1 Night in Beijing

that's all it takes

The Prices of Things

When I stepped off the plane into the salty sea air, it seemed as though all my ills were being washed away quite instantly. The fever that began creeping up on my way to the Beijing International Airport, for instance: it suddenly went slinking back into oblivion and we never even got a full-on face-to-face confrontation. Then there was the un-named sensation that had been vibrating through my veins over the past few days, weeks even, sharp and stinging at the beginning but later on a dull background presence mostly, mostly except for a few unpredictable paralyzing moments, well maybe that didn’t completely go away but let’s say it went into the back room to take a nap. People like to say that you can’t run away from yourself, but my suspicion is that those people just didn’t run far enough. There seem to be lots of places in the world where you can just tuck yourself away, mostly of them easily reachable with an American passport and a Visa/Mastercard, but most people just go to their grandma’s for the weekend or something. They’re cowards, really. You can’t try to start over and still hold on to some of the old stuff, the stuff you like. It’s all or nothing. I had decided to put my all bets on nothing.

To start things off, I had rented a room in a tree house on top of the hill overlooking the bay. From the balcony doors of my room, I could see all the way to Rangitoto Island, a big flat volcanic island with a little pointy nipple of a crater. My landlord, who occupied the master bedroom loft on the other side of the house, had felt a bit sorry for me showing up from the airport with my suitcase and clutching a laundry bag full of dirty clothes that I didn’t have time to wash before I left, so he lent me an air mattress, two pillows and a set of sheets. I set these up right next to the balcony which opened up with big glass doors from floor to ceiling, and in the morning I opened my eyes to a bright orange sun rising up over the tip of Rangitoto, thin rays of sunlight flattening themselves out on the palm leaves of the hills below before turning lighter and lighter shades of yellow, and finally white. The mornings here are cold. I lay in bed huddled in my fleece jacket and a borrowed blanket until the sun got hot.

Browns Bay is a little beachside town in the suburbs of Auckland, where all of its cafes, groceries, bookshops, salons, and other commercial offerings are neatly laid out on one little street that runs parallel to the beach. To this day it remains my favorite place in Auckland. It is the kind of place that misunderstood tattooed criminals talk about between shootouts and dream about in their sleep, although usually criminals dream about Mexico because New Zealand is just too damn far and you can’t drive here from across the California border in a beat-up Chevrolet – maybe that takes the romance out of it. Nevertheless, it offers the same attraction that certain people are looking for: a refuge from everything when you’ve got nothing. The beach is long and lonely here, the cliffs dark and the trees solitary. The cafes nearby selling little cakes and coffee are mostly quiet. To the people who came here and stayed, Browns Bay village is a sanctuary; to everybody else, it is simply another small dot on the map with a label.

When the day had settled in, I went into the village to buy some basic things: toothpaste, clothes hangers, flipflops. This is when I learned that the prices of things in New Zealand are decided by monkeys. Hangers cost me $1, flipflops $2, and toothpaste $7. You’ve gotta figure. I got a basic coffee for $4, then a whole pizza for $5. After that I stopped trying to make sense of things. I figured that if I bought enough things, everything will even out in the end.

As I was paying for my coffee, I noticed that the water of the ocean was already lapping at my feet. This is the kind of thing that brings unbelievable joy to everyone but no one ever seeks when looking for happiness. It made me think about all the places where people go looking for happiness: in a man, in a woman, in a paycheck, in a mall or in brick-and-mortar or something on wheels. In so many years I haven’t been able to really grasp what happiness is all about. But now what I felt was joy, which is something different I guess. The kind of joy I felt was a sensation, a physical tingling from inside the skin. Maybe happiness is something more cerebral, more lofty, something conceptual that I don’t really understand and will just toss to the winds for now.

The only thing that separated the street from the sand was a strip of grass on which three big trees grew, their branches fanning out like giant leafy umbrellas over a wooden bench that sat next to the trunk of each tree. I went across the grass and the sand and went to the very edge of the water and from there it seemed that there was no such thing as past or future. I had a tiny flash of remembrance and I felt what it had felt like when I was very young and storybooks told me anything was possible and I believed them. I still believe in storybooks – but for some reasons the stories I read now go in a different direction, they don’t talk about the fantasy of future but of the futility of the past. Sometimes I think about the people who write children’s stories and the people who write stories for adults, and the question I have is this: don’t those who write stories for children have a conscience? Don’t they feel bad about lying to those who don’t know any better? Or: don’t those who write stories for adults have any compassion? Don’t they know that we grown-ups need the lies much more than the children?

Hello again

Man, it has been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. One of the reasons is that I got busy and would have forgotten that it existed but for the periodic comments I receive from a few real readers and a much larger number of people trying to sell me sex toys. The other reason is that I’ve since moved to New Zealand and have been too embarrassed to write about my life there on a blog titled One Night in Beijing. I mean, it just didn’t seem right. There aren’t many similarities between New Zealand and Beijing. In fact, I’d say there are hardly any similarities between New Zealand and Beijing at all, except that the Auckland city center is entirely populated by Chinese people.

Having been in NZ for four months now, I have only ever gotten two types of responses about my move. One is “Lord of the Rings! Cool!” and the other is “OK, but why?” Well yes, yes it does. It looks exactly like Lord of the Rings. Populated by hobbits and everything. What else do you want me to say? It’s middle earth, it’s pretty and all.

The but why question, that’s a bit trickier. It’s even trickier than having no reason, in which case I could just tell people I am an adventurer! A citizen of the world! I don’t need to follow any reason, I follow the call of the wild motherfuckerz! May all creatures beware of my blazing path. But no. There is sort of a reason but the trouble is that it doesn’t seem to bear any logical connection to NZ. Let’s go back in time for a bit and begin with: I met a boy.

Despite meeting none of the local prevailing criteria for attractiveness, despite all of the whining and complaining in the face of utter hopelessness, despite even the derision and snobbishness developed maybe as a defensive mechanism and maybe not, I did meet a boy. It was a strategy I discovered a bit late: catch ‘em right as they step off the plane, before they have even had a choking gulp of the local air, much less a chance to sample the local talents and so on. I know that’s hardly a noble, or sustainable, way to go about things, but I didn’t care and it was a coincidence anyway. I was due to leave China (FOREVER) in a few weeks. It was time to have a little fun.

Sometimes you meet someone and a conversation turns into a night and a night turns into a week and a week turns into a month, then maybe more. That doesn’t happen too often in life. Most of the time, a conversation just seems to take forever, when in reality twenty minutes have barely passed. Anyway, that rarity in life happenstances happened to me. How can you blame me? How many times in life do you like a boy and he likes you back just the same? Not many, in my life anyway.

It began to seem as though my plan to leave China (FOREVER) was flailing. When I like someone, I get determined to make things work no matter how poisonous the well. I’m sure that in some urban dictionary this is the very definition for the term “sucker,” but that’s me. For better or worse, it wasn’t up to me. After a while the boy said to me, “I don’t want things to get too serious. I want to enjoy life.”

We all know what that means. I packed my bags. I was ready to go home, to New York City, to some place where I could feel like I belong, where I could walk the streets and not be a freak, because everyone was a freak there and we all accepted it once and for all when we swore our blood oath to the city. But I remember New York and New York is a complex city. Complexity was making me real tired. The human condition was bringing me down and New York is crawling with the human condition in every nook and cranny. I was beginning to think about simplicity instead. I mean, I didn’t really know what that’s like, but the idea seemed nice.

So you see, in that way, New Zealand isn’t really so random, so out of place in the chronology of my haphazard life. I had merely stumbled into a place where I thought I might recover from all the preceding years. Do some cleansing, inside and out. Try to remember what it must have felt like before I knew the difference between something you can rely on and something you’d have to protect yourself from. That sort of thing.

How to Date

For whatever reason, people are always sending me links to articles  on the Internet like, “Angry Penguin Sex,”  “Day Game,”  and, this was sent to me a while ago but I just recently dug it up during a suicide-inducing effort to clean out my inbox, “How to Date a Wall Street Man.”   I suspect that the real reason I’m the lucky recipient of all these articles is because people are beginning to catch on to the fact that when I’m always like “You guys, I’m too tired/busy/overbooked to come to this party,’ what I’m really doing is cradling Firefox and watching bootleg DVDs of Californication Season 5 (awesome, seriously, watch it ASAP).  Yes I know I should have moved onto Chrome by now, but I haven’t because I have this thing called loyalty.  Or resistance to change, whatever.

Let’s talk about the penguins for just a minute.  In the article it says “Levick also claimed that the penguins, in a complete aberration of nature, had sexual activity for purposes other than reproduction.”  Such animals, these penguins.  In their defense, “a dead penguin, lying with its eyes half-open, is very similar in appearance to a compliant female.”  If that isn’t reasonable doubt right there, I don’t know what is.

WSM get a bad rap.  I get this, because my first instinct after reading this article is to track down this writer woman and smack her silly with my fingers laden with skull rings.  But after some reflection, I realized that WSM just come off as horrible human beings because they’re simple people: wear a suit, make some money, eat a steak, romp with sexy women.  That’s it.  Nothing mind blowing, but it could be worse.  The only thing worse than a really simple man is a really complicated man.

Anyway, because “How to date a WSM” is so utterly useless to most of us stuck here so far from Wall Street, I have decided to use my precious free time wisely by writing an article called “How To Date a Guy Who Came to China Because He Couldn’t Make It On Wall Street.”  Okay, that’s too harsh.  There are some dudes who come to China because they really love it or really care or have real dreams about changing the world or whatever.  If you meet any of these dudes, good for you.  For now I’ll just group all guys into one group called Foreign Dudes In China – FDIC.  (See what I did there? No? Okay.)

What all FDIC do the minute their plane lands in the great PRC is to jump on the first local girl they see.  When they see the next local girl, they immediately abandon the first and jump on the second.  At least this is what I have been able to observe with my own eyes.  Since there is an endless stream of local girls around, I could easily re-title this article to be called “How To Act Like a Local Girl to Attract FDIC.”

1.  Stop eating dinner.  There are some lucky bitches with amazing metabolism all over the world, but China still has a disproportionate number of ultra-skinny women roaming around, and this is because rice, meat, and dinner have been eliminated from their diets.  I know this because I used to work in an organization with like, 2500 local women, and they were constantly walking around fainting.  The first few times this happened, I freaked out and sent them to the hospital immediately, like any concerned and western-trained manager with fainting employees would do.  Every time the medical reports came back the same: the patient suffers from mal-nutrition, a calorie-intake about 1/5 of what it should be, and no protein from a complete lack of a meat in the diet.  I did everything I could do to encourage these girls to eat more at lunch, but they just got nauseous and ended up vomiting in the company bathroom.  After about a month I got used to leaving unconscious bodies strewn about the company hallways.

