Arina thus being unavailable, I decided to put some time in chasing Deedee instead. But she is tied up with stuff at her university this week, and so I batted off an SMS inviting Echo out to lunch.
She’s the woman I met in a class six months back or so, and her bright, confident and artistic nature impressed me. So I made sure to chase her a little afterwards, and we have become friends, going to listen to music together, see art shows and the like. She is the best type of
This, in passing, is a good way of warm-up wooing, because what the statement ‘You’re from
China Man, generally, is not; for when I say to Shanghai Woman, ‘So, you’re a local?’ guys in the class will generally be taken aback, and ask me how I know this. This goes to show what a stolid and unimaginative fish China Man can be. But I am glad of it, for his sexual naiveté is why lechers like me do so well.
But this is not to say all
The Shanghainese, in large, look down on people from outside Shanghai but look up to people from outside China – if those people are white. Expatriates from
But most deny it totally, and get as touchy as fuck if one suggests something so negative about
Chinese racism is perhaps more clearly shown in a saying that is sometimes used here, which imagines a celestial baker creating humanity. ‘He left the black people in the oven too long, the white people not long enough but us, the Chinese, he cooked just right.’
So Echo and I met a little after midday at a sandwich bar at Nanjing and Shaanxi Road; she was dressed vivid, bright, appealing, yellows and oranges, and with a funky new hairstyle, shots of red and curls. That, and her trim, slender body, perky breasts, effervescent smile make her an appealing package indeed.
And as we ate we chatted of this and that. She told me she had decided she’d had enough of her boyfriend, an accountant, that he was too dull, that she had set her sights overseas study and he, lumpen, averse to risk, was not interested in joining her. Thus, she has decided, they must part. This pleased me, for in it I see my angle; free of the guilt of a betrayal she will be easier to charm to bed – and with overseas calling her, there is no hassle of sought permanence.
Potentialities of sex aside, I do like her just for her friendship, her bright, artistic nature. And for her self-confidence. I asked her when she had developed this style of hers, for I knew it would have been wholly banned at high school. In her second year of university, she told me. She explained that she had been the first on her campus to break out of the standard schoolgirl haircut, and that when she did, the Dean of her university criticized her for it, telling her she should not wear her hair so fashionable, that she should turn it back to a more uniform, standard style, that she should be just like everyone else. She refused.
And then, she told me, the Dean said, ‘Then I will ask your parents to come in and we will see what they say.’
I had to stop her at that point and just make sure I had not misunderstood –was she really talking about university, not high school? She was. Even with the many tales of university absurdity I have heard, this one still took me aback. ‘What did you say to that?’ I asked. She told me her parents always supported – even encouraged – her to be herself, and she told the Dean as much.
Good for her parents, I say, for a lot of Chinese parents give their children very little freedom, deciding what they should study, eat, do, say, think, dress; where they should work, who they should date. Hers seem that rare exception, adults who understand what loving a child really means.
She told me another anecdote about this objectionable Dean. One student in her course stole the wallet of another, and was caught doing so. The course tutor took the student aside to ask why she had done it, saying, ‘If you need money, just ask me.’ But the student had not stolen it for money, but rather out of an obscure sense of anger over some perceived slight. The way the malefactor explained this made the grade teacher worry a little over her mental health, and so he wanted to adopt a light touch, to treat the student with care, to send her to talk to a doctor rather than publicly shame her (a doctor only; China has more or less zero mental health specialists). The victim of the pilfering agreed with this approach.
But the Dean got to hear of the matter, and weighed in. The student must be shamed, he decided, and expelled; and so she was. ‘And so that was the end of her life’ said Echo, ‘After that there is no way she could ever get a good job.’ And then she told me that the Dean had followed up this shitty act by firing the grade tutor. Astonishing.
Mixed with its stiff-necked pride is a pervasive victim mentality. All
But this is the logical choice.
And so Chinese society is stuck in deep denial, and the people who know least about modern
Echo, at least, has a wider view, a more mature perspective. The petty folly of life here is not for her, and this is why she wants to go overseas. ‘If I stayed here the only way I could get ahead is by guanxi, and I just can’t do that – can’t pretend to like people purely to get a better job, can’t flatter.’ She told me her soon-to-be-ejected boyfriend had urged her to stay in her job, since working in a state-owned concern like hers is usually a safe berth. ‘But I could just not bear it’ she told me, ‘Having to use guanxi to get anything done.’
I agreed that it was not the right job for her, adding, ‘But I guess it shows your boyfriend does care for you, because he wants you to be safe.’ I said that to show what a straight-up guy I was, and to try to make her think I was disinterested in the matter. Trashing her boyfriend for his lack of imagination would not be the right way to proceed; it would, in effect, be saying, ‘You are an idiot to stay with such a guy so long.’ So instead I showed this measure of respect for her choice, though observed, ‘But I guess it shows he does not really understand you.’ The implication here, of course, being that I did.
She continued, ‘And also I’d have to rely on my relationships with government people to get them to give us money… and of course that would mean.. you know that I would have to… when they…when the leaders...’
I don’t now recall quite how she phrased it, but her meaning was utterly clear; that her guanxi would be her body, that government guys would come on to her and if she did not fuck them or blow them they would make sure her art center got no money.
I cannot blame her for wanting to get out; the best and brightest leave. They have to.
It was a pleasing, promising lunch, and there was more going on than mere chat. Beneath our conversation we were sounding each other out, and her mention of dumping her boyfriend was no casual observation. Our meal concluded with her inviting me to an event next weekend; and that, I hope, can be followed by dinner and bed.