Asian Girl Problem #92: The Talk, Sort Of

I went to visit my parents a couple weeks ago, and my mom decided to have the talk with me. One that extended past the “now you can have a baby” nugget of wisdom she told me over a decade ago when I got my first period. Yes, I am 26 or the same age she was when she got married, but I’m surprised this day came at all.

It started when she found out her friend’s 22-year-old daughter had fallen head over heels for a boy and lent him $600 to blow on gambling.

And she is sleeping over at his house! Talk about losing face. She’s sacrificing everything for him, and when he gets bored of her he’s just going to throw her away and find someone taller.”

That’s how my mom’s mind works. Her main points of contention in order of importance:

1. He is almost a foot taller than her (and allegedly more attractive)
2. She gave up the goods before marriage
3. She lent him $600 dollars of her father’s money

As I expressed that everyone should chill and the only idiotic thing about this situation is that she’s lending money, you could see my mom’s gears turning.

“Does Mary do it with boys?” (my friend’s name changed to protect the promiscuous)
“Dating was grounds for expulsion when I was in college.”
Smart girls would never let that happen.” (“That” seeming to mean everything this girl did which compromised her self-worth. It surprised me that my mom believed giving him money to waste and having sex with him all represented her loss of dignity.)

She knows that it’s different now. In China, 70% have had pre-marital sex. But she can accept the numbers much more easily than when they’re intangible, not applied to people she knows. It scares and saddens her, maybe like how polyamory (sorry, I had to take it there) kind of scares and saddens me. It’s jarring to have something you hold sacred be shred apart. As we sat in reverie, I could tell how badly she was struggling to ask me the ultimate question, “Have you had sex?” while I weighed all the possible scenarios. Would there be beauty in truth? Or should I lie and could I pull it off?

She didn’t end up asking, a clear sign that it would keep her up at night to know the truth. And now I’m fully prepped to take it to the grave in exchange for our peaceful coexistence.


Asian Girl Problem #77: The One Time My Butt was Too Small

Online dating is the best and I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for the horror stories I get out of them. Like yesterday, while walking to my birthday dinner, I just started cracking up in the middle of downtown Oakland, fitting in along with all the other cackling crazies.

This is obviously a continuation of my last post–about the same dude. On our final date we were talking about why he couldn’t enjoy intimacy, and in my rolodex of dates from hell, he will forever be the guy who had issues with the demure size and shape of my butt. Not because he doesn’t know how to please women (he doesn’t) or because too much porn has rotted his brain (it has) or because he has a remarkably small penis. (I didn’t want to say this because I try to be a decent human. These are just the facts considering his 5’11” stature. So honestly, I’m just worried about the dimensional logistics of his particular boner requirements.)

And I keep laughing when I think about about how, out of all the body parts I can get insecure about, my butt has never made the list. I’m not immune to the Kardashians or Brazillian booty workouts splashed over every magazine and website, but it just isn’t a huge thing to me (pun intended). And I kind of like to think that all the small-assed, apple-shaped women who came before me and bestowed me my humble but efficient butt are applauding me in their graves. Because they never thought big butts were attractive…”Too sexual…Not classy…Good luck finding pants…” they’d say. And it was one area I didn’t ever get encouraged to feel bad about, which means a lot to me. To each their own, but in this case, I’m into what I have.

Anyway, next on the agenda…first date tonight with a guy I knew from college (who doesn’t remember me). He’s half-Asian and a total cutie in real life, but all his photos online are ones that make him look white. Know that at 8pm, one drink in, I’ll be trying really hard no to bring this up.

Asian Girl Problem #60: Lady Of Marriageble Age

Asians have similar dating rituals as everyone else. But if the parents are ever involved, you know it’s going to make for an experience that’s bizarre, awkward or worse.

I learned about the birds and the bees through a combination of inner-city kids at school, my older cousin and the internet. My parents did not mention anything, just scolded me when I watched teen shows or put a basketball under my shirt to make believe I was pregnant.

Things get messier  when grandparents become involved. My grandpa made me promise that I wouldn’t have a boyfriend until I was 20, or get married until I was 25. Luckily, at the time I already knew about the fine art of placating old people. I figured that by the time I was 15, I’d be all that and with a ton of male suitors.