2.  Act crazy.  Okay, admittedly, crazy is a subjective term.  In all fairness, all the local girls think I’m the crazy one.  Every time I open my mouth and say anything, they just can’t believe it.  One time I told one of the girls that I would like her to be the surrogate mother of my child, and I think she was super offended.  JOKING, you girls.

Seriously, though, most local girls seem to have tons of time to spend on skulking around and jumping out of the bushes.  After hanging out a while with my guy friends, I have seen this in both the figurative and literal sense.  Sometimes you come out of the elevator and it’s like Whoa, here you are…but why?  Sometimes you have to get a second phone number because your first number won’t stop ringing from the same calling source.  I used to always wonder why people think the 100th re-dial would get picked up if 1-99 didn’t.  But then I saw the effect of exhaustion.  Avoiding people is tiring.  Sometimes it’s easier to just keep dragging along.

3.  Stop shaving.  This will be easy to do because the razors and shaving cream in China suck ass.  I have to import my stuff, as anyone who cares about having supple, ingrowns-free skin should.  Waxing is out of the question.  I had once found a spa that offered waxing treatments, in the basement of a hotel, but the day when I would let a Chinese worker pour hot wax onto my naked body is a day that will never come.  Sometimes I have to fly to Hong Kong.  Sometimes I have to fly to LA.  This is just one of those unfortunate circumstances of Beijing life.  But you don’t have to do any of these things if you are willing to localize and fit in.

One time I had to shower in a public bathhouse with 50 naked women soaping up all around me.  This was 2 days after I flew back from one of my LA trips.  It was a weird and uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

4.  Ask the man to pay for your rent.  Disappear from his life preceded by an ultimatum if he doesn’t.  Stalk him endlessly if he silently rejects your ultimatum and accepts your disappearance.

5.  Be completely arbitrary about who you do and don’t have sex with.  I have been in Beijing for over a year now and I’ve been looking like a statistic-possessed addict for a pattern on what type of guys the local women will and will not sleep with.  Fail, you guys.  Playing the roulette in Vegas can guarantee more predictability.  I just have no idea.

6.  Wear heels to the most ridiculous places.  Last summer I went to hike some crazy steep section of the Great Wall.  I was wearing a tshirt, gym shorts and sneakers, and I almost died.  I immediately contracted a fever from the exhaustion and had to sleep the rest of the day off, which I admit was partially my own fault for being crazy out of shape and lazy.  The girl in front of me was wearing a billowing ankle-length dress and 4-inch stilettos.  I have to say, given the circumstances she made it amazingly far before she took off her shoes and did the rest of the hike in her nylon stockings.

7.  Establish intimacy with anyone within 30 seconds.  Growing up in the states, I think my childhood best friend and I made it 10 or 15 years before we ever ventured into a hug.  And we have never, ever, ever held hands.  There have been these strange encounters here where some girl grabs my hand 15 minutes after we’ve met.  Sometimes people put their hands on my thigh during a work meeting.  I don’t want to exhibit intimacy issues or anything, but that is fucking weird.  And I’m just a girl.  I don’t know how these girls establish intimacy with guys in 15 minutes.  But I can kind of guess.

Well, kids, that should be sufficient information to formulate a fool-proof plan.  If that doesn’t work, then something is wrong with you, or the world.

Ice Cream Nazi

Punk had its closing party last night.  Everyone was shocked by the news, but then realized that none of us ever go there.  Sometimes you just can’t get famous until you die.

I stopped by for 6 minutes before the foul odor of foreign men grinding up on local girls became nauseating.  You’ll be excited to know that the stagnant summer heat of Beijing brings this beyond simple urban myth and into a tangible smell.  Goodbye, Punk.  May you be replaced with yet another confectionery shop selling 35-kuai cupcakes.

On the way home I stopped in the convenience store downstairs to grab an ice cream cone to accompany some serious Hulu watching.  This is my trusted method of washing out the nasty after-taste of fake alcohol mixed with low moral character.  My best friend in law school used to say all the time that I have been irrevocably inflicted with low moral character, but I think he was confusing low moral character with low standards for life.  If only he can see me now.

After squeezing past a herd of chain-smoking, middle-aged, wifebeater-donning Chinese men hovering around the entrance, I grabbed a chocolate chip cone and attempted to flee.  As I approached the door, I zeroed in on the narrow opening where I had squeezed in.  This opening immediately became blocked by another middle-aged Chinese man, with a Chinese girl in tow who appeared to be in her early twenties.  In reality, she was probably 42.

Because I was trapped in this single light-bulbed, musty, 15 square meter establishment by bodies, I started sucking on my ice cream cone and listening to their conversation.  They were not at all perturbed by my presence.  This is what I appreciate about the concept of personal space in China.  What might lead to charges in assault and rape on the subway would only be minorly construed as common peasant etiquette in these parts of the world.  I might as well have been a fruitfly to these people.

My ice cream cone made a much bigger impact, however.  The girlwoman’s eyes lit up.  Her acrylic sparkly heels inched toward the freezer box.  Her hands reached for the lid.

Her escort, despite the deceiving nature of his belly bulge and overall jiggliness, moved faster than lightning to block the girlwoman’s access to the contents of the freezer box.

“NO ICE CREAM FOR YOU!!” He commanded in a thick Beijing accent.

It was the ice cream nazi.

Ice cream nazis are all over the place in Beijing.

They come in many, many shapes and forms.   For instance, this freezer-blocking man.

They also come in the form of my well-meaning local female friends.  I remember last year when I first began experiencing the wrath that is summer in Beijing.  For some godforsaken reason, my ex-coworker and I decided to walk to the mall instead of cabbing it.  This immediately led to self-loathing and regret.  Half a block later, I was drowning in my own sweat.  I saw a 7eleven out of the corner of my eye and crawled on in as quickly as I could.

After sticking my head inside the refrigerator for 20 minutes and downing 2 diet cokes, I headed for the cashier to pay for said diet cokes and a liter of water.  On the way to the cashier was the ice cream freezer box.  These 7eleven people are so fucking smart, don’t let their blank stares and inability to calculate simple change fool you.  I opened the lid and reached for a bar of Magnum.  Yes that is what it’s called and it’s damn delicious.

My ex-coworker pulled the exact move as the Chinese man in the scenario above, except with superior speed and precision.

“You will never get married!!”

She slapped my hand away and shooed me towards the cash register.  She did, however, buy an ice cream bar for herself because she is local Chinese and remains the size of my little toe even though she eats a herd of cows every day, deep fried and covered in lard.  I hate her.  I hate her so much.

I had to later sneak into another 7eleven by myself to get my ice cream fix.  I instantly felt guilty and hedonistic.

Which leads me to my final and most persistently annoying version of ice cream nazi.  It comes in the form of immediately wanting to kill myself, while eating ice cream, in the presence of a bunch of people the size of my little toe.

The other day I cleaned out the contents of my closet.  Half of my clothes are labeled XXXXL.  The other half are labeled S.  I think there is no more concise way of describing the sizing discrepancy between China and the U.S.  Even with the XXXXL clothing here, the sleeves curiously and uniformly fall right below my elbows.  My wrists are constantly over-exposed, which feels kind of strange.

Anyway, with all this commotion in the convenience store around the freezer box, somehow all eyes landed on me as the culprit.  Why you gotta come in here and buy ice cream and start all this drama while we are just trying to stand around and expend as few calories as humanly possible while still keeping our arteries flowing, these angry Chinese eyes seemed to say to me.  Without you and your ice cream cone, this poor girl could have gotten in and out with a bottle of green tea that has 8 times the amount of sugar and calories as that stupid ice cream cone.  Go die.

Puffs of smoke clouds circling above my head, I squeezed out of the damn place and went upstairs.  I signed onto Skype and told my friend in Shanghai about this incident, licking off the last remnants of cone crumbs from my hand.

“I haven’t had ice cream in eight years,”  she said to me.

“That is stupid.”  I said to her.

Ice cream in China is too good and too cheap to be wasted for the sake of a smokin’ body.  Even though I don’t understand and am perpetually bitter about Haagen-Dazs prices here, I have tried my best to evolve locally.  Here is a list of Chinese ice creams that I love and keep well-stocked in my freezer whenever I go to Carrefour:

1. 八喜 (Eight Happiness, or Baxy as is the official phonetic English translation) green tea ice cream bar with white chocolate shell.  It’s always been a point of contention whether the white chocolate shell adds to or detracts from the green tea.  My stance is that the idea of white chocolate detracting from anything ever is just plain crazy.  I would eat poo if it was covered in white chocolate.

2. This green bean ice bar.  People are always going on and on about red bean.  You guys, take this from me:  red bean is so, so inferior to green bean.  Red bean is for the masses.  Green bean is for rogue rebels.  Don’t you want to be a rogue rebel?  Yes you do.

3.  This super chinese 老中街冰棒.  It tastes exactly like water and sugar syrup mixed together and frozen in grubby plastic tubs in some shady back hutong.  You cannot get more China than this.  Except the fake version of this, which there is.

 

4.  As mentioned above, Magnum.  Aside from the fact that they are totally super tasty, you cannot but eat things named Magnum.  They come in all sorts of flavors, but my favorite is cappuccino, like the Elva song.  Love should be bitter AND sweet.

 

5.  An oldie but goodie, 雪生.  This is a treat for the ages.  I believe that in ancient martial times, hottie actors like Takeshi Kaneshiro dressed in traditional kungfu garb ate 雪生 as a celebratory treat right after they’ve decapitated the top villain.  Okay, so the photo is not of the actual ice cream, but of cute-ass pillows copying the ice cream.  This is testament to how great the ice cream actually is.  They don’t make pillows of just any ice cream.

6.  This one is kind of an underdog, not because it isn’t awesome, but because it is so common that you can get it everywhere, and as a result I haven’t even learned what it’s called.  I know the name is written on the package but my Chinese-reading faculties never bothered to kick in.  I just know that any freezer box next to any old newspaper stand always has it, unless they were all sold out on account of a busload of freshly arrived peasants.  But don’t let the reputation fool you, it’s crispy rice covered in milk chocolate covered in milk-flavored ice cream and finally encased in a crispy layer of dark dark chocolate.  It is even more awesome than it sounds.

Someone in this cafe just called out “Hey fatty!” and I looked up.  But turns out he wasn’t talking to me, thank god.

Addendum

Part One:

You might recall these words from my last entry: “However, there are other times when we’re just super horny and need to rape some dude, a situation that no one should ever feel bad about.  The problem is, because women are crafty, crafty animals, there is no way for these dumb guys to tell when is what.”

Just about the same time that I was pumping out these words, squinting at my dark kitchen table because now 6 out of 8 of my lightbulbs have given up, my more glamorous friends were wrapping up their night at Spark.  Spark is the best place ever, but only if you have Friends With Tables (FWTs).  FWTs are the most important people you can possibly have in your life, if you live in a big metropolitan city and like to party and stay up nights and drink bottle service, which 99% of the people that I know like to do.  The other 1% stays home and eats instant noodles and listens to Adele and cries over the tragic flaws of fictional characters or something.  That’s exactly what I was doing.

When Spark first opened last fall, it was just too good to be true.  I couldn’t get enough of it, and neither could anybody else.  Luckily for us, it was easy to get.  They made it trendy, sexy, filled it with gorgeous people, blasted good music, there were no lines, coat check was free, entrance was free, and it was open all night, every night.  First we just heard about it and were curious.  Then curiosity got the best of us, and we went for one night, just to try.  Then it soon became two nights, three nights, every week.  Then we keep going because all our friends were doing it, and we didn’t want to be left out.  Before you knew it, we were all there, jumbled up together in a sweaty bunch, losing our senses to it all.  Coincidentally, this is also how they get you with heroin (I heard).

Then, one day, they slapped us in the face.  300 RMB cover??  Overnight?  It was unbelievable.  None of us believed it.  No club in the history of Beijing has ever dared to charge so much.  I used to think even the 100 RMB cover at Xiu was outrageous.  We just stood there in dumbfoundedness until the bouncers shooed us out.  Suddenly it all became clear.  We got swindled.  But it was too late.  I wanted to stomp away and boycott the place for good.  But I didn’t, because I’m a sheep.  Half my friends were already inside with FWTs and the other half were busy going down their iPhone contact lists trying to find FWTs to get inside so we could all be reunited.  I was the only one standing around, fuming and doing nothing, since I have no FWTs.

And then?  And then things got a little better, but I’ll talk about that another time.

Back to my original point.  While my glamorous guy friends were making their exit from Spark that night, a magical thing happened to them.  A trio of drunk and hot girls appeared out of nowhere and threw themselves into the arms of these guys.  Literally.  (There is a lot I can say about drunk and hot girls, but I don’t have to because Kanye wrote a song about it, which you can listen to here if you have VPN like me.  My favorite part is: “Please don’t fall asleep baby we almost back/Please don’t throw up in the car we almost crashed/Oh now you sober, how’d I know you’d say that/You drunk ‘n’ hot girl.”  I used to blast this song on repeat driving back to downtown from Hollywood on early Sunday mornings, eating a very sloppy but very delicious LA ghetto dog in my mini cooper with the sun roofs open.  What, you don’t know what a ghetto dog is?  Your life sucks, seriously.)

Needless to say, these guys were just beyond themselves.  There are a lot of hot girls in Beijing who like to throw themselves all over the place, but it’s not normally done with such precision and ease.  Usually there’s a lot of line-throwing and unsubtle nudging involved, and at least a couple of cocktails.  And while “hot” is sometimes a subjective word, what I was told here was that “every guy would’ve said YES.”

Fortunately or unfortunately, these girls were “saved” by their guy friend, the lone voice of reason in a crowd of rowdy after-Sparkers.  You have to feel bad for this guy.  At 4 in the morning, the poor dude was running around trying to drag three very drunk and very persistent girls out of three different cabs, occupied by three different guys.  No sooner had he managed to drag one girl out from the lap of one guy in the backseat of some stinky cab, than another had gone running into the back of another, even stinkier cab.  The process apparently went on for a while, but you’ll be happy to know that he succeeded in the end.  No help from my friends, I don’t think.

I feel bad for these girls.  Not because they were drunk and slutty and wasting away their good looks on my loser guy friends, although personally I would find way more enterprising and productive ways to utilize the good looks that whatever mighty supreme powers that may be had totally unfairly granted upon them.  But no, I felt bad because they were the victim of the Good Samaritan Curse.  The Good Samaritan Curse is put upon anyone whose compassionate family/friends are trying their bestest to save them.  What the victims are being saved from varies.  Let’s take girl-guy friendships, for instance.  If you’re a fugly girl, your true guy friends will try to whore you out to somebody, anybody as long as it’s not their own buddies, every chance they get.  This is to help you get some and to prevent you from a lonely death, preceded by a dragging, shameful spinster life.  But the real result of this, as we all know, is that you seem like a desperate fugly weirdo to everyone on earth.

But if you’re a hot girl, the Curse comes in to bite you on the ass in other ways.  Actually, hot people are cursed in all sorts of ways, and I feel bad for them all the time.  Aside from the obvious problem of every creep in existence constantly trying to get into your pants, hot looks tend to take over one’s life.  Professionally, this means that when you make it to the top, after years of blood and sweat and tears and whatever, people still make snide comments like, “Who did she sleep with to get this job?”  Jealous, stupid, fugly people who don’t even know anything about anything.  Romantically, it means you tend to attract people who are obsessed with your good looks.  You may or may not have a problem with this.  Additionally, it means after the age of 22 or 23, or sometimes 16, depending on some genetic factors and other external factors, there’s nowhere to go but down and one day you will find yourself surrounded by more snide comments like, “Back in her day, she was so….”  And you’re like 26 and just like, “What, back in my day? WTF??”  Then you end up marrying some loser out of low self-esteem.  Fugly people never have these problems, trust me.  Fugly people just get comments like, “Wow.  How did she manage to survive until now?  What happened to evolution?”

If you’re a hot girl, everyone recognizes that you’re a rare delicate lotus flower that is highly sought-after and must be protected with great chivalry and altruism, but no one recognizes this more intensely than your guy friends.  There has been no greater display of chivalry and altruism in the history of the world than by the guy friends of hot girls (GFOHGs).  (I just finished reading A Very Short History of the World, and it confirms my claims.)  It all goes back to the reason why and manner in which hot girls get guy friends in the first place.  Logically, it makes no sense, because men are men and why would any self-respecting man want to be just friends with a hot girl?  The answer is that many men are not self-respecting.  If I was a man, and some hot girl rejected me and tried to put me on the Friends Ladder.  Oh wait.

There is a prerequisite to this point I’m trying to make, so you must first read The Ladder Theory, especially the Ladder Construction section. If you don’t, you will have no idea what I’m talking about.

"whachoo say, beech?"

So now, if I was a man, and a hot girl rejected me and tried to put me on the Friends Ladder, I would break out my Dave Chappelle voice and say “Heeeelllz NO, bitch!” with this look on my face, and then move 2 inches to the right and hit on the next girl.

But some guys, who have never read The Ladder Theory, or who have read it but failed to internalize it, think that they can somehow make the transition from the Friends Ladder to the Real Ladder.  Sometimes this idea is subconscious, and sometimes it’s not.  What is consistent about these guys is that they never try to make the cross-ladder jump themselves, because they’re afraid of falling into the Abyss of Despair.  Who the hell wants to fall into the Abyss of Despair?  It is in this Abyss that all hopes and dreams are dashed forever and ever.  No one wants this.

Instead, what these GFOHGs think is that if they act like the prince charming that the hot girls never even knew they wanted/needed/cannot live without, then one day these hot girls will come to their senses and invite them over to the Real Ladder.  Or better yet, kick off everyone else on this ladder, and move the ladder over to them.  HAH.  This has never actually happened in the history of the universe.  But one can dream.  While they’re dreaming, these GFOHGs do things like carrying the hot girls’ shit and helping them move and dragging them out of stinky cabs, thinking that one day, when they’re not around, the hot girls would need someone to do these things for them and think of these GFOHGs and then in a moment of sentimentality, move the Real Ladder over to them.  What they do not understand is that hot girls never, ever run out of more GFOHGs, hovering around them all the time like hungry African children hover around blonde people.

At this point, some of you might be thinking, well hey, not all guys are like masochist wimps.  Some GFOHGs are just nice guys who genuinely care in a touching but non-creepy platonic way, who are perfectly normal and some may even have their own girlfriends already.  But you’re wrong, man!  Nice guys who are perfectly normal would not be tagging along with three hot girls at Spark on a Saturday night.  They would be at Spark on Saturday night with their guy buddies, looking for other groups of hot girls to hit on and hopefully not get placed on the Friends Ladder this time.  As for guys with girlfriends, needless to say, if they’re at Spark on a Saturday night with three hot girls who are not their own girlfriends, instead of at home banging their own girlfriends, something is wrong with them.  Duh.  Do not bother me with these elementary questions.

What I’m trying to get at is that, GFOHGs, just give it up.  Do not try to save these hot girls from a life of slutticism and whoredom.  They only have a few more good years left, let them have their fun.

Hot girls, give these poor GFOHGs a break and put them out of their misery.  Seriously.  Just tip the Friends Ladder into the Abyss right now so they can go on with their lives, instead of dedicating their lives to helping you move and stuff.  You can always marry rich and hire movers.

Part Two:

After I wrote the last post, the girl who inspired me to write it in the first place wrote back to me and wants y’all to know that having sex 3 times a week is not a normal rate, that 3 times a day is more like it, and that if I think 3 times a week is acceptable then obviously I have led a sad and sub-par sex life and need to be either enlightened or put to death immediately.  (Paraphrased.)

All The Other Kids

Observe the following scene:

[Late night, CBD apartment, behind a kitchen door kept closed by an obstinate foot (locks don't work in China), keeping out the drunken crowds in the living room and keeping in a few drunken people in the kitchen.  Wait, maybe it was only me that was drunk in the kitchen.  Anyway.]

Me:  Hello, archenemy.  Finally, we meet.  (Do I always speak like this?  No.  But I’d like to.)

Archenemy:  Oh, it’s you.

Me:  Let’s skip the small talk.  Please list your top 10 reasons why you are still a virgin.

AE:  Oh, OK!  I’d love to!

