"America's too tough for me"

It’s hard being an only child from China living in America.  The daughter of a very high ranking government official and a mom that judges her son in law purely on how much he makes and the background of his parents.    You’d think China Wife grew up a tad lonely, no? 


If you remember, China Wife had no regrets growing up an only child.  She got everything she wanted, she claimed.

And now she’s in America, caught up in a very large sea of other Chinese, flotsam all, in what is the most ethnic country in the history of mankind.   America has more immigrants per percentage of population than ever before. 

The downside?

China Wife has gone from being a “somebody” in China to being a “nobody” here.   Like many, many others, I’m sure it’s taken a lot to get used to.

But this is no country for China Wife.  Here she must work a so-so job, for a boss with half her talent, who’s never been to China and has no interest of ever going to China.  On top of that her luxury Japanese car has 60,000 miles on it and well, needs a damn tuneup.   And she’s tired of seeing all the new houses with their 3 car garages being bought up by Indians and nouveau riche Chinese that haven’t had to endure half of what she has gone through.  

And yeah, she resents it.  Really, really resents it.  She told me the other day the reason Indians are able to buy all the new houses going up around town is “the husband is in IT and the wife is a doctor”, whereas the “Chinese husband is an engineer and the wife nothing”.

This rivalry between the Chinese and Indian’s in my community is amusing.  Yet one thing I’ve learned time and time again is that it’s not People that cause wars but Presidents and Prime Ministers and TV cameras that egg them on.   And the Chinese and Indian’s are just as friendly towards each other as to everyone else.  There is a sense of community.  That is, a feeling “we are all foreigners in a land where for some reason we don’t feel like foreigners”.

Yet the Chinese are different here.  They stand out.  Thanks to Britain (a bit tongue in cheek), the Indian’s here in America, those I’ve come across all speak perfect English.  I think the average American feels much closer to them than to the average Chinese.   And we “gasp” at the same things. 

An Indian mother I met recently in a nice neighborhood told me with a look of surprise and disbelief that the house across the street from hers had been bought and paid for in cash by a young Chinese college student.  The cost of the house was $800,000.   And on top of that he had 3 German cars in his driveway.

This Indian mom was just astounded that this was possible. 

“We see the parents once a year”, she said.

But for us it was just par for the course.  

The problem is China Wife hears more of these stories and without end wistfully imagines “what could have been”.   Like many of those that came here a decade or two decades ago, they have a great feeling of having “missed out” on the riches to be made in China.

And for China Wife, I fear this is a feeling she will always have.   In the view of her parents, she is a child with no face.  No wealthy husband, no inlaws to brag about.  I sense her sense of disappointment and regret every day.

And I can care less. 

(I don’t give a moment’s fuck about her regrets and pretend no sympathy for her.  But perhaps that’s another post I’ll never write about. )

On top of this is what she calls the “toughness” of America society.   With which I both sympathize and tend to agree.   To a point.

You see, China Wife wants to quit her job….again.   And it’s put me in a bit of a bind.  As a family, we’re staring nearly a decade of college tuition in the face and all China Wife wants to do is quit her job and “relax”.  

I remember a decade ago I was walking my infant daughter around our subdivision. We had a female neighbor with a teenage daughter that rarely spoke to us.  On this particular day she was out mowing her yard.  Suddenly as I passed her house she muttered without looking at me, over the sound of her mower something to the effect,

“Your wife is lucky she doesn’t have to work like I do”…..the resentment if not downright condescension this lady held for my wife was more than palpable.  The comment was unprovoked, but obviously something she had wanted to say for quite some time.

She later sold her house and moved to a condo.

I reminded China Wife that her comments about wanting “to relax” would be hissed and booed by about a hundred million American women forced to work, if only because life at home would feel too unproductive.

My sister would surely be one of them hissing at China Wife.  

My sister had become pregnant from her boyfriend while I was still in college.  Forced to marry, they had yet another son, then one day while both boys were just toddlers she decided she just didn’t “love her husband anymore”.  The husband was shocked.   My sister kept the house and both boys and suddenly was on her own.   She lost the house and couldn’t pay her student loans and declared bankruptcy.  

Did she bring it on herself?  Maybe.  China Wife thinks so, as would probably many a Chinese female in China.   

But I do know this;  many a woman in America today would resent the attitude China Wife has today towards work in America.   Maybe China Wife simply got unlucky, and I lean towards the fact she probably did.  In her own way, she is an extremely hard working individual.  She always goes to bed later than I, and gets by on less sleep.   In her own way, she is efficient and caring.  And the results speak for themselves.  

