Letter to China Wife
Let’s face it. After much thought and consideration, I’ve concluded Me and China Girl are not fit for each other. I’ve written about this before(somewhere deep in the blog, I know not where), but all I can say is that experience tells me so.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe I’m simply blinded by the fact I’m with an old school, spoiled and very much self entitled China Woman. Someone who freely admits “I’m glad I grew up without siblings, that way I got everything I wanted in life.”
I sit in a parking lot as I write this. I have a two hour wait ahead of me. I’ve just driven my daughter 25 miles to a Saturday SAT class. Yes, she is now preparing(yet again) for a test still two years off in the distance. Yet while I want my daughter to exceed and do well, will I really be upset if I can avoid paying $45,000 a year in out of state tuition?
I know which questions not to ask(“are there any white kids in the class?”)
Instead I go the surreptitious route:
“All Indians and Chinese, eh?”
“No Dad, just Chinese.”
I cringe at China Wife’s incessant efforts at fitting a square peg into a round hole which is my way of describing how China Wife tries to raise our daughter.
It’s hard being the offspring of a Chinese Mom.
You see, China Wife’s high school was and is different from yours and mine.
China Wife didn’t have a Homecoming Game. Nope, didn’t have that Homecoming Dance either.
(You can guess there was certainly no Homecoming King and Queen, right?)
China Wife’s high school is surrounded by a wall and guards, like all schools in China are. There was no Spirit Day. No “Gear” to buy. You take a test, and hope you simply get into the high school your parents want you to go to. Then you study four years for the GaoKao. That’s it.
No pep rallies. No clubs.
In short, there is no “high school experience” in China. Rather, it is a drab and dreary existence. Sky blue sweat pants and a white shirt. Sucks up get a red scarf.
But back to Me.
I wonder yet again and surely not for the last time am I in this position because of weakness? Lack of fortitude and mental toughness? I freely admit I am in this position because I want to be around my kids as much as possible, and like living in my big house thank you very much. I lack the courage to do anything else. And I marvel at those Men willing to walk away from the above. I’m just not there yet, and I don’t know when I will be. Tomorrow? No. 6 months from now? Who knows?
I live with a China Woman that has pretty much renounced sex. Which is unfair because she’s still young and seems to like it whenever she falls into having it.
But I’ve digressed.
I’ve yet again come to the conclusion I’m simply not fit for this job. The job of Husband of Tiger Mom. I don’t like this aspect of China’s culture. As this post rolls into Sunday it is not an hour ago I saw my Father in law non chalantly kill a turtle on our kitchen floor. He simply stepped on it. Turtle Soup Night, you see.
Please, must we kill things in the house?
(Turns out it wasn’t very good. China Wife complained the turtle was too old. They bought it for $10 at the Chinese market.)
I’m simply not built to handle the way of thinking that pervades the inner reaches of my realm. But China Wife’s friends are worse. One attractive woman actually sent her kid to SAT class for 6 hours a day during the summer. As a sophomore! And he nearly got a perfect score. I look at him, then my daughter, and I gasp.
I’ve been writing this blog for 5 years now(?). I’m surprised myself I haven’t ran out of topics to talk about. Yeah my writing is far and few between, but my posts longer. (so there!) But I don’t think I’ve spent as much time on this topic as it deserves.
When it comes to living within the Chinese community I find I’m the square peg in the round hole. Like I’ve said in the past, the Chinese here don’t want to “hear” what I have to say. If forced, Chinese want to talk to people that have never been to China. Easier to control the narrative. They run away from jaded laowai such as myself.
They disdain the fact I speak Chinese. They disdain my knowledge of them. They approach me differently. Warily. China Wife has begged me not to go to dinner parties with her.
(“You mean I have to stay home alone and watch Netflix? And not pretend to be interested in
talking to your boring friends? Well…..ok!”)
It’s gotten to the point where I’m having to constantly coach my children on how to approach China Mom. Why is that?
Because China Wife had no fucking clue on how to approach her own kids! Note to China Wife: as long as you use the same approach for each child you will have problems.
I know I can’t win. All I can do is skillfully retreat, as quickly and silently as possible. I’m good at that. The latest blowup I could hear all the way from the backyard.
This time China Mother in Law witnessed the entire exchange between daughter and China Wife. How did China MIL explain China Wife’s screaming at her daughter?
“She screams at you because she loves you.”
The Chinese have taken full measure of the West. They see old buildings and ancient church steeples in Europe and think “how quaint”. They see large cities in America(Houston and Atlanta come to mind) with their handful of tall buildings and they think “is this it?”.
“Is this what the greatest nation in the world really looks like? Seriously?”
(It is as this point one learns to read minds….”We can bully this country, too.”)
“Why doesn’t every city have a subway?”
“Why aren’t there 100 story buildings in Los Angeles or San Francisco?”
The Chinese are simplistic and cosmetic. (“You’re rich. Let’s get married!”)
I’m constantly reminded of who’s child went to Harvard, or which family bought the new house in the new development. My subdivision has 3 Harvard kids by the way(read it and weep!) I hear rumors about “who stole money from China?”. etc. I hear it all. Sometimes I think I probably just married the crazy one. And there’s a point to that. Believe it or not, some Chinese parents are perfectly content to let their kids go to a local state school. But we are not. And from that, everything trickles down.
Still I’m tired of the judging. And I’m tired of the neverending comparisons. My family’s background compared to another family’s background. It irritates China Wife she cannot brag about my family. Married to China Wife is simply not fun. It’s work. The Fontenot Household breathes heavily with the expectations of success. All I can say is sorry dear, this is not the Kennedy Household cum 1938.
The focus is on attainment of material things, rather than happiness and contentment. The bigger house and the newer car. The constant aspiration for new things. Ensure their daughters marry a rich Chinese Boy of another Tiger Mom. On and on and on.
My biggest struggle is just ensuring I’m in the room to make a counterpoint.
“Now remember, you want to marry a rich man.”
“No you don’t, you want to marry someone based off compatibility, not wealth.”
“You need to work harder!”
“You need to work smarter.”
Finally, China Wife turns and glares:
“You need to support everything I say to our children.”
“You can’t raise them through brute force. Each child is different.”
In the Chinese mind, you can raise them through brute force. All children are obedient. The more obedient, the easier to mold. Nevermind how they look at 25. Stoic, exhausted and confused.
As for China Wife, it is simple; material things, new things…..these all lead to happiness. The spiritual? It cannot be seen, and cannot be measured against one’s peers. Thus is of no value. The Chinese do not ponder. They do not reflect. Rather, they gawk, and whisper.
They tell their children the goal of life is to attain nice… stuff. Yet wonder why their children are successful yet eventually unhappy? Yet completely miss the boat on the emotional fulfillment side of things. We as parents need to ensure our children are emotionally able to cope with life. My chief job is to prepare my own children for failure. It will come. Not everyone with a great SAT score will go to Harvard. When the kids of China Mom get that rejection letter how will they respond? Will they fall apart and lock themselves in their room for days on end, full of shame and inadequacy?
When one has never grown up in a country with Japanese cars, the unrelenting pursuit of happiness does indeed go through your local Lexus dealer . It is the greatest of ironies that my biggest struggle with China Wife, with China Culture is that despite a 5000 year history(haven’t you heard?) I find the average Chinese still struggles on a daily basis with a sense of sophistication and context, ie Houston and Atlanta don’t have a lot of skyscrapers because all financial decisions are made locally, and well, the numbers need to make sense. That doesn’t make those cities poor, or backward, just fiscally sound.
Rather, I find Chinese Culture is still and will be for quite a while an artificial pursuit of happiness.
But maybe, just maybe I’m missing something?
In a land where there is no vote. No ability to own property, and criminally high import taxes on luxury vehicles, could it be that once Chinese go abroad those are precisely the things they pursue?
The first stage of development is the material worship of goods? That “keeping up with the Joneses” is actually normal?”
The flaunting of wealth amongst the Chinese is unavoidable where I live. Not all Chinese are this way, mind you. But enough to convince me to “skip” the newest home warming party.