Okay, those weren’t his exact words.  But after I followed him around the kitchen for a little while, he gave in and listed them.  Persistence, you guys, it will always either get you what you want or get you dead.  Sadly, because I was drunk, I woke up the next morning not remembering any of this list.  In fact, I didn’t even remember that we had that conversation.  Or even that we had met.

Fortunately, it turned out that the night before, unbeknownst to myself, I had come bursting out of the kitchen and blabbered parts of this list to some other individuals.  These other people then wanted me to elaborate later on.  I could not, obviously, for reasons said above.  So I obtained AE’s email and asked him to provide a written list.

Here I must interrupt myself and declare my eternal love and admiration for three of my favorite inventions ever: the functions “cut,” “copy,” and “paste.”  It took an eternity for AE to reply to my email.  Technically, it was approximately 20.3 hours.  But it felt like an eternity because my head was hurting so badly.  I thought he had fallen into a ditch and broken his typing fingers.  But then I received his email and realized that, no, he had not fallen into a ditch after all, but had written a novel in response.

Usually, when I’m making an argument against some defenseless, nameless person, I like to paraphrase their point into two or three words, tops, and then go on with my own point at a very lengthy length.  But I could not paraphrase AE’s point, because I’m not sure what his point is.  It was all very confusing and only made my headache worse.  So I copied and pasted it into a pseudo guest entry.  As you can tell, I’m getting very lazy with my entries, using all these cheaters’ tricks like pastes and links and stuff.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m going to sit by idly and just let you guys hear AE’s side of the story.  So I inserted some of my own comments.

AE’s original words in blue, my commentary in black brackets.  Also, because AE likes to write in confusing little circles, I gave his points alternate titles to make them easier to understand.

0. First of all, I am willing to undertake this exercise for its rhetoric merit.  [I do not know what rhetoric merit means, but I like it because it appears to be the reason I got this list in the first place.]  There exists no stance or viewpoint that we are entitled to hold without expectation that we can defend it [unless you're Sarah Palin], and I am eager to do so. That said, I think that the decision not to have sex, as one face on the sex-coin [I wasn't even aware of the existence of this sex-coin, which is clearly my problem in the first place], is not the one that should require justification. To have sex is not some sort of default state from which temporary abstinence is an irrational aberration.  [However, it is the only way to get boys to like you.  In my experience.]  Unless you’re viewing things from some sort of evolutionary, atavistic [I also do not know what this word means.  From now on I will shorten this sentiment with the notation BWICU - big words I can't understand] perspective. In which case, fine, but let’s continue this discussion with clubs and clothed in animal furs.  [Incidentally, wearing animal furs in clubs is now in again.  At least in the clubs I go to.]  Enough of the fancy language, too. [Thank god, because my laptop is old and slow and can't simultaneously run dictionary.com and gmail at any reasonable speed.]

1. But All The Other Kids Are Jumping Off The Sex Bridge  (I want to feel special.)

Let’s start with the silliest. There is just too much gosh darn sex going on these days.  [I would like to know who these people are, having all this sex.  Most people I know are sex-wanters and not sex-havers.  But this could be due to the quality of the crowd I hang out with people willing to hang out with me.]  It would seem that people are having extra-marital sex more frequently and with more partners than ever before. I can’t back this up, though I challenge you to find stats that disprove it (the best I’ve got is this).  [Please click on the link.  That is how you figure out that AE is talking about premarital sex and not extra-marital sex.  This is an important distinction because I don't want people to think I'm pro-home-wrecking, unless the other girl/guy is a total bitch/jerkass, in which case you should of course rescue the object of your desire from a lifetime of domestic misery.]  The age of sex-havers is going down, too; studies in New Haven, Connecticut showed that a not insignificant [linguistics students please take note, this is called a double negative in English.  It has no practical purpose but is a great way to increase word count if you're doing freelance writing and getting paid by the word.] number of sixth graders had already had sex. By sixth grade I barely knew what a pelvis was, much less what I could do with it. [This actually explains a lot.  Equally anonymous studies have shown that once a child falls behind at a young age, he will spend the rest of his life playing catch-up, but failing.]  This isn’t necessarily, a bad thing. But it’s a trend, it’s the thing everyone’s doing. And whether I was raised this way or figured it out on my own, I say let’s take a moment and consider following the crowd, especially when the crowd is very big.  [This is the same stance I took when the iPod first came out.  And then the iPhone.  And then the MacBook Air.  I hate Apple and rail endlessly against them.  However, this is because I cannot afford to buy any of their products, and also/as a result am Apple technology illiterate.  Instead, I am stuck using a bunch of cheap annoying clunky machinery.]

2. What’s So Great About Pleasure (I am a masochist.)

[I actually do not know how to respond to this.  What is so great about pleasure?  Let's all take a second to think about this.  If you can't readily come up with a clear, concise answer, you'd better cut pleasure out of your life before it's too late.]

Might as well ask, then, why is everybody having sex? Well, probably because it feels good.  [And also to get boys to like you.]  And we, as a culture of humans [I thought we were just humans], love things that feel good. We love things that stimulate and titillate and tickle and sooth [but not all at the same time; that would be too much], and we seek them out whenever we can. Explosions in action movies, that buzz off the second [or fifth] cosmopolitan, those bolts of pleasure from a satisfying sexual encounter. Again, not a bad thing, but I believe that we need to be careful about becoming slaves to our enjoyment.  [I agree, slavery is bad.]  There is nothing we should do solely because “it feels good,” and I think allowing ourselves that sort of indulgence (in a general sense) can lead to a bunch of bad habits.  [You hear that, Mr. Holy Grail?  Oh, I haven't introduced you to Mr. HG yet.  Just wait.]

3. This Guy’s Weird (Thoughts on Pleasure)  (I am still a masochist. I am also super emo.)

My thoughts about argument number 2 are…drawn into sharper relief by the fact that I don’t derive an excessive amount of emotional or mental satisfaction or enjoyment from sexual pleasure.  [This is totally unfair.  The rest of us don't derive excessive satisfaction from sex.  The amount of satisfaction that we derive is just right.] I will get hard, I will orgasm, but I’m personally not too thrilled about it. I think this is probably largely a trust issue; I slowly/rarely trust my partners/people in general, and therefore often see any attention my partner pays to me in bed as something they feel compelled to do.  ["You don't really love me.  You're only trying to sleep with me despite my protests because you think you have to."]  And as I’m not into hookups for the obligation of it, that doesn’t really interest me. Even the best blowjob on its own will leave me feeling sort of bored and impatient. The very fact that I’m being sexually pleasured has me mentally less interested. [At least he has this in common with all other men.  Maybe a few minutes prior to all other men, though.]  My penis may be enjoying it, but I’m not really, [disproving the common theory among women that men and their penises are in fact one inseparable entity] so when can I get back to interacting with you instead of watching you, you know, do your thing?  [The simple answer is: when you orgasm.  Or die.]  Of course, we’re talking about sex, but it’s the same thing. Sex supposedly feels better than other forms of sexual expression. Well, okay, but I’m not looking for something that feels better. In fact, I’m sort of avoiding it.

[At this point, you probably think this guy is insane.  But I think he's onto something here.  There are in fact times when I women feel totally obligated to sleep with men, even though we're definitely not in love with them, or don't even know their last names.  However, there are other times when we're just super horny and need to rape some dude, a situation that no one should ever feel bad about.  The problem is, because women are crafty, crafty animals, there is no way for these dumb guys to tell when is what.  I think this at least partially accounts for the problem of the "No means Yes" phenomenon - when confused, just keep insisting.  In light of this terrible dilemma, the only distinction I can recommend is this: whoever is doing all the taking off of clothes is the initiator.  If it's the guy, you're a creep.  If it's the girl, enjoy.]

4. Really Weird (Thoughts on Control)  (I am a control freak.)

What I just said is not how I feel about my partner’s pleasure, I should hope it goes without saying. I want my partner to feel the best she’s ever felt in her life.  [If you're not into/good at sex, your best alternative is to buy her a Louis Vuitton bag.  Limited editions preferred.  This applies generally everywhere, but especially in China.]  And I feel most comfortable when I’m in “control” of myself and, to some extent, the hookup.  [He IS a man!]  By this I don’t mean that I want to be holding the key to the handcuffs. I mean that it’s important to me that my partner is always feeling better than I am, and I can’t guarantee that during the mutual pleasure-platform that is intercourse.  [Oh no wait, spoke too soon.]  And control over myself is a factor, too:one side-effect of pleasure (for most) is the way it takes over your brain, and how great it is to submit yourself to those wonderful nerve firings as they shoot around your brain. [This is the side-effect? What's the main effect?]  Except that I disagree; I’ve never enjoyed any sort of impairment of my mental faculties or any sort of bodily function. In any sort of sex, truly embracing pleasure means releasing control, giving yourself over to another person. But I prefer for my person to stay under the control of my person. Intercourse is a mutual enjoyment, equal footing sort of act. And that worries me.  [That's what the handcuffs are for, silly.]

5. Nihilists in the Bedroom  (I choose nothing over nothing.)

Sex doesn’t mean anything. It’s not a magical shining moment that forever determines the rest of our lives or in any serious way shapes who we are as a person [except for nuns]. For some, sex can mean everything: they may see it as their doorway to adulthood [maybe for guys, but for girls it's menstruation], their first proof of true love [that's LV bags, here in China.  In hippielands like Berkeley, California, it's a seashell you found yourself on a cold windy beach and then wrapped in a paper napkin.], the pinnacle of their self-expression [I always thought it was shoes.  You can tell everything about a person from their shoes, no lie.  Except for really poor people, they have no choice.]. But these are all personal designations, which only further proves that, on its own, sex doesn’t mean anything. But if that’s the case, then not having sex is exactly the same, all things held equal, as having sex. So I might as well not have sex.  [It's this last sentence that lost me.  Let's test this theory by substituting the word "sex" with "ice cream."  If having ice cream is exactly the same as not having ice cream, I might as well not have ice cream.  No, that does not make sense to me.]

6. That Invisible Line  (I avoid change.  Even if the change is from nothing to nothing.)

And while it doesn’t matter, there is a hard and fast line between having had sex and not having had sex. It’s a distinction that, yup, doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a distinction nonetheless. Once I have sex, I forevermore have had sex. If I’m so unsure about all these things, why cross a line from which I can never return? Having never had sex, I can always choose to cross those tracks later. Once I have sex I loose that choice (and that power, and that control). This is also why I’ve never done drugs.

