I am thrilled that Susan Blumberg-Kason invited me to participate in the The Next Big Thing, an Internet meme where writers answer questions about their latest or forthcoming works.
Susan is the author of the forthcoming memoir Good Chinese Wife. This book traces the five years she spent trying to assimilate into a Chinese family, after jumping quickly into marriage with a Chinese man. But over time, she comes to reconsider what she thought it meant to be a wife, have a family, and raise a child — and faces the tough choice of whether or not to leave her Chinese family.
I’ve read portions of her memoir, and I can honestly say it’s a gripping story written from the heart. I loved Susan as a narrator because she shares so many of her vulnerabilities on the page. I liked the unusual, non-linear structure of her book as well, which really adds to the drama of her story and keeps you turning the pages.
She’s an independent Canadian musician and singer-songwriter with her own label and 11 albums to her name (including one in English and Mandarin Chinese), whose eclectic style defies categorization. She writes for Herizons, Beijing Kids and China.org, and also publishes stories about her intercultural relationship and Chinese family life in her smartly written blogs. And did I mention she’s married to Guo Jian, the lead singer/bassist of Long Shen Dao, China’s hottest reggae band?
A few years ago, I remember stumbling across a post that linked back to me on the now defunct Shlaowai blog (which billed itself as “Shanghai Uncensored”). The post, written by one of their white female writers, was titled, “So, What’s the Dating Scene Like?” I can’t share any quotes from the post — unfortunately, the blog’s creators blocked archiving of their material, which means you can’t even dig up their original content through the Wayback Machine. Still, given that the post featured the infamous photo of a shorter Long Duk Dong with his head buried in the bosom of a taller white girl, you can guess what the author had to say about “the dating scene” in China.
I can’t recall her exact wording when she referenced my site, but I remember how I felt. That I somehow couldn’t be trusted to understand her experience. After all, I crossed the line she somehow drew there in Shanghai by dating and marrying a Chinese (and then daring to write something positive about it).
Now, I see a lot of positive things on Asian men here on this blog and I do appreciate that, but what about the not-so-positive ones? There is one thing in particular i’ve been thinking about for a while lately: the cheating and the tradition of having xiaosan [mistresses] here in China. I can’t even remember how many times I have been approached by married men or guys who have been with their gfs for 8 or 9 years! Not to mention the fact that dating someone is actually quite complicated because a good part of the guys in their late 20s are already married!!
I know a lot of foreign girls who do get in troubles eventually for starting relationships with men who are already taken and it just becomes a mess…
People just say the darndest things about dating Chinese men. Over the years, I’ve listened to a lot of reasons why Western women give the sons of Han a pass on dating — and sometimes, they’re the kind of reasons that make you go “Hmmmm” (and then think rather unprintable thoughts about the person who said them).
So here are four of the lamest reasons I’ve ever heard as to why Western women won’t date Chinese men.
I get that some women out there think a “real guy” should just directly ask her out, and might label a Chinese guy “too shy” if he can’t do the same. But in fact, a lot of times Chinese men are just operating according to different “rules” for dating. They might approach us a little more indirectly, where they show their interest gradually instead of straight out just asking us on a date. It’s not a shy thing, it’s a “dating is a little different in their culture” thing.
So when you think about it, it’s kind of a lame reason.
Lame Reason #4: Not attractive
When I first came to China, I was stunned by the people who just flat-out declared that Chinese men aren’t attractive. Seriously?
I get that people have their own preferences. But there’s something truly lame — and disturbing, for that matter — when someone dismisses an entire group of people as ugly. If you truly think there can never be attractive Chinese men out there, then apparently you’re either blind or blinded by your own biases. This is by far the lamest reason out there to not date Chinese men.
What do you think? What other lame reasons have you heard?
When I first read Christi’s story — which shares some of the ways she and her fiancee, Huaiqian, balance their relationship — I smiled at the way she described herself as “a headstrong Australian girl…humbled by China.” Her words echoed much of my own experience with John — the moments when we realized just how differently we viewed exactly the same thing, the times when we learned to negotiate the differences. She brings so much heart and honesty to the subject, and I’m excited to share her story with you. Continue reading “Yin-Yang: “A Headstrong Australian Girl…Humbled By China””
“I’m so glad he’s not going over to China anymore. It’s too tempting.”
My friend Susan Blumberg-Kason overhead this snippet of conversation one afternoon while attending a reading. The woman speaking was white, and referring to the fact that her white husband — who she followed to China — would no longer be working over there. It was in the context of a discussion about men who have affairs in China — with Chinese women, of course.
“It’s hard to have a yangxifu [洋媳妇, the foreign wife of a Chinese man].” I know it seems strange, but every time my husband says this, we both bust up in laughter.
I don’t know when the phrase turned into our running joke, but I know why it makes us laugh. After all, I’ve never been the sort of woman who demanded a brand-spanking-new condo, car, and lots of cash; we’ve always rented, driven secondhand cars, and felt grateful just to pay our bills at the end of the month. I’ve never dragged John to the Apple store and begged him for an iPhone or any other status-gadget; instead I bought us dumb phones at the grocery store for a few bucks, and later lost mine somewhere in my car. And while I want a wedding ring someday from my husband, I’m content to wait for it until John graduates and lands his dream job. In short, if you looked up “demanding wife” or even “bridezilla” in the dictionary, you sure as hell wouldn’t find my photo there.
The Hangzhou cabbie smiled into the rearview mirror. “You’re so quiet and gentle,” he said (wénjìng, 文静), the same way someone might say, “You’ve got lovely hair,” or even, “That’s a nice outfit.”
He laughed. “Really, you’re quiet and gentle, almost like a Chinese girl.”
I blushed and looked away from the mirror, but not his words. That’s because it wasn’t the first time someone in China complimented me for my quieter side. I heard it from John and my two previous Chinese boyfriends, my boss at the time, and countless friends. And no matter how many times someone praised me, a part of me still remained deeply surprised.
I am sitting in Beijing after spending 20 days in Southern China visiting my in-laws. I just found your blog and find it most timely. I am writing because I find myself so lost when it comes to the endless, dreaded family gatherings. My Mandarin is intermediate level and I’ve only travelled to China many times. Each time I come, I hope I can improve my skills but I am always disappointed by the fact that I almost never hear Mandarin, except on TV. Even more challenging is that while my mother-in-law is from the city, my father-in-law is from a bit further north in the province and he speaks a mixture of Mandarin, the city’s dialect and his local dialect. Naturally, we have so many family dinners and I am so frustrated by the use of one or more dialects at the table depending on the crowd and almost never Mandarin, except to me with strong accents. Please give me some advice on how to cope with the scenario. I am working on improving my Mandarin, so that will generally help, but I could sure use some advice based on your experience when your in-laws get together and just speak dialect. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Family Speaks Local Dialect at Dinner, Not Mandarin”
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