I like Sex and the City, Beijing and cultural observations. So when I discovered Sexy Beijing several years ago in high school, it felt like higher powers were finally answering my prayers for a show relevant to me. Sadly, there hasn’t been a new one out for years, and I don’t see anything like it gaining popularity in America.
This is the first episode I saw, and it remains one of my favorites.
I love the unbiased tone of this show. They have fun and talk to real people who really capture the spirit of Beijing. They also inadvertently show the white person’s experience in Asia, which I’ve heard time and time again, is very different and ridiculously cushy.
My family has never embraced American culture the way I wanted them to, which means out of all the fobby things they did, not preparing me with an English name to use at school was one of their greatist crimes. This wasn’t annoying until second grade, when I moved into a WASPy neighborhood and kids were old enough to be xenophobic. And creative enough to make up rhymes, songs and nicknames like:
Bing bong, the witch is dead!
Bing bong, with a pong, sing a song, all day long!
Blingbling (when we started listening to rap, and said mostly with admiration)
To be fair, most of the kids who made up the songs were my friends. I believe that it’s only teasing if you make it that.
But then there was my impossible last name. The popular girls followed me around saying they would be my friend if I told them how to pronounce it correctly. Though teasing didn’t bother me, popular girls did/do. So I gave them the silent treatment for a few days before everyone lost interest.
Teachers were no better. They always thought there was a typo on the attendance sheet. Some substitutes squinted at me like I was playing a practical joke on them. I stared them down, daring them to ask any follow-up questions. A few, always a cheery female sub, would exclaim “That’s a beautiful name!” in front of the class. For the rest of that day, I’d sit and stand straighter, vindicated. Now I make sure I do the same for the kids I tutor.
For years, my dad refused to let me have an English name. He refused to let me tone down my Chinese-ness, even though lots of our family friends did it and I told him he was lame and backwards. Finally, when I was approaching middle school, he cooperated. Our Chinese-English dictionary had a section for names at the very back, and every night before bed, I’d have him read me the B’s. Amongst the Beatrices and Betties, I found the one. It was simple but unique and fit me. But my dad said absolutely not.
I didn’t care. One year later, when we moved across the country and started afresh, I tried out my new name. It was close enough to my Chinese name that it wouldn’t confuse teachers or draw too much attention. I took to it immediately. Life became so much easier, just like I’d always imagined.
Except when I go back to Beijing and people find out about my English name. I think it means something like urethra in Chinese.