Fast forward to age 25, when I’m no closer to finding anything resembling love. Family and friends don’t harass me a ton, but I know they all ask my mother when I’m not in the room. And when we go to gatherings, there is often conveniently a single Chinese male I’m supposed to meet. This happened on Thanksgiving, when a family with a son in med school invited my parents and some other friends for dinner. Sign I’m too old to be single: I actually looked forward to this. My mom and I even shared a crassly heartwarming moment:

“I’m excited to meet him.”
“Although, looking at his parents…you can’t expect too much.”
“You never know–raised on good American nutrition…”

To my luck, I got a twofer that day, him and his friend. And though obvious there would be no love connection, it was great to talk to kids my age instead of the younger kids I’m usually stuck entertaining. One of my favorite parts was reflecting on quintessentially Asian experiences with these strangers. Like whether our parents knew what “porn” meant, or how they answered the “How are babies born?” question from our youths:

“My parents told me babies come from the government.” (hooray communist China)
“My parents said they prayed for me.” (sure, blame God.)
“Mine said she hoped and thought about it really hard.” (laziest answer courtesy of my mom)

I had a good time and my new friends went back to whatever other states they’re going to school in. But the best part is, no matter how platonic my friendships with guys are, my mom will always be convinced that they’ve fallen in love with me. And that’s one lie I do appreciate.

Asian Girl Problem #45: How I Feel When I Read Articles on Chinese Women by White Men

I never expected I’d find an online magazine that consistently holds my interest every day without fail, but Aeon Magazine has done that. This morning, I read today’s article in bed, as usual. A piece on the mistresses of powerful men in China.

Unlike most of Aeon’s articles, this one’s a quick read. It doesn’t back itself up with much research, relying on a handful of interviews with “mistresses,” and briefly skims the surface on the current socioeconomic and gender conditions that contribute to the increasingly publicized cases of ernai.

I’m a sucker for slice of life stories, especially when they try to help foreigners (including myself here) understand China. But aside from this, I didn’t feel like I learned anything from this article. There was barely anything about Chinese history or government or culture that added depth to the conversation. The author could’ve been talking about any country when he explains the roles of these women, the power/wealth imbalance, and their lifestyles.

And as for the lighthearted tone he takes at the end, while implying that this topic is losing its taboo and becoming prevalent among young women, every personal experience I’ve had proves otherwise. The Confucian teachings of honor and modesty and fidelity run deep in Chinese culture, and it is not ok to wave your ernai status around. As the article implies, slut shaming is huge. These aren’t geisha. And I didn’t appreciate the implication that these mistresses seem to be taking over major cities in droves, airing their dirty laundry, or that having mistresses is suddenly a novel trend.

So since it was barely informative about Chinese culture, the male/female dynamics in this article stood out to me most. They were the parts I couldn’t shake all day. The things that I think all women experience to some degree on a regular basis.

– First, the article is written by a man. An upstanding man who’s probably more familiar with China than me, but still. With so many sex work related documentaries and articles created by men, it’s hard not to see it as another form of exploitation of these women.

– “A study by the Crisis Management Centre at Renmin University in Beijing, published this January, showed that 95 per cent of corrupt officials had illicit affairs, usually paid for, and 60 per cent of them had kept a mistress.” I hate vague stats like this. What time period are we talking about? Who’s considered a “corrupt official”? How do you conduct such a study?

– “An enormous amount of off-book money sloshes around Chinese business and officialdom, and some of it runs into handbags.” The article constantly focuses on the material items these girls receive. The author makes no attempt at distinguishing them from one another, and their sole interest and gain seems to be in looking stylish. It just shows that he didn’t or couldn’t get to know them past the point of their physical appearance.

– “Shanshan got bored and decided to improve her scant English by finding a ‘language-exchange partner’ online, which is how she and I became friends this spring.” Ha! Ha.

– “In their private pictures, the girls look all of 14, while the men play alongside them in childish games or make faces at the camera.” I spend a lot of time thinking about how much better it’d be if each of these men went home and hung out with their actual kids.

– “it’s true that Chinese culture has rarely paid even lip service to ideas of male fidelity.” No, they’ve paid more lip service than any other culture I know.

– “True, they live off dirty money: the cash conjured up by their lovers is frequently drained from the public treasury, or extorted in bribes from others. But so do hotels, luxury goods stores, estate agents, and the millions of others in China and the West happy to profit from the consumption habits of China’s elite.” We’re talking about selling a body versus selling a house, not about where the money’s from. Did this guy forget his thesis?

Am I sensitive to the topic, or were these huge weaknesses of this article?