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.
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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 …”

Okay.

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.

“Sure.”

Ning Li blogs, and writes dating advice for Asian American men at Ning Li Dating (http://ninglidating.com), and currently resides in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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Is the AMWF scene a creepy thing?

How AM (Asian Male) Anything Creeps Women Out
How AM (Asian Male) Anything Creeps Women Out
(Screenshot from http://www.americanfobs.com/)

Is the AMWF scene a creepy thing?

I know, it sounds like a crazy question for a website that includes AMWF in its tagline. But ever since I came across this article in the summer titled How AM (Asian Male) Anything Creeps Women Out, it’s been on my mind.

For those of you who missed it, here’s an excerpt from the article:

Sending out a little over twenty e-mails to a little over twenty attractive women, I received some painful yet truthful responses regarding the Asian male (anything) women cults. “It’s creepy. A bunch of Asian guys in a room, or any guys for that matter make me feel like an object rather than a person,” said one responder. Another said the following, “things like AMWF feel set up. I actually really like Asian guys, but the environment is awkward. I’d rather meet someone in person. Also, for the internet, I don’t do online dating or meet ups – period!” Finally, another responder who had previously attended an AMWF meet up wrote back, “I didn’t like most of the guys that were there because the only thing they cared about was getting laid, or getting a girlfriend. We shared no common interests, and that’s why I chose an Asian interest group instead like a learning Japanese MeetUp.com group.”³

As much as I champion interracial dating for Asian men, when I read this part of the article, I couldn’t help but sympathize with the women. It would feel incredibly creepy and uncomfortable to be in a situation where you’re surrounded by tons of men (some with only one thing on their minds), or where things feel awkward/set up.

While I know there are people out there who have met through these sites/groups, it’s hard to argue with the author’s conclusion: “If you’re an Asian guy looking for a girlfriend or something along the lines of a girlfriend, your best bet is to actively seek through a less obvious approach. AM anything creeps women out regardless of whether they like Asian men or not.”

On the other hand, if you’re looking for community, I don’t think AMWF is creepy at all.

Look, AMWF is certainly not the rarest interracial pairing out there (I’m sure that honor would go to Asian men and Black men). Still, we’re rare enough compared to the entire interracial dating world – enough to feel like you’re part of a lonely club. And when you realize you’re the “odd one out” and you start having these experiences your friends don’t always understand, it’s really valuable to have a community you can turn to. You know, people who understand what you’re going through – such as negative comments you’ve heard about dating Asian men or the heartbreaking discrimination your husband experiences in your home country.

I also know plenty of people who aren’t in a relationship, but visit AMWF websites just for inspiration and encouragement. For example, a close male friend of mine from China once told me he loves looking at the photos of couples and families on my Pinterest board. He dreams of finding a Western woman somewhere in the world to love and marry, and these photos offer him a possible vision of that future family he hopes to have.

The people I’ve met through the AMWF community – from bloggers to authors to the many people I’ve connected with (online and off) — have truly enriched my life. I’ve learned from them, connected with them and found common ground with them. They’ve helped me feel a little less lonely and even supported me. I can’t imagine a world without them.

What do you think about using AMWF site or meetup groups for dating? Is it a creepy scene or not? What do you see as the value of AMWF communities?

On the racism against AMWF couple Lorde and James Lowe

Lorde and James Lowe, a very public face for AMWF couples everywhereBack in December, many of you — including myself — followed a rather disturbing news story regarding racist backlash against Lorde and her Asian boyfriend James Lowe. Many readers sent along links and encouraged me to write something about it. That proved challenging in December when I just moved to China and was juggling a ton of post-moving/settling in issues that drained my energy, along with some technical difficulties for my website. Well, it’s nearly a month since the incident…but never too late for me to put my 2 cents out there and start out 2014 with a bang. 

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Sometimes people say to me, Why do you write about your relationship? You’re a white woman dating a Chinese man, so what’s the big deal? Thanks to what happened in December, I have a new answer for them: Lorde and James Lowe.

For those of you who were hibernating in December or busy with Christmas shopping, here’s the scoop:

After Kiwi chanteuse Lorde apparently said (to someone, somewhere—I literally can’t find any sources on it besides teens on Twitter) that Justin Bieber and the members of One Direction are “ugly,” wounded superfans began firing back with a barrage of potshots at James Lowe, Lorde’s rumored boyfriend. In the way that the overemotional rantings of the ignorant so often do, the attacks turned racist almost immediately.

I was still dazed and jet-lagged in the wake of an exhausting move from the US to China, but even then the news hit me hard. In the midst of the Christmas season, traditionally that time of “peace on earth and goodwill to all men”, here was a gang of cyberbullies spewing racist comments about Lorde and her boyfriend (see this story for examples) and laughing about it. And to date, no evidence has surfaced proving Lorde made the alleged “ugly” remarks about Bieber/OD…which makes me wonder if someone just went ahead and fabricated the whole thing as an excuse to humiliate Lorde.

Ugh. It’s just chilling to see this sort of thing.

But Lorde isn’t alone in her experience. After all, I’ve had to moderate hundreds of racist comments on my blog, and still receive the occasional hate mail because I’m married to a Chinese guy and blog about it with great pride.

What happened to Lorde stands as a very public example of how the Anglosphere (people in English-speaking countries) still harbors negative attitudes about dating Asian men. As much as it shouldn’t matter who you date, the racist reaction to Lorde’s boyfriend only proves that other people will make it an issue when your special someone happens to be an Asian guy.

Maybe you’ve never been publicly insulted like Lorde, but might understand this in a different way. Perhaps your great uncle made a racist comment in passing about your Asian boyfriend or husband. Or someone said you shouldn’t move back to China with him because the society is too patriarchal and you’ll be oppressed by him. (Never mind, of course, that your guy is such a kind and caring sweetheart who has never been oppressive or sexist towards you.) Or what if, like Grace of Texan in Tokyo, you discover that “You will need a coping mechanism to deal with the question ‘Why don’t you just date a white guy?’”

When it comes to dating Asian men, there’s a mountain of racism and ignorance out there as far too many folks still buy into the popular stereotypes that Asian men are somehow undatable. This is why Ranier Maningding is right on when he wrote the following regarding how to respond to the Lorde/James Lowe racist backlash:

Please, especially if you’re a non-Asian WOMAN, you need to speak up against this shit. You need to be the counteractive voice to these idiotic children. Write something, post something, or share this. You say you like Asian culture? Then voice your opinions.

Amen.

And Lorde, if you’re reading this, know that you’re a sister in the community of Western women and Asian men. We’ve got your back, girl.

P.S.: Sharing your stories is also one of the best ways to combat racism. If you’ve got something to share, why not submit your story or guest post for Speaking of China?

What’s your opinion on the Lorde/James Lowe backlash? Sound off in the comments!