[Lines get such a bad rap.  As someone whose biggest hobby is crossing lines, I'm just going to say a few words in defense of line-crossing.  Granted, line-crossing is not for the faint of heart.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you, and probably will.  You could get fined by the municipal government.  You could step on a landmine and have your limbs blown out.  You could get electrocuted.  Only some of these things have happened to me.  Crossing lines is the single greatest cause of all my regrets in life.  But there's nothing like regret to remind you that you're alive, guys!  I probably have more regrets than anyone else I know, and I feel super alive!  Are you sold yet?  My mom is not.  She thinks I'm super stupid.]

7. The Big Deal  (I am nothing.  Please don’t think that I’m something.)

Also while it doesn’t matter, it does matter. People bundle up so, so much importance into sex even without trying to. I know so, so many people who had their first (or second, or twentieth) sexual encounter entirely of their own volition (this was almost a BWICU, but luckily I took a Criminal Law class and learned what it means.  Or at least I think I know what it means, and it might not be the same thing that AE thinks it means) and only afterward realized (and sometimes during) that they regretted it.  [Yup.  So, so many times.]  Sex can be regretful, painful, traumatic. We like to be cool and flippant about it, but that doesn’t mean we’re aloof as we think we are. Which was an absurd thing to think in the first place, given that our bodies are chemically wired to place a lot of importance on sex (for obvious reasons). But if I’m not 100% sure that I’m properly emotionally invested in a partner, why engage in an act that will make her body start pumping out chemicals telling her that I am friggin’ awesome and an important thing to keep around?  [Delusions - the backbone of our will to live.]

8. Those Things Are Bad For You  (I am a bald Canadian Catholic freak.  Or aspire to be.)

http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/chastity.htm

Heh.

[It offends my ego to find myself arguing against a Canadian.  But I will do it anyway.  I will do it by way of repeating a joke that I stole from Mr. Holy Grail (I know, him again), slightly paraphrased.

Once upon a time, there was a dude.  He only drinks beverages from the spot on the cup rim right above the handle.  When people asked him why he kept acting so weird, he replied that he does this because people are dirty and full of disease and the best way to avoid getting other people's dirty diseases is to drink only from this spot, where other people never use because it's so inconvenient and weird.

One day, Mr. Weirdo saw another man doing the exact same thing and got super excited, because he thought he had found Mr. Weirdo Number Two and that they were going to become BFFs.  Brimming with excitement, he tapped dude #2 on the shoulder and asked him, "Hey, do you also drink from that spot because you're trying to avoid other people's dirty diseases?"

Dude #2 said, "Oh no, I'm drinking from this spot because I have a very very dirty disease, highly contagious, and I'm trying to avoid passing it onto others by drinking from a spot where others never touch."

It goes without saying that Dude #1 died from shock and paranoia on the spot.

What is my long-winded, obscure point?  It is that you can get all sorts of terrible diseases from anything!  This joke is especially great because it actually happened to someone I know.  She drank from some dirty ho's cup and got herpes.  Herpes!!  Then her cold sores broke out while giving her boyfriend a blowjob, and now he has herpes too, of the more gross and painful variety.  While this is actually a terrible thing and not funny at all, it goes to prove my point.  You can't win no matter what you do.  Just give it up and enjoy life.]

9. What [Do Any Emotions Whatsoever] Got To Do With It  (I am dead inside.  Why bother.)

When I was younger, I assumed that makeouts were something you did with someone you were dating, emotionally connected to, really super into. Then I had my first make out with a friend, and my second make out with another friend, and I said to myself “well, I guess kissing is just kissing. All the…heavier stuff, that’s what you do with a girlfriend that you’re really committed to.” And then I did all those things with a girl who I wasn’t really committed to, all at her bequest [I don't think this means what he thinks it means, because I looked it up.  Also because I took a class in Wills & Trusts, and I'm assuming this girl wasn't planning to die at the time.], request, and occasionally insistence. And all over my repeated assurance that I wasn’t romantically interested in her. So, I realized, no, you can pretty much do anything sexual you want with anyone and it’s all fine. Or, at least, that’s how society feels about it. So, for the sake of good old fashioned caring, I decided that I might as well leave one holdout for that hookup where I know that I know and trust my partner, when I can tell myself that I know and trust them without worrying that I’m lying to myself. This feeling is different from “love,” mainly because “love” doesn’t exist.  [Oh, crap!]  So maybe the most important reason I don’t have sex is because if no serious emotional commitment is required for most physical encounters, can’t they at least be a solid qualification for sex? Please?  [I'll think about it.  No.]

10. Because Sex Is The Great Corrupter of People and Things  (Sex is evil.)

Seriously, do your research. The Ancient Sumerians knew it [if you have sex, you will no longer be friends with wild animals, and will eventually die] and the Meakambat know it, too  [when one man has sex, other men not having sex tend to get pissed off.  Then sorcery begins.].

[People love to talk about the root of all evil.  Money, envy, sex, greed, fear, television, Grand Theft Auto, rap music, gluten, you name it.  The only thing I've learned from all this is that evil is everywhere.  You can't beat it.  If you can't beat it, might as well embrace it.  I love gluten, and television too.]

I know it seems like I’m being overly hostile to AE, which even I’ll agree is completely uncalled for.  This post took me forever to write because I kept dropping it to go hang out with people who clearly adopted the direct opposite of AE’s views.  You’d think I’d agree with those people more, but it turns out that I’m agreeable with no one.  This is the first time in my entire life I have ever advocated for a little bit of moderation. Moderation is generally bad and an excuse for the apprehensive, the uncertain, people afraid to go all in.  But seriously, this is getting ridiculous.  Can’t we all be a little bit normal and just have sex like, 3 times a week?

Rose-Colored Promises

One early morning recently, I woke up in a war zone.  Even before I opened my eyes, I could hear the explosions all around me, the long trail of a whistle followed by the excruciating suspense of silence, ending with a BANG!!  This is the end, I thought, sprawled out in bed with pillowcase creases imprinted into my face.  Some country somewhere, probably the Obama Administration, has finally gotten sick of this constant manipulation and bullying from the Chinese Communist Party, and has decided to end the “When And How Is China Going to End The World And Kill Our Soul” debate once and for all.  Either that, or Russia is jealous and pissed and letting us know it.  This is what I get for choosing to pay the exorbitant rent to live near CBD.  If a bomb hits anything, it would be my apartment window.  I could be paying 1/4 of the rent to live in a shack outside the 5th ring or something, and no bomb would ever fall there.  Dear god, if you ever want to show me that you love me, now would be the time.  Actually, if you ever want to prove to me that you in fact exist, now would be the time.

It wasn’t war.  Seconds later my cell phone went off.  It was my mom: Happy Chinese New Year!

You might think this looks all pretty and stuff. But try waking up with your head 20 inches from exploding chemicals at 2AM every day for 15 days straight. NEVER LIVE IN AN APARTMENT WITH AN OPEN COURTYARD (i.e. all apartments in China).

If you think war is scary, I am here to tell you that Chinese New Year celebrations, in actual China, are much, much worse.  (Elsewhere it just means Chinese people gathering together to eat.  Like they do pretty much every other day, except they eat a bit more on certain occasions.)

First, there is the problem of there being nothing to eat.  The lady who makes my dumplings is gone.  The lady who makes my jian bing is gone.  The lady who makes my noodles is gone.  You might be starting to get my drift here.  There is nothing to do except sit in my dusty apartment (the lady who cleans my apartment is also gone) and steep in anger and starvation.  Where is the work ethic?  Where is their sense of responsibility?  Doesn’t anyone care?  What about meeeee?

Okay.  All was not lost.  Every month or so I go to Carrefour and stash about 500 frozen dumplings into my freezer in preparation for exactly this type of culinary disaster.  Unfortunately, bite-sized food is my downfall.  Somehow my brain has convinced itself that bite-sized food is not real food.  Anything bite-sized, I can eat indefinitely and never trigger my stop-eating-or-die sensors.  Suffice it to say that all 500 dumplings were gone quickly.

I did the logical thing and went back to Carrefour to buy some more.  This is when I realized that all the people who make dumplings, freeze them, package them and transport them to Carrefour had also gone the way of the other 1.3 billion people in this country and disappeared into the ether.  I didn’t know what to do.  For the first time since I learned that I can exchange money for ready-made food, instead of learn to cook food for myself, I worried about my livelihood.

Therefore I went to my Married Friends’ house.  I mainly come into contact with four types of people in life: 1) Happily married people; 2) Unhappily married people; 3) People desperate to be married; and 4) Other.  In my more optimistic moments, I like to say that those of us Other are the result of enlightened evolution, having unchained ourselves from the institution of marriage and therefore free to pursue the real pleasures of life.  However, this is mostly bullshit.  Most of those belonging to Other are divorcees.  Some are simply called Men.  The rest have been so burned and scarred from the aftermath of once having belonged to Type 3 that they’re simply seeking refuge in category 4, temporarily or otherwise.  No one knows what the “real pleasures” of life is supposed to mean, so we just hang out in dark bars and drink a lot.

Wait, I don’t really mean to make Others sound so bad.  At least we’re not as bad as types 2 and 3; we’re a much less depressing group to hang out with.  In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that we’re a pretty fun bunch, as most relatively young intoxicated people are.  (Stay away from old intoxicated people.  Oh man, so scary.  When you hit a certain age, you should get your life together and stop drinking.  Otherwise you will end up like Will Ferrell in “Everything Must Go.”)  When we’re tired of drinking, we go to the houses of Type 1 to sober up.  This is where the interesting balances of friendship come into play.

Why single people like to make friends/hang out with unhappily married people:  To reassure ourselves.

Why unhappily married people like to make friends/hang out with single people:  To escape.  Or to reassure themselves.

Why unhappily married people and happily married people hang out with each other:  Does not happen, to my knowledge.  Too painful to watch on both sides.

Why happily married people like to make friends/hang out with single people:  I do not know.  Revive fond memories of their tortured glorious past?  Out of pity?  Maybe it’s really because we’re always willing and able to jump in a cab and come over to eat all their food and watch their television and play their cards.

Why single people like to make friends/hang out with happily married people: To eat all their food and watch their television and play their cards.  Yes, it’s true, we could do these things in our own apartments.  But we don’t like to.  We like to furnish our apartments with neutral-toned modular furniture, but we don’t like to roll around too much in them.  Instead, we find comfort in the broken-in, butt-imprinted furniture of married people.  Why?  It’s like going to our parents’ house for Thanksgiving, except without all the nagging questions.  Just a little bit of the nagging questions.  Broken-in, butt-imprinted furniture vibes out comfort and security.  A false and misleading sense of security it might be, but I always take the bait.

In my simpleton brain, the cost-benefit analysis goes like this:

In my own apartment, I eat almost exclusively this:

Contrary to popular belief, you can, in fact, survive on frozen food.

Every once in a while, when I’m feeling generous, I treat myself to this:

4008 517 517. It is my favorite number, and it should be yours, too.

In my Married Friends’ apartment, I get to eat this:

Chinese New Year Feast: one married couple making food, a bunch of hungry single people sitting around eating their food.

No contest.  Luckily for me, my Married Friends are not only great cooks but generally awesome people as well.  Needless to say, they belong to the exclusive club of the happily married crowd.  This has many many advantages and one ginormous disadvantage for the rest of us.

Advantages:

  • Aforementioned: food, comfort, broken-in furniture.
  • Married people always have electricity.
  • Married people always have hot water.
  • Married people always have toilet paper.
  • Married people always have slippers for you when you come over.
  • Married people always have clean glasses for you when you come over.
  • Married people know where and how to buy things like pillows, comforters, ricemakers, humidifiers, air purifiers, cleaning supplies, bowls, and luggage.  Sometimes they will order these things on Taobao for you if you just leave a pile of cash on their kitchen table.
  • Married people have things like: stuffed animals, board games, mahjong tables, and picture frames.  All the warm fuzzy things in life that say, Hey, we’re not moving around for a while.  Meanwhile my greatest worry in life is, If I buy yet another pair of shoes, will it or will it not fit in one of my two suitcases when it comes time to haul ass out of here, whenever that may be?
  • You can do a lot of extra whining in front of married people.  They will look at you with benevolent pity, as though you’re a mildly retarded child.  Going too far with whining in front of non-married people will get you shunned, because they don’t want your loserishness to rub off on them.
  • Married people can sometimes be a heart-warming reminder that you can genuinely care for another human being without having to go home feeling like a sucker.

Disadvantage:

  • High risk of rose-colored illusions for single people.  Especially Type 3.

My Married Friends are two of the happiest people I know.  They are always running around doing gross things like eating off each other’s plates and saying disgusting things like, “My life is like winning the lottery.”  It sometimes makes me want to choke on my own vomit and die.  Other times it makes me want to write about their story here on this blog, just to balance out my overall negativity.  But they won’t let me do it, because they say I’m too negative and will make their story sound like crap.  Luckily, the Internet allows me to stalk my friends behind their backs, and it turns out that they already wrote their own story and posted it on the wonderful world wide web, saving me all the time and trouble:  The Only Positive Story You’re Likely To Read On My Blog.

Hanging out too much with these people can sometimes mess with your head.  It makes you think that you, like these super lucky people you know, will one day also find someone to go around your apartment and pick up all your snot-filled tissues when you’re sick and crumpled in a bathrobe.  Somebody who will sleep on a KTV couch at 4AM because you still want to sing, even though everyone else has left.  Somebody who will follow you around 15 hotel rooms until you find one you’re kind of okay with, and then listen to you complain about it some more.  And that such one day will come soon.  I can’t even count the number of people who take a look at these Married Friends and then go out to date some loser/bitch/swindler, hoping to turn swine into princes/ses.  Come on, guys.  It is exactly like winning the lottery.  That day may come, but it might not come soon and it will most likely not happen to you.  What I recommend is hanging out with people like me, after which you will be in such low spirits that finding a 5-kuai bill on the street will put you on cloud 9 for the rest of the day.  (I am happy; the jian bing lady is happy; everyone is happy – except the poor sucker who lost his/her 5 kuai.)

Second (I know, you think I forgot all about this whole Chinese New Year post I started writing), you might step on an explosive and die any second.  Or a sizzling fireball might come flying toward your eye out of the dark corner of nowhere.  In Cambodia, hundreds of people every year get their limbs blown out from stepping on a mine somewhere.  This gets tons of international coverage and have loads of people all riled up across the globe, and major de-mining efforts have been undertaken and major progress made in past decades.  In China, though, people embrace loud, dangerous explosions.  It is basically the only fundamental human right they’ve been guaranteed.  I heard that a few years ago, the communist party tried to take away this right, and for once democracy was victorious in Beijing and firecrackers resumed their rallying cry.  This year alone China boasts “more than 11,000 fires during the holiday, killing 40 lives, leaving 37 injured and causing damage of more than 56 million yuan (US$10.8 million),” according to the Ministry of Public Security (this exists?).  “The figure does not include a firecracker-triggered blaze that engulfed a five-star hotel in Shenyang in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, on February 3, causing 3 billion yuan in damage.”  (Source)

Look man.  If a measly firecracker can blow up a five star hotel, my no-star flabby limbs have no chance.  So my advice to you is, during the next Chinese holiday (apparently next Thursday, something something lantern?), when you encounter a scene that looks suspiciously like the one below, run away, not towards.  We are not UNICEF village children; if a photo of our maimed faces appears on the news, people will just laugh at us for stupidity, not send us lunch money for a year.

Remember, in the battle of man vs. fire, fire always wins.

SLM

We hate all the Chinese women, cuz they’re sleazy ho’s who will put out to even an ugly guy if he’s white, and make the men think they’re better than they actually are.

A bit later on, just for emphasis: “I hate Chinese women who are sleazy.  And I hate American men who think they’re the shit.  The end.

American women* in Beijing.  If you think we are a bunch of haters, just because of the above statements that happened to pop up on my Skype window when I put the question out there, you are totally correct.

*Technically speaking, I should include other foreign women to be fair.  However, in truth, European women are not in the same plight as American women, in my humble and biased opinion.  European women find tons of attractive men no matter where they go, because they’re hot and tall and blonde and have sexy accents that are appealing in every corner of the earth (round and cornerless as it may be).  In fact, the existence of European women only makes things worse for all other women, with the narrow exception of maybe Korean women, who are also all hot as hell and insist on being a big problem for all other women on earth.  By a big problem, I mean stiff superficial competition.  The worst kind of competition that you just can’t reason against.  So all you can do is just sit on the sidelines and fume with jealousy and hatred.  More jealousy than hatred, in my case.  Paint me green and call me Envy.

As far as I’m aware, nobody ever talks about the plight of American women in Beijing.  This is mostly because nobody really cares, except American women.  Everyone else is too busy getting all railed up about foreign men exploiting innocent Chinese girls and stealing/tainting them from the Chinese men.  Actually, not even most American women in Beijing care about this.  This is because American women in Beijing can be generally and discriminatorily separated into three categories:

1.  The SOs:  The significant others of expat package recipients.  I don’t know many of these women, because we don’t live/eat/work out in the same places.  I live next to the train tracks and have memorized the morning and evening train schedules by the noise through my window as I wake up and pass out everyday.  These women live in places that have gyms and pools and apartments with not only a washer but also a dryer, and sometimes even an oven.  Dryers and ovens, you guys, this is how the upper classes of Beijing distinguish themselves from the rest of us lowly creatures.  They have courtyards filled with nannies and strollers.  They live in places so far away from the subway station that it would take me a good 30-40 minutes of walking to even reach them, but they don’t mind because they never take the subway (Beijing has a subway? Isn’t it dangerous?).  What I eat for lunch down the street from my building only cost half of the cab fare that it costs them to get to their lunch destination.  Their living room air purifier costs more than my entire month of rent.  It suffices to say that they don’t have the same problems as me.  In fact, I can’t see how they have any problems, but people tell me I only think this way due to my lack of empathy.  Mo money mo problems, Biggie Smalls once rapped, but I still think that’s totally BS.  Prove me wrong by giving me all your money, then.

2. The college girls here to learn Chinese for 1 year:  College girls like to party everywhere, except here in Beijing, it’s college girls on semi-permanent vacation mode.  Think Spring Break in Cancun (yes, like on MTV circa 1996), except the party goes on year-round, the locals peddle iPhone covers with rhinestones plastered all over them with toxic glue instead of shell necklaces, and you can’t swim in the ocean unless you want to travel 4-5 hours on a train and then freeze to death while growing a third arm.  College girls in semi-permanent vacation mode don’t ponder questions like:

  • Is this guy’s name really Bob/Tom/Mike/Dan?
  • If I get drunk(er) and fall down the stairs, is this guy the type of person who will help me up and go find my other shoe, or will he just stand there and laugh at me while taking a video of the whole embarrassing incident and post it on Weixin?
  • Does this guy currently/at any time/will ever have a job?
  • Does this guy already have a girlfriend?
  • Does this guy already have a wife?
  • Did this guy already sleep with all my friends?
  • Did this guy just sleep with all my friends earlier this week?
  • Will this guy call/text/whatsapp/weixin me ever again, except for right now from the other end of the bar asking me if I want to get out of here?

Nope.  College girls mostly ponder the following 2 questions: 1) Is he as cute as I think he is, or is it just this 6th tequila shot kicking in? 2) Will he buy me a 7th tequila shot?

I know this because I, too, was in college once.  I don’t remember most of it, it was so long ago, but the big framed sheet of paper on my mom’s living room wall says so.  Tequila shots may lead to many mistakes, but apparently it will not prevent you from graduating from a popular private liberal arts college.

3. SLM, short for Suckers Like Me.  Why are we here?  Nobody knows, not even ourselves really.  What we say, of course, across dinner banquet tables is that we came wading across the big blue Pacific Ocean to expand our careers, to explore new markets, to broaden our minds while satisfying our thirst for adventure and the road less traveled.  I know you have heard this before, because I probably said this to you last week while guzzling a beer somewhere in a Sanlitun bar.  The gaping holes in this explanation should be immediately apparent to anybody who has actually lived in Beijing.  You mean to say that, we, as foreign women, have come to better position ourselves in a society that is extremely sexist, unapologetically nationalist, where minds could not be more narrowly entrenched, the markets have been exploited by people far more adventurous and farsighted than ourselves for a good 30-40 years, and the road is now only less traveled by those who came, saw, and thought better of it?  Yes, sir.

No one really cares what our lives are like, because our lives are boring.  You don’t have to say it, I’ll say it myself.  About 48 hours after arrival, wide-eyed-ness wears off and our lives become preoccupied with things such as: Finding non-toxic shampoo/toothpaste/anything; figuring out how to get hot water in the shower to run; figuring out how to get a cell phone; figuring out how to pay our cell phone bill; pondering why cabs don’t stop even though the red light is on; pondering what to do when the cab driver doesn’t know how to get to where we live/work/anywhere; pondering what will happen to us in a medical emergency (perish after extended unwitnessed agony, in case you were wondering also); and finding pants will go up higher than my knee.  Sometimes concerned friends call me up and ask me what I have been doing all day – I just copy and paste this paragraph, which is now saved as a Note in my iPhone for convenience of access.

Despite such busy and meaningful lives, we, too, are human.  Every once in a while, we get a bit…restless.  So, after getting off work, sorting out most of the menial hassles of daily life, and guzzling some Costa Coffee, we come out and take a look around.  Then we immediately want to go back home and kill ourselves.  But we don’t, because we can’t get a cab.

This is where I realize that it is incredibly difficult to keep writing this blog without turning into one big living, breathing, typing, vitamin-water drinking cliche.

There is nobody in Beijing for American women to date.  Or even to play with.  Past the age of 22.

Every once in a while, I like to complain about my life to the face of a real human being, instead of the computer screen as is my usual habit.  So I dragged Mr. Gamer out for dessert.

Over ginormous fruit slushies, we each recounted our own problems:

Mr. Gamer:  It’s tricky.  Everyone lives so close together.  I have to wait until one girl goes on vacation, or a business trip or something, before I can have another girl over.

Me:  I feel your pain.  Totally.

Mr. Gamer:  What about you?

Me:  What about me?

Mr. Gamer: There are tons of guys in Beijing.  I see them everywhere.

Me:  They’re all busy scheduling Chinese girls so that they don’t accidentally double-book or overlap.

Mr. Gamer:  Why don’t you just date a Chinese guy?

Me:  Chinese guys don’t like me.

Mr. Gamer:  They’re just intimidated by your intellect.

Me:  They’re not intimidated by my intellect.  They’re intimidated because I’m like a foot taller than most of them and probably weigh 10 kilos more than them too.  They’re afraid that I might accidentally roll over in bed and crush them to death in their sleep.

I think that nicely sums things up.

Fish in a Barrel

The other day I learned the difference between karaoke and KTV in China.  Although these terms are used interchangeably by most people, I suspect for the simple reason that KTV is just easier to pronounce when you live in a place where language is a constant barrier for everybody, there is in fact a difference between the two.  Karaoke is for Chinese people who like to sing, and foreigners who don’t happen to have anything more interesting to do after dinner & drinks than to go listen to their Chinese friends sing.  KTV is where Chinese businessmen go to live the lives they wish they could live everyday if only they didn’t have bothersome technicalities like wives and children.  Occasionally, you also find foreign men at KTVs, who are there with the Chinese businessmen who like to show foreigners that life in China is fabulous and therefore they should invest money in Chinese ventures.  Anyway, that’s what I gleaned from my conversation with Mr. Gamer, who I consider a reliable authority because, up to that point, he was my only authority on this subject.

But anyway.  Talking about scandalous things isn’t as fun as experiencing scandalous things first hand.  This might be the kind of thinking that leads to Sunday news stories about naked bodies with multiple stab wounds found in garbage bins behind greasy restaurants, but I justify myself by self-convincing that I have the brains to outsmart (and the legs to outrun) any devious serial killer lurking around.  This is not actually true:  I still cannot configure iTunes and can barely make one, very slow lap around my apartment building.  But it’s my delusions that string along my will to live, and it’s been a good system thus far.  So it is that one recent Saturday evening, I found myself in a cab with three dudes shuttling towards a “real” KTV on the outskirts of town.  It was all I could do to refrain my hands from clapping with glee.

Behold, my partners in scandal:

1. Mr. Capitalist:  White boy from the U.S., here in China in ubiquitous pursuit of riches and fame.  Maybe just riches.  Calling someone a capitalist in China doesn’t really mean anything – everybody is a capitalist here, whether they intend to be one or not.  I debated amongst several names for this guy, including Mr. Republican, and Mr. Frat Boy, but given that “capitalism” is his motto in life (as well as his favorite word when describing himself), and making money at any and all cost is his singular obsession, I decided that he deserves the name Mr. Capitalist despite the stiff competition against 1,339,724,851 other people in this country.

2. Mr. Chinese Boss:  Mr. Capitalist’s boss.  As you might guess from his title, he is a Chinese guy.  When I say someone is Chinese, it does not mean that someone simply looks and speaks Chinese.  It means that this person is Chinese to his deepest roots, that the Chinese way of thinking, doing, eating and pooping has comprehensively penetrated into every single last cell in his body.  This guy, he is a Chinese boss.  He looks like a Chinese boss.  He talks like a Chinese boss.  He celebrated his birthday with his wife and kids at home with cake and soda immediately before abandoning them to take us to KTV, just like a true Chinese boss would.

3. Mr. Intern:  As the name implies, this guy is Mr. Chinese Boss and Mr. Capitalist’s intern, hailing from an European country that harbors and breeds all the particularly hot men in the world, in my humble opinion anyway.  Mr. Intern isn’t exactly an eyesore himself, if you don’t mind me saying.  Too bad I have morals and am not a pedophile.

How did I get caught up with this particular crowd?  Well, it’s hard to say, exactly.  At the moment of this fateful cab ride, I had known Mr. Capitalist for 6 days, Mr. Intern for 6 hours, and Mr. Chinese Boss for, uh, about 6 minutes.  The simplest way to recap what happened was that I eavesdropped on Mr. Capitalist and Mr. Intern talking about the event, immediately volunteered myself to tag along, and prayed to god they were too nice to say No, which they were (yay!).  And then Mr. Chinese Boss was simply bullied along by the group momentum.  Coincidentally, this is pretty much my only but generally successful method of getting what I want.

When the meter in the cab hit about 45RMB, we reached our destination: a hotel.  I was momentarily confused, not to mention slightly alarmed.  The confusion subsided quickly, however, when we went downstairs to the basement and was immediately greeted by eight busty women in skin-tight green skirt suits bowing and chanting “欢迎光临!” (“Welcome!”).  My bad.  I forgot that the truly awesome Chinese sights are all in the basements.

Our gang of four were quickly hustled into a room.  To an innocent eye, this might look like any other karaoke room, but there are two distinct differences:  1)  It came equipped with its own bar, and bartender/servant/songtress, a.k.a., The Hostess; and 2) It was big enough to seat ten, since, obviously, we’re expecting company.  I settled into a corner chair, ready to be the quiet observer.

“You! You sit in the middle.”  Mr. Chinese Boss ordered, looking directly at me.

Uh…ok.  I moved my ass and sat myself smack inbetween Mr. Capitalist and Mr. Intern.  Okay.  Not bad.  The view is good.  I can dig this.

The company wasted no time.  In the time it took The Hostess to fill two beer glasses, a dozen girls in either red or turquoise glittering gowns had filed into the room and lined themselves up in front of us.  It was pretty dazzling, I won’t lie.  In a different country or setting, I might have expected these girls to be kind of weathered and gross.  But these girls weren’t gross at all.  They were all very young and fresh looking, actually.  Like they were dressed up to go to the prom.  Except dressed in identical gowns, which I guess would be kind of weird for a real prom.  There were two girls at my own prom, 900 years ago, that wore the same dress.  They weren’t friends afterwards.  At least they’re not on Facebook.

I believe it is in these such moments that a guy’s inner inhibitions reveal themselves.  I looked around the room at the three guys present.  Observe:

1. Mr. Chinese Boss – The guy with no inhibitions.

2. Mr. Intern – The guy with some inhibitions probably, but had clearly decided to put them aside for the occasion.

3. Mr. Capitalist – The guy who suddenly looks rather uncomfortable.

Mr. Chinese Boss, true to form, is a very selfless and courteous man.  He insisted that Mr. Intern and Mr. Capitalist pick their girls first.  Mr. Intern and Mr. Capitalist looked from left to right, then from right to left.  Then from left to right.

I decided to make myself useful by making suggestions.  “Fourth from the right! Oh wait, what about second from the left?”  I started belting out.  It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  All the girls stood around looking generally confused and uncomfortable, clearly uncertain of my role in the procedure.

“What’s the difference between the girls in the red dresses and the girls in the blue dresses?”  Mr. Capitalist posed the question.

“The girls in the red can speak some English, the girls in the blue only speak Chinese.”  The Madam answered.

Oh wait, I forgot to mention The Madam.  It appears that wherever you have girls lining up on exhibition, you also inevitably have The Madam.  Otherwise there would be no one around to keep the girls in check, to assuage angry customers (more on this later), and to explain the differences between red and blue (dresses, not pills).  The Madam is an impressive creature.  A forty-something, petite woman, dressed head to toe in black but blinged out equally head to toe, she is everywhere at once and commands authority over just about everybody.  The Madam sat patiently next to Mr. Chinese Boss and listened attentively to his instructions.

Mr. Capitalist and Mr. Intern immediately dismissed all girls in blue and concentrated only on the girls in red.  I found this behavior equally encouraging and befuddling.  Men want to have conversation with girls?  At a KTV?  What could they possibly talk about?

Within minutes, Mr. Intern picked out a girl in red, who stepped out of the lineup and came to sit on his right side.

“You can choose more than one!”  Mr. Chinese Boss clarified helpfully.

“Oh. Uh…” Mr. Intern resumed surveying the lineup.

In the meantime, Mr. Capitalist was sitting rather quietly on the other side of the couch.

“Mr. Capitalist! What about you?”  Inquired Mr. Chinese Boss.

I was equally concerned.  “Dude, are you okay man?  You look kind of…dazed.”

“This is kind of weird.  It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”  Mr. Capitalist finally said.

A real sport, in case you had any doubt.

I don’t know what type of imagery Mr. Capitalist had in his mind when he said that, but this is what I was thinking inside my own eyelids.

Mr. Chinese Boss interpreted this indecisive behavior on Mr. Capitalist’s part as dissatisfaction with the selection.  “Don’t worry, there are more!  Many more!  No need to rush.”  He began to raise his hand in a gesture to dismiss all girls in the room with a wave.

“Wait, wait, okay that one.”  Mr. Capitalist finally picked a girl, also in red.  This did not, however, prevent the next wave from coming in.  Actually, the next 4 waves.