I’m certainly not the reason my youngest daughter is first chair, second violin in her grade at the moment.  China Wife is.   I’m not the reason my children are in advanced math classes; China Wife is.   And China Wife has indeed helped carry the financial burden when times were difficult. But when it comes to working within the cold and heartless American Workplace, just maybe China Wife and America are not meant to be.

This wouldn’t be the first break China Wife took.

You see, China Wife previously took a 6 year break.  To be honest, I was making so much money I didn’t miss her not having a job, and she needed to stay home.  But now a new normal has set in; my house is more than 3 times larger than the last and well, all those after school activities add up.

And now the rubber has to hit the road.  China Wife needs a mental break from a job she hates.  If one’s mental condition cannot be healthy doesn’t the body break down next?  I remember the life I spent in Tokyo.  The unhappiest years of my life.  I simply became physically ill.  My stomach began to ache and my ears ring.  A doctor said there was nothing wrong with me.  Then I moved to Hong Kong and rented an apartment 5 minutes from my office and I was the happiest guy alive.  My ears stopped ringing.  My “aches” ceased. 

The American stock market is great, and companies (you know those begging for a tax cut?) are flush and have been flush with money for years.   And guess what?  Wages aren’t going up. (Thank you 
China and India, I guess America’s middle class “owes” you one.)

So many people are tempted to just fuck it.  What’s the point?  What’s the point of working in America where sick days are not guaranteed, and many people only get one week of vacation their first year in the company?   And performance reviews are often nothing more than an exercise to remind the worker “who the boss is”.  While this is the “new normal” for a lot of folks, for China Wife it is a bit too much.

After all, my own suppliers in China get a whole month of paid vacation in China.  (Qingming, Mid-Autumn/National Day, CNY)

Why work so hard here?  What is there to enjoy about it?  If your job is just a job and not a career what’s the point?  And that is where China Wife is now.  In a thankless job with a boss who’s probably never been abroad, and who can’t even speak a foreign language.   And he makes more than her!!

Today by sheer coincidence I was taking my inlaws to the gym when the mother in law simply stated 美国太辛苦了!

She reiterated how wealthy her daughter would be if she had simply stayed in China.  How much easier her life would be. How can I not take that as a direct insult at me?

“Sorry I didn’t hit the jackpot and sorry your bitchy daughter, you know the one that won’t fuck me nearly enough, has to hold down a job like 200 million other people do here.  Sorry about that!”

Instead all I could muster was,

“If China Wife had married in China her husband would be in jail by now.”

Then I uttered “at least the skies are blue here”.

China Mother in Law gave a weak laugh.

Then I made a bad joke:  “At least Korean missiles can’t hit us here.”

I despise most of the younger Chinese that come to America to “study”.    When they’re not busy money laundering their parents’ ill begotten gains that is.  Many of them stay here a bit, graduate than leave.  And why not?

What’s the point of staying? Many sectors are now closed off to them anyway, due to the suspicion of possibly stealing intellectual property.  A major defense contractor has a major factory maybe 7 miles from my house.  They have openings for jobs my wife is a good fit for.  Will she ever get hired there, so near the home?  Of course not!  Look at her name on the resume!  Look where she is from!

Ain’t gonna happen.

But this younger generation has taken a long, cold look at America and just ain’t impressed.  The Chinese powers that be have had a whole life time without a competing narrative from anybody else to mold the mindset of the Chinese towards this “place”.   As a result do these kids need much more of a push to solidify within their own minds the inexorable “decline” of America?

China is where their future lies.  Where relationships more than talent and hard work help grease the skids of ones’ future.   What is there to love about this place?  A place where it is nearly impossible to evade one’s taxes.  Where one’s property values just don’t go up and up and up.  And subways aren’t built in many a growing city because “well, we don’t want certain kinds of people over here in ‘our’ neighborhood”.

Bottom line, in my view China Wife wants to quit her job because she’s “soft”.  A rich, spoiled kid that never regretted not having siblings, because you know they’d just get in the way of her happiness. (Who thinks this way?) 

But if she’s mentally breaking down what can I do?

More importantly, how long will it be before she quits her next job?

I kick myself all the time for the mistakes I made when I was young.  The greatest irony of my marriage to China Wife is simple:  she regrets marrying someone such as myself from a less than stellar background.  And I regret marrying a rich, only child Chinese girl.


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