Saturday, July 12, 2014

A friend of mine who goes all the way back to my University of Chicago days recently asked, in her romantic sort of way, "how did you meet your Chinese wife?" The question seemed fairly simple, but the answer comes only in installments.

When I came to China, I had no expectation to meet a wife, though nearly everyone else I knew expected me to. 

I'd heard too many horror stories about marriages between American men and Chinese women, and too few success stories. None, actually. Not a single story of happy union of the kind, and plenty of stories of unhappy ones.

China is probably the only nation on earth with a stronger sense of so-called "exceptionalism" than the United States. It's right there in the name: Zhong Guo, which means "Middle Country" (though it's often translated "Middle Kingdom"). Another way of describing China, usually used in the context of the realm ruled by China's emperor, is "Everything Under Heaven.” Never mind a century and a half of ignominy at the hands of the yangguizi — literally, "Foreign Devils" — the Chinese still feel their own superiority to everyone else. 

Even people who would give anything to get out of China and go to America, still say "and when I get there, I will find a Chinese girl/man to marry." Their modern, internet mythology abounds with stories of evil foreigners, specifically evil foreign men who come here with bad intentions.

Add to that, the Chinese people are essentially binary: the good ones, I would trust with my life without question. The bad ones would steal the clothes off your back and leave you in the middle of the Gobi Desert. The trouble is, the bad ones vastly outnumber the good ones, and for sheer two-faced manipulativeness those wicked Chinese take second place to no other country I know.

And lastly, I have a certain premise about romantic partners, Garmong's Rule. It's perhaps a brutally cruel rule, but one to which I have never personally encountered an exception. It's definitely a relationship guideline for me, personally.

The rule is this: Any woman who is profoundly alienated from her family is almost certainly too full of conflicting desires, fears, and neediness to make a good romantic partner for me. 

I admit the possibility of exceptions, of course, as there always are with psychological phenomena. And other men may have a higher tolerance for the "issues" that arise in that situation, but it's not for me. I am too trusting a person to be with someone who doesn't trust me, and I've got no interest in entering the swirling eddy of comparisons to her abusive or absentee father — or her controlling mother — or her religious-fanatic aunts and uncles — or whomever she was raised with and hates. I'll support her in her struggles, I'll wish her all the best, but I'll back away from romantic involvement. I'd rather be her best friend than her boyfriend.

I suspect that the same problems arise when a woman is alienated from her culture. She may be right to be alienated — it may be a rotten culture, as China is in so many ways — but unfortunately for her and for any man who chooses to be with her, the penalty for being born in a rotten culture is almost always loose screws deep, deep down in the machinery. I don’t have the patience to spend enough time with a spanner such that I might help her solve all her problems, whereupon my great reward is that I get the same relationship I’d have gotten with an un-conflicted woman. “Issues” girls are clearly not for me.

As I've said, my theory is cruel. But to make of oneself an exception to that rule requires an independence so heroic as to be very nearly legendary. I’ve not yet met that woman.

The Chinese women I've met or heard about who've been specifically seeking foreign husbands, have typically fallen into a very small set of neatly-defined categories.

There are the gold-diggers who associate a white face and a paunchy belly with wealth. I’ve got the paunch and the white face, but I'm fairly safe from that category, because I have no wealth until I get around to inheriting it.

There are the green-card-diggers who see an American husband as a "bridge" — literally the word they use when talking among their Chinese friends — to get the hell out of this country. I can't blame them, but I don't care to let them walk to America across my back in stiletto heels to go find a younger/handsomer/wealthier man.

There are a few devoted Christian Chinese women who associate their religion with the West and so wish to find a foreign Christian who can take them away to a more Christian-friendly country. Of course, these tend to overlap with the two previous categories. Not being a Believer, I regard this type as thrice-over hideous, no matter how pretty they may be.

Then there are a minority of Chinese women who have fallen in love with American culture via TV shows and movies they've downloaded from the internet, and who genuinely respond to the freedom and independence of American people.

This last is the only category that I find plausible, but even those are bound to fall afoul of Garmong's Rule. If she's so enamored of the image of the dashing foreigner, she's very likely alienated from her own home environs. And in that case, whether or not she makes a good friend, she surely can't be a girlfriend. Besides which, I want to be loved as one specific person, not a representative of a category.

Oh, and I'm only attracted to women of intelligence and independent, feisty spirit. No limp noodles or subservient Asian stereotypes for me.

So, for me to have fallen in love with a Chinese woman was statistically all-but impossible. 

I would have to find someone who loves her family and her country, who is essentially well-adjusted, yet independent enough to judge her own country objectively. (Lovers of Ma Ze Dong NOT welcome.) She has to NOT be looking specifically for a foreigner, nor for money, nor for an exit from China. And she has to be a woman of extremely high intelligence and a degree of honesty and integrity that is extraordinarily rare in this largely unethical country.

To find what I wanted would be like threading a needle from ten feet away while Fruit Loops kept trying to intercept my thread. It was, of course, impossible. And yet, it happened.

No comments:

Post a Comment