After some serious quality evaluations, the final composition of the room looked like this: 1) Mr. Chinese Boss with 1 blue girl, 2) Mr. Intern with 2 red girls, and 3) Mr. Capitalist with 1 red girl.  Plus The Hostess, and me, the random girl who looks Chinese but runs around yelling things in English.  Yay.  Party on.

This party, like any other party, consisted of several phases.

Phase 1: The Awkward Phase.  No one has had much alcohol yet.  The room is well lit and the conversation is polite.  And limited, because despite The Madam’s claim that the girls in red speak some English, they really…don’t.  Their English level is pretty much at the same level as most other people in China who claim that they know some English, which is to say that they can probably read a master’s thesis but is too shy to say something like “This dress may look hot but is really scratchy inside.”

To fill the awkward silence, I turned to my fallback role of translator/gossip, during which I learned the following about these girls:  They’re incredibly young.  They’re like, 19 years old.  Some of them are in college.  But they can earn anywhere from 600 to 2,000 RMB a night at these places without even going home with anyone!  They don’t have to go home with anyone at all.  They can pick and choose and say No Way in Hell to you (politely of course) if they don’t happen to like you.  They will only go home with you if they think you’re pretty darn cute.  The average turnover time with these girls in these places is about 4-5 days.  I.e., make your buck and run.  I am totally impressed.

I started planning my alternative source of income.

Phase 2: The Everybody Gets Drunk Phase, a.k.a. everybody’s favorite phase.  The beer bottles have now lined all the walls.  Really old American rock music is playing with original sound on.  Mr. Intern and Mr. Capitalist are grinding with each other, and Mr. Chinese Boss plus all the ladies are laughing and clapping encouragingly.  Eventually everybody joins in on the type of dancing you see at the end of a boozy wedding, or a high school dance.  (Young people don’t need booze to party.  Old people do.)  Shirts come off (not mine), cell phone cameras start snapping (mine).  It’s an all around good time.

Some of the other things that happened during this phase:

  • Somebody ate fruit out of somebody else’s underwear.
  • Somebody ate fruit out of somebody else’s mouth.
  • I finally figured out what all the fruit is for.
  • Some of those beer bottles lining the walls got broken.
  • Some goodwill also got broken and The Madam had to come intervene.  Mr. Intern and Mr. Capitalist got nervous that this party might end before its time.  But more fun for everybody, it didn’t.

Phase 3: The Everybody Needs To Take A Break From Being Drunk and Start “Talking” Phase.  At some point Mr. Chinese Boss decided that this party was turning into too much of an American frat party, and not the kind of party he intended on having.  So the music was turned down and the lights came back on, so that everybody could really get to know each other.  I left very soon after this phase started, because I don’t need to get to know everybody that well.

As I finally made my way up the exit stairs (not the same as the entrance stairs, those sneaky tricksters) after navigating my way through throngs of red and turquoise-gowned girls marching in single file inside a ginormous maze of mirrored hallways, a bunch of drunk Chinese guys happened to be making their exit at the same time and apparently took a liking to me.  I stood on the stairs and considered their proposition.  Should I make 2 months worth of rent money within a few hours’ span?  Could I?  Sadly, I could not.  I am doomed to a life of sitting in a cubicle working for The Man and bawling inside every time I have to hand over the rent due every 3 months.

Days later, Mr. Capitalist reported that the girl he picked out of the lineup, the 19-year-old college girl, ended up going home with Mr. Chinese Boss.  Apparently, they will also go home with you if they think you’re pretty darn rich.

Fob Fever

“Excuse me?”

They say curiosity killed the cat.  Well, curiosity would surely have been the death of me if I hadn’t managed to choke out those last bits of Singaporean rice cakes I was busy stuffing my face with in lieu of a proper Thanksgiving dinner.  Granted, it was me that asked the question.  But still, you wait for someone to swallow before you hit them with a verbal bazooka, huh?

Its target victim? Me.

“What the fuck is Fob Fever?”

Fob Fever, in case you have been living in a cave (like me) and didn’t already know, is an evolved version of the now widely-accepted phenomenon known as Yellow Fever.  Except, worse.  Correction, I think it’s worse.  After all, there’s nothing new about sexual discrimination based on skin color.  We all have our fetishes.  I support fetishes.  They make sorting out potential mates a more manageable task.  But as the words themselves suggest, Fob Fever takes things beyond mere skin color.  It has created a whole new dynamic between men and women the world over, and for some of us (ahem), a whole new reason to contemplate that shower rod and just ending it right there.  Just kidding, you guys, this particular opinionist does not, I mean really,  NOT, support those sorts of notions.

Alright, first off, let’s get the thing defined.  Fob Fever is when western men, white or black or ABC or ABK or whatever, go to China and pluck out a wife, or would-be wife, from the local Chinese population.  There you go.  It is not to be confused with the western men who go to China and sleep with every local Chinese chick running around CBD (that would be Central Business District for you non-Beijingers).  The latter is still referred to as whoring in general, or at least as far as I’m aware.  To me, whoring makes perfect sense.  You get it when you can get it.  I get that.  No biggie.

Fob Fever, on the other hand, is a game changer.  Now we’re not just talking about changing the sheets more frequently.  Now we’re talking about relationships and marriage.  These Chinese women have been bred and trained for marriage since the day they were born, and through all those years when we western women were sitting in schools being indoctrinated with ideology such as “Women can be Presidents too!”  How the hell are we supposed to compete?  I mean, now we are stuck with this mentality that we need to be Presidents AND good wives.  But these Chinese girls, they’re just good wives.  It turns out that men may not care so much whether girls become Presidents.  Apparently, only women care about whether girls become Presidents.  Aww, crap.  American education, I tell ya.  It could use some updates.  You hear that, Arne Duncan?

The notion of Fob Fever has been circulating around my crowd since 2006, except I wasn’t aware that it had a name back then.  At the time, I was in grad school and joking with all my nerdy guy friends about how easy it would be if we could just import wives for everybody from China, instead of continuing coerced participation in this endlessly frustrating cat-and-mouse mating game that we like to play so much back in the good old USA.  We had a few solid start-up ideas born from this, more sophisticated versions of the Russian Mail Order Bride business, if you will.  After all, a good idea is only worth what you can capitalize on it, right?  That’s what my boss tells me every morning.  But then finals inevitably rolled around and we stopped hitting Hot Or Not – Asian Edition and hit the books.  I did manage to graduate, by the way.

The idea continued to flutter around in a harmless manner until one day, BAM!, it hit my best friend from grad school, the very same guy who was part of the original Let’s-Make-Money-By-Importing-Wives-From-China! gang.  I was not at all prepared for this.  We had just finished our licensing exams and were shuttling across the globe in busy hedonism, trying to forget the fact that we were doomed to spend the rest of our lives as corporate paper pushers.  At some point my path and that of my BFF’s crossed in Beijing.  No sooner had I set down my suitcase in his living room and eaten 1.5 yang rou shuer’s from the meat peddler downstairs did he break the news to me that he now had a girlfriend.

Needless to say, I was happy for my buddy.  “Well, tell me about her!”

Without going into too much detail, it went something like this:  They met at a mutual friend’s party –> She is shy and bookish –> She cooks and cleans his apt –> She only dates serious marriage prospects = Fast forward, 1 year later, she immigrated to the U.S., they got married, bought a house in the suburbs, and my BFF and I are now trading gchat messages on which family-appropriate SUV he should trade his Audi S5 in for.  The S5 that he went all the way to Germany to get.

No judgment.

If my friend is happy, I am happy for him.  It doesn’t matter if his wife used to call me internationally at work to tell me to stop gchatting with her husband so much.  That’s my tenet of friendship and I’m sticking with it.

Fast forward again, another year and a half later, I’m sitting in Hawker’s Food in Beijing on Thanksgiving and being re-educated on Fob Fever, by my new friend whom I shall refer to only as Mr. Gamer.

Mr. Gamer also hails from the U.S. and we got along instantly on the basis of mutual bluntness.  Despite having a girlfriend back home, he is very open about the, uh, temptation that defines modern Beijing.  I can respect that.  I can even appreciate it.  Whatever the game may be, everybody’s cards are out on the table.  In some ways, I will even say it is highly evolved.  More often than not, each party’s intentions are disclosed and most people walk away with something they want.  That is more than I can say for the majority of other transactions.

What took me a little off guard was Mr. Gamer’s eventual declaration that he met someone.  Yeah, you know what that means.  Having “met someone” means while you’re at a party, instead of looking around the room to see who you can take home for the night, you’re looking at your watch trying to figure out an appropriate time to ditch the crowd so you can go home and get it on with said someone.  While simultaneously texting incessantly to see when said someone will also get home, because, well, as you know getting it on involves more than one person.  Well, in the happier versions, anyway.

“Whoa. WHO?”

It turns out that Mr. Gamer has met Ms. PR.

“And she’s…a local girl?”*

“Yeah…but she’s different.”

Being different is an essential element of Fob Fever.  If anything, it is The Essential Element.  Because no western guy is going to settle down with any local girl he runs into.  What would be the point?  There’s so goddamn many of them.  It is important that the chosen one be different.

This is what being different means:  “She is successful.  She is my own age.  She doesn’t need me for anything.  She doesn’t even cook!  I told her that I might not stay in China for very long, and she says she’s totally OK with that.  Doesn’t that mean something?”

Why yes, yes it does.  It means you have traveled 6,000 miles to finally find a Chinese girl who has somehow been indoctrinated with the same standards as the girls from…back home.  And now you’re contemplating breaking up with your girlfriend from back home to be with a girl in China who have the same qualities as the girls…back home.  Congratulations.  [I didn't say that, though.  I keep some opinions to myself until I can get home and get on the Internet.]

I kept on eating my rice cakes.  A while later the conversation turned onto our mutual friend, Mr. Entertainment, who also happens to have met someone.

Mr. Gamer: “She’s…super Chinese.”

Me: “But he says she’s different!”

Mr. Gamer: “I met her.  He just thinks she’s different.  But that’s just what every guy has to convince himself when he wants to date a local girl.”

Me: “…”

Mr. Gamer: “Yeah, I know.  But Ms. PR really is different.”

*Here I should mention that Fob Fever, when used in Beijing, is something of a misnomer.  Local Chinese girls are not fobs.  They’ve never even been on the boat, if you want to get technical about it.  They’re locals.  Natives.  We’re the fobs.  I am the one who cannot figure out how to pay my cell phone bill.  Or turn on the hot water.  Or how to tell people where I live.  I need a doggie collar with my address inscribed.

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