Dota playing.

    I like your fresh outlook from your experience. Kudos to you.

    Ithaca is gorge after all.

    Tell us if you guys ever went to Taughannock Falls and made out. haha

    1. Thanks for the great words 🙂

      I love Taughannock Falls! And that girl and I have actually carved our names into a tree there.

      I agree that Asian guys tend to use being Asian as an excuse to fall into “victim mentality”, so they keep saying poor me poor me, but that’s also a lot of other guys.

      Guys will blame it on being overweight, acne, being Asian, being short, they’ll blame it on whatever they can blame it on, which is unfortunate, because that means that they won’t take action.

      Every man has the potential to be great.

  11. By the way, I know that you’re already good at dating. Just my two cents thought is if you change your V-neck to a round neck casual wear, i figure it’d suit you more.

  12. I think we all have those loves that we look back and say ‘how could I have done that!’ It is definitely a learning experience, and as you mentioned Ning, one that has made you stronger in the process. I sometimes look bad and wonder if I had ended up with the person that I liked at the time how my life would have turned out, and sad to say that, it probably wouldn’t have been as nice as I imagined it to be!

    1. Sometimes it’s strange to think of all the different paths your life could’ve trotted down, but it just so happens that it decided on this one.

      It sometimes makes me wonder if there is someone pulling the strings up there…

      I’m not a real spiritual person, but sometimes I wonder.

  13. I will never believe someone who cheated on me for 8 months. You can never build a healthy relationship. I’d move on and shut her out of my life, even if she came back begging. She can learn her own mistakes. I don’t see anything that is your fault. I don’t feel you are respecting yourself by meeting up with her. Did I miss something?

      1. You know it takes time for her to grow up and exercise the freedom. I can related to the story. When my-ex realized she wanted someone who was there and really cared about her, I had moved on because you found out nobody was that special by default. It was nurtured by common experiences and interests. Sex is the same. You can enjoy it with another person if you know how to to look.
        If she was not ready, she should have told you rather than fooling around. That is plain selfish.

        1. Yep, she was just as confused as I was. I don’t think she had any clue what she wanted at the time, either. She would fool around with him, and then feel really guilty about it after.

  14. Its gaining so much feelings to me, although I wasn’t in same situations like you
    but I experienced the same cheating like cherrio girl did, its a lession.
    Good thing is you are lived and realizing what life is all about, but I am still struggling with it, Hopefully I could be just like you now, get fully recovered and started a new and good life.

  15. You were drawn to her. She wasn’t necessarily drawn to you. You did what a lot of friendzoned guys do. You waited her out and hoped for the best. Don’t make the mistake of redefining attraction. If she is not attracted to you, move on. In all, I agree with Lena: You’re either a unique snowflake, or the dumbest SOB alive. I hope you learned your lesson.

  16. Yup, I definitely learned my lesson hahahaha

    Regarding attraction: it is what it is, but it also can change. A girl can be really attracted to you at one point in time, then not attracted at all a month later, and then really attracted again.

    Depends on a lot of factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: