Guest Post: My Parents’ Beautiful Interracial Love Story

Today I’m running a guest post and video from Youtube vloggers Pooja and Robbie, where Robbie shares a little about the story behind his parents’ interracial romance, along with a video.


When it comes to dating, most people find their partners through a dating app or social media. But what was it like to find your life partner before the internet?

My parents have been in an interracial marriage for the past 30 years, and they have a truly unique love story that started with a chance encounter with a complete stranger.

Just to give you a little bit of background, my father is Caucasian and lived in the United States while my Chinese mother lived in Singapore. Despite geographical barriers and cultural differences, they made a miraculous connection in the 1980s and are still happily married today.

This video is a tribute to their love story and how they met. I hope their story can bring encouragement to all of us. Our YouTube channel is about the unique experiences as a (Chinese + American + Indian) multicultural family living in Singapore.


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.

Untung Surapati: From Forbidden Romance to Rebellion in Colonial Indonesia

A forbidden love affair between an enslaved man in colonial Indonesia and a young Dutch woman marked the beginning of a life of anti-imperial rebellion, propelling him into Indonesian history as a powerful national hero known as Untung Surapati.

Untung Surapati, born in 1660, most likely in Bali, was sold during his childhood as a slave to the Dutch military officer Deler Mur, who happened to have a daughter, Suzanne. Stories claim Surapati and Suzanne grew close through association and, eventually, fell into some kind of romantic attachment. But they happened to live in Batavia of the Dutch East Indies, which would enact one of the first anti-miscegenation laws (prohibiting marriage between Europeans and enslaved locals). Whether or not Surapati and Suzanne actually married depends on your source (and many draw upon the rich folklore and legends swirling about Surapati and his legacy). Still, any such relationship, official or not, would have violated Dutch authority.

According to Identity in Asian Literature, which summarizes the historical facts of Surapati’s life, “Gathering a band of loyal followers, Surapati subsequently fled to the mountainous tract of West Java.” Some versions of Surapati’s past give a more dramatic take on the consequences of the illegal tryst — that Surapati landed in jail where, like another Spartacus, he would come to ignite a slave revolt, leading his fellow men out of prison in noble opposition to the Dutch colonists.

Regardless, Surapati would go on to continue his rebellion against the Dutch East Indies, with notable success, as described in Identity in Asian Literature:

With his band he proceeded first to Cirebon and then to Kartasura where he was welcomed by the Sushunan of Mataram and granted a village near the raton. In 1686 Dutch troops under Commander Tack, were dispatched to Kartasura in order to intimidate Sushunan and to arrest Surapati. They were, however, defeated and Tack was killed, after which Surapati moved on to East Java where he founded a kingdom at Pasuruhan. Repeated Dutch attempts to oust him were to no avail. He ruled more or less undisturbed until 1705. … A gauge to the threat posed by Surapati comes from the fact that when the Dutch forces were finally victorious [against Surapati and his sons] they desecrated his grave, burned his remains, and scattered the ashes.

It’s no wonder that Indonesia has extolled Untung Surapati as a shining example in history.

You can learn more about Untung Surapati (including his brief ties with Suzanne) through the books Identity in Asian Literature and Surapati: Man and Legend, or explore additional narratives of Untung Surapati in this paper and through this short story.

P.S.: If you’re interested in posts like this, peruse the AMWF History archives for more, including stories of Australian women who pushed for Indonesian independence alongside their Indonesian husbands.

A Trip Backwards: How People Thought of Interracial Marriages With Asian Men in the Past

People often say that to understand the present, you have to look at the past. That’s why I started my AMWF History series, to examine interracial relationships between Asian men and non-Asian women in earlier times.

So today, I’m revisiting some rather telling quotes from posts I’ve featured for AMWF History, in an effort to raise awareness about how people have talked about Asian men in interracial relationships years ago.

As I compiled this post, I found it disconcerting (but not surprising) that a number of the opinions described below still endure, including in dark corners of the internet. A lot of people still believe interracial love is wrong.

This list of quotes is by no means comprehensive. So please, sound off in the comments with your examples too — let’s continue the conversation together.


From the San Francisco Chronicle, 7 April 1883 (per Frederickbee.com) (featured in my post Sarah Burke and Wong Suey Wong, Arrested in 1883 USA (For Love)):

Sarah Burke, who has unalterably set her mind upon a disgusting marriage with a Chinese laundryman, acknowledged that she had passed a dismally and frigidly cold night in prison on Friday.

From the LA Herald piece “Married to Chinamen – White Women Who Accept Mongolian Husbands” (featured in my post 4 Stinging 1890s Quotes on White Women Who Loved Chinese Men):

The average American cannot understand how any human being, however inured by custom, can live in an average Chinatown. That white women should live there by deliberate choice seems to him monstrous, horrible.

She is but twenty-two years of age, remarkably beautiful and possessed of a voice that…would be a fortune. Yet three years ago, she met and loved a Chinaman.

It is also well known that not one Chinaman in a hundred comes to these shores without leaving behind a wife in China; so by the laws of China, the white wife is not a wife…

They have had six children, of whom five are living – bright, intelligent half breeds. And Mrs. Watson (her husband took that name when baptized) is still handsome and pleasant spoken.

From Culture Victoria (featured in my post Mei Quong Tart, A Chinese Gentleman and Leader in Victorian Australia):

Quong asked Margaret’s father, George Scarlett, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Even though he was a friend of Quong’s, George refused. Quong Tart and Margaret waited until the day after her twenty-first birthday, on 30 August 1886, and married anyway. Quong was then thirty-six. The appearance of grandchildren eventually reconciled Margaret’s parents to their daughter’s marriage.

From Lisa See’s book On Gold Mountain (featured in my post Letticie “Ticie” Pruett and Fong See from Lisa See’s “On Gold Mountain”):

Letticie wrote her brothers of her marriage, and received a terse letter back, in which her family disowned her. How could she marry a Chinese? It was disgusting, they wrote, and she was no longer their sister. She knew she would never see or hear from any of them ever again.

From Moviemaker.com (featured in the post Cinematographer James Wong Howe and Author Sanora Babb):

Aunt Sanora told me that on one particular occasion when they were going out to dine at a Chinese restaurant, a woman had taken the time to follow them to the entrance of the establishment. As she harassed the two of them for being together, Aunt Sanora took the woman’s hat and tossed it in the gutter. Aunt Sanora remembers this woman chasing the hat down the sewer drain exclaiming, “My $100 hat!” When the miscegenation laws were repealed, it took them three days to find a judge who would marry them. When they finally did, the judge remarked, “She looks old enough. If she wants to marry a chink, that’s her business.”

From the Australian Maritime Museum (featured in the post Australian Women Who Married Indonesian Men, Supported Indonesian Independence in 1940s):

Lotte fell in love with Anton Maramis, a Manadonese petty officer, and married him with her family’s support, although she battled much antagonism from the broader Australian public she encountered. Many other young Australian women faced strong opposition from families and friends to the decisions they made to marry their Indonesian fiancés and return with them to their homes once Independence had been declared.

From the South China Morning Post (featured in the post Liverpool’s Lost Chinese Sailors, and the Families Left Behind in the UK)

Married or not, they earned a reputation in ultra-conservative post-war England as being “loose women” and, in another archive, Charles Foley found that government officials dismissed those married to or cohabiting with a Chinese partner as “the prostitute class”.

What quotes have you come across about how people in the past thought of interracial relationships with Asian men?

An Open Letter to the Girl Whose Interracial Relationship Ended

(Photo by Shauntel Bruner via https://www.flickr.com/photos/follefille20/256052973/)
(Photo by Shauntel Bruner via https://www.flickr.com/photos/follefille20/256052973/)

I was shocked to learn your steady Asian boyfriend of several years had left you.

Even though we’ve never met in person, I feel like you’re an old friend. Maybe that’s because we’ve both been in interracial relationships with Asian men. Or because I came to know you through what you shared with me over the years. Or even because you’ve supported me when I needed it most.

So I don’t think it’s enough to just say, “I’m sorry.” Sorry is such a small word, and small comfort. Honestly, I would rather give you hugs, just holding you the way friends have for me when I’ve weathered breakups.

Although I wasn’t the one on the receiving end of this experience, I could feel your heartbreak in the messages you sent to me. I know what it’s like. I’ve had Asian boyfriends break up with me out of the blue. I’ve spent days, even weeks, mourning the loss of a relationship.

One Chinese guy left me after studying abroad in Europe; he just couldn’t manage the distance. Another said goodbye to me because his parents could never accept a foreign girl. There was also that young man studying in Nanjing who I was smitten with for months; things never got off the ground because his parents insisted he marry a Chinese girl. That felt almost as bad as a breakup.

All of these were relationships I desperately wanted to continue. They did not.

With every breakup or rejection, my heart shattered. Somehow, it felt even harder to carry this sadness with me in China. When these Chinese men said goodbye to me, sometimes I wondered if the country was doing the same. Especially when family got in the way. Why did his family have to stand in the way of love?

Let’s just say I’ve weathered a lot of negative experiences in the dating world here in China.

You told me you still have hope. Hope was one thing that always guided me through the darkest hours of these breakups, resurrecting my ability to love again.

I feel like hope is as magical as love itself.

But then again, so is friendship. So remember you always have friends, like me. If you’re ever feeling lonely or desperate for someone to talk to, I’ll be here. We’ll survive this breakup together.

The #1 Thing That Matters When Struggling With Foreign In-laws

That amazing Winter Solstice dinner you had at the family home in China? Nobody gives a damn about it.

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about the struggles for interracial couples here in China. One topic that never seems to go out of style is this – the struggle with your foreign partner’s in-laws (or future in-laws).

My post on The Troubling Chinese Mother-in-law Relationship remains one of the top ten for this site, and it continues to generate discussions. Most recently, Becky wrote a guest post titled Nothing Can Prepare You for Living with Chinese Relatives.

When it comes to solving these problems, though, I’ve found that some things matter a LOT more than others.

IMG_2836I’ll never forget when my husband Jun first broke the news to his parents that we were dating. When he returned to our apartment, he gleefully announced the not-so-subtle response from his dad: “You can be friends with a foreign girls, but don’t date them.”

While I was on the verge of tears, certain his parents were going to break apart our perfect relationship, Jun’s smile remained. So did his steadfast belief that his dad’s opinion didn’t matter at all.

In the end, he was right.

We stayed together.

We got married.

We found our own happily ever after.

017_2Sure, it didn’t hurt that Jun’s parents turned out to be more flexible – and nothing at all like that stereotype of the “strict Chinese parent”.

It might have helped that my husband was the youngest of three sons (instead of being an only child) so there was a lot less family pressure on his shoulders.

But I think there’s a more important reason why we were successful. Jun was willing to stand up for me and support me before his parents.

He was determined to stay with me, no matter what they said.

IMG_190448When you have a partner like this, it’s so much easier to manage any differences with the in-laws. You never have to worry about fending for yourself before the family. Instead, your partner has your back. You can relax, knowing you’re not alone.

It matters a lot.

If you’re struggling with the potential in-laws or other foreign family abroad, sometimes the best solutions come from your partner first. A partner who will stand up for you and your relationship.

What do you think?

Interview with Kelli Estes on Her Novel “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk”

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes

Some books are so captivating that I even cherish the memories of scrolling through the pages with my e-reader in hand. The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes is that kind of book.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli EstesI’m surrounded by bookish friends and bloggers who get really excited whenever they hear about interracial love stories (especially AMWF pairings) and this was one of those books everyone seemed to be talking about the summer of 2015.

I finally got my hands on a copy from the library sometime in August, which is coincidentally one of the most dreadful months weather-wise in Hangzhou. It’s so humid you feel like you’re wrapped up in a steaming wet towel wherever you walk. Normally it’s a month that doesn’t register much in my mind, as I usually spend most of it shut up indoors with the A/C cranked on high.

But I vividly remember the August days when I read The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, as though the book itself provided a much-needed vacation from the oppressive heat. Granted, the novel takes place in the gorgeous San Juan Islands (which allowed me to imagine myself into this refreshingly cool summer destination), but it’s much more than just the setting.

Kelli has woven together the lives of Inara and Mei Lien – two women separated by over 100 years, but bound together by an embroidered silk sleeve with secrets of its own – into an enchanting story filled with love, courage and humanity. There’s interracial love in the past and present (Inara catches the eye of a handsome young Chinese American professor in her quest to understand the story behind that silk sleeve; Mei Lien falls for Joseph, a man whose kindness and generosity seem as endless as the oceans that surround their island). The story spotlights atrocities against the Chinese in America, exposing history that never should have been forgotten. And did I mention it’s all so beautifully written, a real page-turner that will keep you engaged from the beginning to the end?

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk even made the USA Today Bestseller’s List in December 2015. Wow.

I’m thrilled and honored to interview Kelli Estes about her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk.

Kelli EstesHere’s Kelli Estes’ bio from Goodreads:

Kelli Estes grew up in the apple country of Eastern Washington before attending Arizona State University where she learned she’d be happiest living near the water, so she moved to Seattle after graduation. Today she lives in a Seattle suburb with her husband and two sons. When not writing, Kelli loves volunteering at her kids’ schools, reading (of course!), traveling (or playing tourist in Seattle), dining out, exercising (because of all the dining), and learning about health and nutrition.

You can follow Kelli at her website www.kelliestes.com, on her Facebook page, and Twitter. Her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

In this interview, I asked Kelli about everything from how she approached her research to what it felt like to learn her book was a USA Today Bestseller:

—-

You’ve written before that you knew nothing about Chinese culture prior to beginning this book, and yet your book does a good job of portraying Chinese culture. How did you approach your research to ensure your portrayal was as authentic as possible?

You’re right, before this book I knew very little about Chinese culture. When the idea for The Girl Who Wrote in Silk came to me, I really wanted to write the story, but I was completely overwhelmed with the belief that I wasn’t qualified to write it. I’m not Chinese, I don’t have any Chinese family members, I’ve never studied Chinese culture, etc. And yet, I realized that this story needed to be written because so few people knew about the anti-Chinese riots and ethnic cleansing through all Western states in the last half of the nineteenth century. No one else was writing the story, so it was up to me. I started my research by reading everything I could get my hands on…from non-fiction books on Chinese traditions, symbolism, and customs, to all kinds of fiction books with a Chinese protagonist to help me get into the point-of-view of my Chinese character. In Seattle there is a museum called the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and they were a wealth of information for me in both their exhibits and their archives. The Wing Luke also happened to host a dinner I attended that was presented by a food and cultural anthropologist discussing and sharing food eaten by “Chinese settlers in the 1880’s.” Basically, I soaked up as much knowledge and culture as I could until I felt confident enough to write.

You were first inspired to write this story in part because of a horrifying account of a smuggler in the San Juan Islands who killed his illegal Chinese passengers rather than risk getting caught with them. And in the process of researching the novel, you went on to discover more of the darker side of American history. What surprised or shocked you most in the process of researching the story?

So much of what I learned about how Chinese people were treated shocked me, but probably what stands out the most was that other victimized cultures at the time (Native Americans, Irish immigrants, etc.) were sometimes the perpetrators of violence against Chinese. I would have liked to think that these groups would feel compassion toward one another and aid one another, but the reality is that the nation was so filled with an “Us against them” mentality, that very little compassion existed. We’ve learned some in the years since, but our nation still has a long way to go in this regard.

Your story features two cross-cultural/interracial relationships — Inara and Daniel in the present, and Mei Lien and Joseph in the past. Which couple was your favorite to write and why?

If you asked me which time period was my favorite to write I would answer the historical because I loved being able to sprinkle in the bits of information I learned in my research and I loved bringing the period to life. When you ask which was my favorite couple, however, it’s more difficult to answer. I loved Mei Lien and Joseph because Joseph’s love for Mei Lien did not see their differences that others couldn’t see past. I loved that he gave up the life he thought he wanted for a life with Mei Lien. However, when I think about Inara and Daniel, I also love them. Their cultural differences weren’t an issue at all, which I hope reflects interracial couples of today and certainly reflects my own belief that at the heart and soul level, we are all the same. When taking a look at both couples together, I loved showing that in this area, at least, our nation has grown and matured. Most of us can see that love is what matters; not skin color, eye color, speech patterns, or even gender.

Your novel uses scenes from the present and the past to tell the story. Was it challenging weaving these two storylines together?

It wasn’t as challenging as you might think. I wrote the entire historical story first. Then I wrote the whole contemporary story. When it was time I wove the two stories together in a way that made the most sense to me. My agent then suggested we weave in a slightly different way…and then my editors suggested yet another way. So, in a way, I guess it did get a little challenging trying to figure out the best way to weave (i.e. should we “see” the event happening in the historical story before the contemporary characters discover it in their research or vice versa?). I think how we landed was the best way and it took several people to get there!

In the novel, there’s a stunning silk sleeve embroidered with a story that ties the past and present together. How did you decide to have a story hidden within that embroidered silk sleeve?

I chose a silk sleeve because my plotting partner, Carol, showed me a framed and embroidered silk sleeve she had purchased as a souvenir in China. I thought it was beautiful and unique so I started researching Chinese embroidery. I fell in love with the artistry and meaning revealed through the symbols on the embroideries. They seemed to me to be communicating something that I would never truly know without intensive research into symbolism, fables, and cultural beliefs. I loved that.

Your novel landed on the USA Today Bestsellers list in December 2015. How did you respond to the news that The Girl Who Wrote in Silk has been so well-received among readers?

I still can’t believe it! This is a dream come true that I truly didn’t think could happen with my debut novel. My first response was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude because so many people had a hand in making this happen: my agent, editors, publicist, marketing team, sales team, everyone at Sourcebooks; all the independent bookstore owners who voted for my book so that it appeared on the Indie Next list, which directly led to readers learning about my book who otherwise wouldn’t have. And then there are the booksellers who read my story and hand sold it to customers; readers who wrote reviews online and told their friends about the book; other authors who told their readers about my story… Truly, so many people had a hand in this achievement and I am so grateful for each and every one.

What do you hope people gain from reading your novel?

I hope people find the story entertaining and thought-provoking. I hope they think about racial issues and how racism is still very much a problem, which I hope leads them to thinking how they might individually make a difference in their own community. I hope readers learn that there are fascinating stories in our history that still impact us today. Most of all, I hope my novel helps readers look at the people around them and see not the color of their skin nor their cultural trappings, but a fellow human with the need for love, joy, and connection.

—–
Thanks so much to Kelli Estes for this interview! You can follow Kelli at her website www.kelliestes.com, on her Facebook page, and Twitter. Her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

Guest Post: How I Came to Write Gay (Asian Male/Western Male) Romance Novels

Atom Yang Red Envelope

I’m excited to feature this post from writer Atom Yang, and not just because it’s a beautifully written and compelling story. Today marks the debut of Atom Yang’s first romance novel Red Envelope from MLR Press! Here’s the description:

The Chinese New Year is a time for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future, but Clint doesn’t want to bid farewell to his cousin’s handsome American friend, Weaver, after they share an unexpected passionate encounter.

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time for family reunions, and for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future. Clint, however, doesn’t want to bid farewell to what happened after last year’s celebration, when he and his Cousin Maggie’s handsome Caucasian friend, Weaver, shared an unexpected but long-desired passionate encounter. East is East and West is West, and Weaver seems to want to keep it that way, but maybe Clint can bridge that great divide this coming New Year, and show Weaver what it means to be loved and accepted.

It’s available on Amazon.com (where your purchase helps support this site) and might just be a wonderful holiday gift for the book lovers in your life. 

Do you have a guest post you’d love to see featured here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about how to write for us. 

—–

Atom Yang Red Envelope

My name is Atom Yang, and I write romance. How I came to write romance took a lot of heartbreak, time, and eventually meeting the man of my dreams (just like in those novels).

Cross-cultural and interracial dating isn’t easy for Asian men, especially in the West. The standards of male beauty differ, and in the East, men are prized for appearing scholarly and refined (even androgynous), with lithe bodies, a sensitive demeanor, and high intelligence. This may also be one of the reasons why Western media perpetuates the stereotype of the sexless Asian male. What it means to be a man in the West today—athletic and rugged, with muscular bodies, stoic and individualistic—is essentially the polar opposite of Eastern ideals of masculinity. It’s no wonder that Asian guys get little game outside of the home court—would you want a ballet dancer to be your offensive lineman?

Years of hearing or reading Sorry, I’m not into Asians or No Asians, fats, or femmes or I love Asians took its toll on my self-esteem, to the point where if the proverbial mirror didn’t crack with my obvious unattractiveness or sole value as a fetish, I’d smash it myself to make it true. This is one of the worst heartbreaks a person can experience: to fall out of love with who they are, and to lose faith in their own beauty and worthiness.

That said, stories about rejection and loneliness all have the potential to be an ugly duckling story, but not the kind where a makeover and montage scene solves the protagonist’s problems and brings the love interest around, because this isn’t about how I changed myself with blue contact lenses and bleached hair and suddenly all the white boys who had said Not racist, just my preference decided that I was acceptable. No, this is the real ugly duckling story, and it’s about becoming who you are, leaving behind those who do not appreciate you, and finding those who do.

Over time and in my travels, I came to realize that people other than those in my hometown found me attractive and unique. My ethnicity makes up a part of who I am, and I would hope that it does because it’s an aspect of my identity that informs both my perspective and my experiences in life—things I need my partner to want to understand.

After two decades, a couple of long term relationships, and longer dating dry spells due to prejudice and my location, I finally met my future partner (he’s of German, Irish, and English descent) online, and he lived four hours away. According to those inscrutable algorithms, we were a 99% match, which I think is math for “soul mate.” I admit it’s been uncannily accurate, but to be clear, we were not matched merely based on our interests—we were also matched according to how we express love, support, and understanding for our partners. The only thing the site couldn’t figure out is if there’d be physical chemistry.

We met in person after chatting for two weeks (I read research about online dating and knew it was important to meet early to prevent unrealistic expectations and to allow the relationship to develop). We had seen each other’s pictures and had expressed initial attraction, but a picture is nothing compared to real life. Our first date would be at a geographical midpoint. I arrived first, and spent time trembling with nervous energy hoping we would feel the same in person as we did on the phone, and then he arrived a few minutes later. It was love at first sight for both of us.

Two more months of dating, and given what we knew and what the site had shown us, we proposed to each other. After four months of doing the long distance thing, we decided that I would close down my practice and move in with him. He came up, helped me pack my life on a rainy day with the wizardry of an international Tetris champion, and we caravanned to his home—our home—stopping for dinner at the midway point at the Moroccan restaurant where we had our first date. Sharing our story with several friends who had been married for years, many revealed their own stories of knowing and proposals after a week or two of dating, with the longevity and satisfaction of their marriage as proof that this sort of thing does happen, and more frequently than previously believed.

Domestic life couldn’t be better, but reestablishing my practice in a new town left me a lot of time on my hands that also left the house extremely clean. Feeling loved, supported, and hot by my partner in a way I hadn’t for almost all of my life, I had the mental and emotional space to begin an endeavor I half-finished due to personal difficulties ten years ago: write stories.

Given the happily ever after ending I’ve been creating, I gravitated toward romance. Working in this genre has been an act of gratitude, hope, and social justice for me. It’s a chance to pay it forward and offer narratives that change and expand the landscape upon which we connect to each other and imagine the possibilities of our lives, so that there might be less heartbreak and wasted time for someone while they find out who they are and where they belong. I came to write romance because it happened to me, and I want to share my fervent belief that we all deserve love, good relationships, and happily ever afters. It can happen. Just like in those novels.

Atom Yang

Atom Yang debuts today with his story, Red Envelope, available from MLR Press.

Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character his father loved, in case you were wondering.
—–

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.

Things I’ve Learned from My Chinese Husband: Not Everyone Does DTR (Defining the Relationship)

Picture 462One of my favorite stories from when John and I started dating is the day when he moved into my apartment without any “should we move in together” conversation.

In America, we all know about the conversation, even if we’ve never had it before. We’ve seen it on TV and in the movies, that pivotal moment when someone says, “Let’s move in together” – a simple question that’s never all that simple. People agonize over this, to the point of proliferating totally conflicting advice (from “You’ve got to move in with him to test things out!” to “If he moves in with you, he’ll never propose!).

Well, we never had that conversation. Instead, I came home one day after work and, lo and behold, there was a duffel bag lying in the guest room of my apartment, filled with a soccer ball, a pair of soccer shoes, and some rather familiar T-shirts. When John returned back later that evening, the conversation went like this:

Me: “Is that your bag?”

John: “Uh, yeah.”

Me: “Oh, okay.”

You might wonder, why did I just answer “okay” and not grill him about furtively depositing his things in my apartment? Well, for starters, I did give him a key to my place and told him to come over whenever he wanted. I figured he just interpreted that more liberally – that “whenever he wanted” could mean all the time. (And, besides, I was under the deep, romantic spell of love, which has a way of clouding your judgment, especially whenever you think of that hot weekend the two of you just enjoyed at your place.)

Years later, when I asked John about this “moving in without a discussion” thing, he had a very simple explanation for it. “Our relationship was already settled. We didn’t need to discuss things like that.”

I discovered that the fact he kissed me beside the West Lake – and later spent the night at my place – qualified as evidence of our relationship as the real deal. We didn’t have to hash out our relationship status over coffee, debating whether we should just “keep it casual” or “make it serious.” In John’s eyes, we were a serious couple.

This was like a revelation to me – that people could actually enter into a relationship, secure in what it was without ever having some big, nervewracking conversation about it.

I’m reminded of a post I saw a few years back on VOA written by a Chinese girl titled Everything You Need to Know about Dating an American and Having the ‘Relationship Talk’:

Why do Americans have these big relationship talks?

Well, there are so many types of relationships in the U.S.: dating, casual dating, relationship, open relationship (this one does not make any sense to me), serious relationship, etc.  It’s easy to see how people could be confused about which stage they are and which stage their partners are….

In China, and I believe in other Asian countries as well, there is only ONE type of relationship.  You are either boyfriend and girlfriend, or pure friends, so there is no chance to be confused.  In other words, when it comes to V-Day [Valentine’s Day], people either have it for sure, or don’t even think of it.  No discussion needed.

It’s fascinating that a relationship could either be really simple and obvious, or incredibly complicated and worthy of long discussions, depending on who you are and the cultural background you grew up with.

Can Interracial and Intercultural Relationships Be a Transcendental Experience?

13925672946_4c22373bed_z

Recently, I shared the story of my own unlikely pathway to marrying a Chinese man, including what I originally thought of Chinese men before coming to China, in an opinion piece for the China Daily. Here’s an excerpt from that:

When I think back to the months I spent in preparation for that year of teaching English in Zhengzhou, I draw a blank on Chinese men, apart from one simple thing. I assumed they weren’t dating material for me, and I wasn’t alone. An American man who had once taught in China famously told me, “You don’t have to worry about the students falling in love with you.”

It made sense to me. I had only ever forged friendships with foreign Asian men at my university, feeling romance was never a possibility, and had yet to move past “Hello” with any of the Chinese men on campus, who almost never noticed when I smiled or waved at them while passing by on the way to classes. I never saw white women dating Asian men on television or in the movies. Even the handful of Asian men who went to high school with me in my very white, very middle-class suburb didn’t seem to date anyone, let alone a girl like me. It was as if the universe decreed that there was a racial and cultural line that I was never meant to cross if I wanted to find love.

Yep, in my mind, white American girls like me just didn’t date Asian men, let alone Chinese men. And when I read stories like Why Did I Assume I’d Never Find a Man to Date in China? from Rosie in Beijing, I know I’m not the only one.

But beyond all expectations, love happened to me in China – and it was a love deeper and more passionate than anything I had ever experienced before. It was as if I had never truly loved before. Here was China, giving me a real-life lesson in what it actually meant to be intimately connected with someone else.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t opened my heart to the possibility of love – if I hadn’t transcended my own past assumptions and biases about dating in China.

For me, the interracial and intercultural relationships I’ve enjoyed in China – including, most of all, my marriage to John – have been a transcendental experience. They’ve allowed me to go beyond what I used to believe about Chinese men and Asian men, and have made me more aware of how prejudices and stereotypes against certain racial groups still loom large in the dating world.

Granted, I know that one person isn’t a lot. But I’d like to think that every time someone like me ends up loving beyond their own boundaries — their own perceptions of what it means to be in love – it brightens our world a little more.

Do you think that interracial/intercultural relationships can be a transcendental experience?

People Who Feel Like They Own the Opposite Sex of Their Race and Culture

mmexport1439450389962
This photo of a marriage registration in Beijing was taken two days before the woman was stabbed to death by a Chinese man who hated Americans. I wondered, did he mean “American men” by that, and was he another example of someone who thinks they own the opposite sex of their own race/culture?

It’s funny how things in life mysteriously collide – that two seemingly unrelated events I’ve heard about recently actually have something in common. Specifically, the concept of people who feel like they own the opposite sex of their race or culture.

The first is the stabbing murder of an innocent Chinese woman in Beijing just married to a French man, a confirmed hate crime prompting my recent post, Is Beijing Becoming Dangerous for Couples of Foreign Men and Chinese Women?

In the discussion in the comments section, I noticed that people started linking this murder to the idea of people who feel like they own the opposite sex of their race/culture. See this comment from A. Madhavan:

I can’t help but notice the deep misogyny in this murder – many times when we date out of our race/nationality, men of our race will try to “claim” us and shame us for dating/marrying outside of it. As if we are pieces of property and only belong to them. I have seen this happen with white men to white women; black men to black women; Indian men to Indian woman – how dare a [sic] we women marry outside her race and have complete autonomy over our decisions? It is threatening to A LOT of people…

And this comment from R Zhao:

This sometimes happens in America, too. It happened to me when I was dating a black American man. I was accused by a small group of black women (who I didn’t know) of “taking one of theirs.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think there is a lot of frustration. Black women face a lot of discrimination while dating and have a significant smaller dating pool than white women do because of cross-race dating preferences. This happens to Asian men as well.

To be sure, there is a shortage of women here in China because of the gender imbalance, leading to a growing population of unmarried bachelors in China’s countryside known as “bare branches”. According to this article from Tea Leaf Nation, “an estimated 12 to 15 percent of Chinese men — a population nearly the size of Texas — will be unable to find a mate within the next seven years.” Personally, I’ve even heard Chinese men who lament that China is “exporting” far too many of its women overseas.

The Shanghaiist confirms in a recent story that the Sanlitun killer “said he ‘hated Americans’ before attacking Chinese-French couple in Beijing,” specifically asking the woman’s husband if he was an American before stabbing him and his wife. And while it’s never explicitly stated, I can’t help but wonder, does this man represent the anger and frustration of millions who feel a certain entitlement to Chinese women over foreigners because of the shrinking dating pool?

Obviously, this is an incredibly complicated and potentially delicate issue, depending on who you are and whether you’re one of the folks facing a more limited dating pool simply because of your race and/or culture.

What’s your take on this? What do you think about the idea of people who think they own the opposite sex of their own race/culture? Is it ever justified? Sound off in the comments.

UPDATE: I’ve edited this post because that some of the content was inappropriate and insensitive towards the Jewish community. I made some poor choices in what I had written and failed to consider how my words might actually come across to readers (including the individuals I had specifically mentioned in this post). I want to apologize for this mistake.

Thank you to those people who were courageous enough to reach out to me to point out the errors in the original content. I wanted to append this apology to let you know I’ve learned a tremendous lesson in the importance of being sensitive about how groups of people are portrayed on this blog, as well as what should and should not be quoted in posts.