China Wife and my family's social class

When I first met my wife money in China meant nothing.   Really, it did not.  Rather, who you knew was everything.  One’s position in society.  My wife as most of you know had a father with an important job.

What was his job?

It is hard to explain.  

In the 80’s and into the 90’s many companies were not able to just trade or sell directly into China.   

Rather, they had to go through a Chinese registered middle man.   Back than it was called an import export company.   China had several of these for each province.  In this case, my wife’s father managed all these import export companies for the industry he was assigned to.   That industry was textiles.

As his province could do only so much export business with America, his main responsibility was to decide which silk factories received which orders from American customers.

He was obviously quite the powerful dude.   His wife would eventually spend most of her time trying to get him even further promoted, to no avail.  (“He lacks the charisma”, she was told)

But this post isn’t about him.  Rather, the above is simply to explain the background of my wife.    

Where she came from.

To add further context, my wife as you all know was an only child.   And as you all know was a spoiled little rich girl, with a strong sense of entitlement from an early age.  (If you recall I once mentioned when very young, it was her job to monitor who used the local water well! )

 It is important to note here she was not lonely.  Far from it.  Rather, she grew up liking very much her position as the center of attention and has told me several times how she always opposed her parents having a 2nd child.   In short, selfishness oozed from the pores of my wife from an early age.

Both her parents are college graduates.  Her father was a communist party official.   She had a future.  (And she was beautiful!) Having applied to the Party behind her father’s back, and having been accepted, she was serving a probationary term. 

Then my wife met me.

My family was different.   Very different.

Neither of my parents graduated from high school.   My mother today I am convinced is functionally illiterate.   She recently had a letter returned because neither the postal service(nor I) could read her handwriting on the letter.  I’ve never seen her open a book.   My father in my youth was an alcoholic and had his last job when I was 5.  That is the last age I can recall of him having held a permanent job.   He was a truck driver.   His health than seriously declined and he exited the workforce.  Still, I remember through my early high school years how I always wrote essays of how my goal was to be a truck driver.   

Like most native English speakers, I still have problems with “than” and “then” and “its” and “it’s”,  and as long as I have spellcheck I do not care to spend time differentiating the two.

So what’s my point?  Obviously to highlight the differences in social class between the two of us, and how to this day, this very waking moment, it is a root cause of much of our familial dysfunction.  

Sure, if my family was Chinese we would’ve been stuck on some commune somewhere eating tree bark.

While no society is immune from such a thing, it is the greatest of all ironies that the “Great Proletarian Class” is within itself not only a fantastic lie but also proof that Socialism is far more a textbook fantasy  then a practical reflection of how life is lived in China.  Class matters.  Money matters.  More than in America and probably more than in your country.

And in my marriage, which was before either money or class was so overtly emphasized, it matters even more.

(Or does Social Class within any Asian culture simply matter more than with any other? )

Sometimes it is funny, but frequently it is not; the reason I do things, or the way I am, has absolutely nothing to do with my upbringing, or the consequence of my “poor fortune” of not having a senior government official rather than an unambitious man as my father.

While this should be self evident to all, for some reason it is not obvious to China Wife.   China Wife you see, believes ALL of my shortcomings are directly related to the upbringing I wallowed in for all those years. 

Really, she does. 

And as this belief of hers cannot change, her views are thus set in concrete.

“You smell”(because of your poor upbringing)

“You talk too much”(see above)

“You ask too many personal questions at dinner parties(how long you been married?)” (see above)

“You want too much sex”…..

“Your temper is terrible”…..

And perhaps my all time favorite.

“Why do you not push the kids more???!”  (this can also be interpreted as why do you not either emotionally or verbally abuse our kids?  Afterall, as Stalin surely once said, the means justifies the end!)

“Obviously dear because of my shallow upbringing I never mastered appreciation of either literature or 400 year old music.  However, I swear I will endear myself more to SAT Math and remind myself to tell the children how useless they are until they have done the same…..”

On and on and on.

When my wife and I were married, Hillary Clinton still wore dresses.   Hong Kong was a bridge too far for Chinese, and most of them still openly admitted China was a “backward” country.    港币was the preferred currency in Guangzhou.    My wife and I couldn’t check into a hotel together unless we had our marriage certificate.  

While times have changed though I’m greatly saddened to say my wife’s attitude towards my family simply has not.   When I was young I would consider her insults of my family’s condition as the main reason for my “wrong ways” as simply misguided at worst, amusing at best.  

Slowly over time though I noticed two things:  my wife actually was not just sincere in her criticism but honestly believed what she said.    It was than my thoughts of bemusement faded away.
I began to notice her mother spoke the same way of my family. 

My mother in law has met my family once.   Yet she apparently knows them well enough to form an opinion.   A lasting, permanent opinion.  

Well, my mother in law does not know my family.  She has neither the intention nor inclination to do so, and quite frankly I would prefer she not see them again either.   Rather, social class is what drives her opinion.  Nothing else.  And without question China Wife has learned the same.

I remember once when we were in University.  China Wife had just come back from taking a whole series of pictures with a group of other students from her province.  A memory keepsake if you will.

I asked China Wife if she would keep in touch with these same fellow classmates from the same province.  She did not miss a beat.  She simply replied without hesitation,

"Of course not.  They are from the countryside and I am from the city."

I pushed her on her answer.  After all, wasn't everyone now a college graduate of equal status?

Not to her.  She insisted again to me, with the same carefree smile on her face,

"They are peasants."

Class in China has never went away.   In the past it was simple:  urban vs rural.  My wife's best friend married a peasant.   Her parents disapproved of the marriage for that very same reason.  

Today it is money vs no money.   Very black and white and very predictable. 

While self entitlement oozes from my wife’s pores, the least desired trait Chinese women desire in a man oozes from mine: self-confidence.

I could sit you down, perhaps even write a book about why Chinese Men “fuck around” like they do.  I could tell you the stories of beautiful young Chinese women inviting me to their table in a club only for me to be greeted by the 60 year old men who brought them there. 

But as time is scarce let’s keep this short and sweet shall we?  China Man “fucks around” because his wife is on an unending quest to verbally, emotionally, squeeze every drop of self respect and personal dignity out of him.  To make him feel inadequate.  Useless.  China Man in short finds comfort, solace, self respect even, in a mistress more so than in a wife.   There.  One very short paragraph.   

(Let’s move on.)

Self-confidence:  I can’t explain why I have it.  I just do.  (I have the self-confidence to write this.) 
One may not be born with it, but over time if it is meant to be, one just develops it.   Like I believe people are born with one sexual orientation or another, I believe people are born either with or without confidence.  If you have to “develop” it, well than, that’s the “long road out of Eden”.

My self-confidence drives my wife nuts.   She nearly wants to froth at the mouth.  Her crazy comments and mindless sighs at how I’ve failed to meet up to her expectations go right through me and wound somebody else.     My immunity to her verbal insults drives her nuts.  I have mastered the “walk away into the basement” with the door closing behind me while she is in mid sentence quite well.  

Why respond?

I have my wine, my almonds and Netflix waiting for me. 

And if it is a weekend I will still have a 50-50 chance of getting laid.

My self-confidence is just fine, thank you.

Until China Wife brings up poor old dad…..or even poor old mom.

Sometimes I think her endless insults at my family are meant more to “break me” than anything else.  The way a drill sergeant perhaps is meant to break a new recruit.  

But the problem with self-confidence is simple:  self-confident people are more self-righteous.  
Oh but for self-righteousness.   Like nothing good ever happens after midnight when alcohol is involved, nothing good comes from self-righteousness. 

One day I finally had to stop in my tracks.  I just figured enough was enough.
Not trying to sound apologetic, while acknowledging her point, 

“You know, I can’t choose my parents”, I began.

“I wish you would realize that and move on.”

Is it common for one’s parents to be brought up so negatively as mine are in a normal marriage?  I dunno.   Methinks ordinary Western marriages are not this way though.

The older I get the more I find myself becoming angry however at the silliness of it all.   To me, this is nothing more than another glaring example of the lack of Chinese’ EQ.    Solve an algebraic equation in under 15 seconds?  Done.  Know enough that endlessly criticizing the parents of your spouse in a mocking condescending fashion is bad form?   Nope.

(My wife did have the common sense not to go after my late grandmother though.  That would’ve meant violence. )

Understand that certain things cannot be said in front of the children?  (Can’t say that she does.)

I keep waiting for the insults of my family from China Wife to stop.  Particularly in front of the kids.  But I’m not holding my breath.  That would be a long wait.


  1. I could sit you down, perhaps even write a book about why Chinese Men “fuck around” like they do. I could tell you the stories of beautiful young Chinese women inviting me to their table in a club only for me to be greeted by the 60 year old men who brought them there.

    Your should write a book, or at least a long post....

    1. Haha yeah, but than I'd be like everybody else! Laowai and Chinese girls in China....its all part of the reality, and to ignore that reality is to be dishonest. Quite frankly its still something I'm tossing around in my mind.

  2. Very ironic if you are getting criticised by Chinese at dinner parties for asking personal questions!

    You share a lot on your blog about your issues with your wife. I don't know how you have the patience, but fair play to you. How about a post about what attracted you to your wife in the first place? I don't mean her looks, I mean her personality. Was she a lot sweeter when younger or has she always been the same?

  3. Ok, Mersault, I'll write a post on that. I'll write a post on the whole damn thing.
    BTW, I was in London a week ago. Chinatown was very hard to find. When I asked the bobbie for directions his response was "you got me on that one"!

  4. It is my understanding that when a woman has lost an argument, she will continue on fighting by not pressing the issue but instead by targeting our pain points. In your case, she has found your pain point is your family, and so she keeps hitting there just as you described, to drill through you and get a reaction so she can "win", start crying, make you apologize, and so on.

  5. As I think I mentioned, I was bemused by it all, as it seemed so childish to attack my family. Afterall, I can't choose who my parents are, right? Than I noticed her mom is the same way. I've never been married to an American woman, but I have to assume they may not attack the husband's family as ruthlessly as mine has. I should probably write a post someday about every little disagreement coming down to a "look at your parents" comment.


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