Saturday, June 03, 2006

White woman and Chinese woman

Shanghai Talk, a mostly-mediocre expat magazine, has a column which deals with ‘The ins and outs of sex, love and commitment (or lack thereof) in the Middle Kingdom.’

There’s fresh writing for you.


I’m smart, attractive, funny, great to hang out with, and I’ve got a pretty good job to boot. In other words I’m as eligible a girl as there can be. Well, that’s what my friends say and that’s what I used to believe. Back in my hometown Melbourne, I was never short of admirers and dates. Unfortunately, things have changed since I landed in Shanghai. No member of the male species has approached me for a date in the five months I’ve been here…. It seems single expat guys are all loco for local girls! My self-esteem has definitely take a beating – I feel about as sexy as a plate of chopped liver…laced with century eggs, no less. Being rather new here, my security-blanket-cum-adopted-family comprises a small and tightly-knit group of five fellow SWF colleagues in their 30s. They’re perfect company for spa, shopping, drink and dinner expeditions as well as bitching and moaning about our datelessness. I’m not the type to hang out in a bar hoping to get picked up because that’s so sleazy. So, how do I go about meeting interesting men? I’m almost pushing 30 and would like to settle down soon.

Now of course this ‘problem’ has been written by the Shanghai Talk staff; it’s got the same stale style as the rest of the magazine, that same clichéd and banal journalese.

That’s the mark of most writing here, derivative and unimaginative. Calling China the middle kingdom, rinky-dink verbiage such as ‘good job to boot,’ breathless twaddle of ‘as eligible a girl as there can be’ and limp alliteration (‘loco for locals.’) Being a journalist, to judge by most of the writing that’s on show here, consists of trying to sound as much like every other writer as possible – it’s all about journalese (and sub-par journalese at that) rather than individuality. There are one or two good writers in the city – a chap called Crawford Tan for example – but they’re rare.

Tracy Lee-Elrick, the columnist (and I am surprised they do not call her ‘Our fair columnist’ or mention her ‘Wit and wisdom’) paddles out some wholly useless tripe, about how ‘The Bacheloretta’ must go to the gym, Mandarin lessons and the like, but not jazz or painting classes since few guys go there and those that do are usually gay (fair shout, mind, to which she could have added dance class.)

Now that might work in London or New York, but Shanghai? Come come; wholly impossible.

White woman in Shanghai is invisible.

And white woman who’s looking for a husband! Should guys like me even notice such a woman, our reaction would be one of scorn, pity or amusement. Most likely the latter, as later we guffawed with our friends over the very idea of a relationship with a white woman.

Why ever would we want a woman from our own culture? Of course we want local women, of course we do.

It’s not just the fact Chinese woman is slender, slinky and easy, though all that is powerful. It’s not the fact that as Chinese woman grows older she still looks good (though nonetheless we will, if not too tightly married, still change her for a younger model), whereas white woman’s hips spread, tits sag, and skin sinks: it is not just that.

And it is not at all (for me, at least) to do with subservience, pliancy. I hear it said that many white guys want a woman who will cook and clean for them. Not me: I find that attitude rather offensive. That is not something I look for in a woman.

It is -- perhaps most importantly – the fact that Chinese woman is not from our culture and does not, in general, understand all the nuances and subtleties of our language and our behavior.

Now, sure, true love, two hearts beating as one, perfect understanding, total communication and all that stuff. Fuck that; that is not what guys want. This is pure horror to us; we most emphatically do not want a woman sharing every aspect of our lives, seeing into us, knowing us.

Dating someone from another culture gives us a safety zone, a barrier, so that we can keep our lives, our sense of self, our secrecies. Chinese woman will never be able to read us like white woman, and that is why we want her.

Now this is not purely cynical; for, yes, we can love Chinese woman, honor her and commit to her and even (some of us, at least) be faithful to her. But we still have that buffer, that exclusion zone of secrecy where she cannot enter. No matter how married we may be, how deeply we may love Chinese woman, we are still more single and more ourselves that we would be with white woman. And this is why white woman remains invisible to us. Why would we want her, with her big body and her perfect ability to see what we really are? And so our reasons for chasing Chinese woman have some depth to them.

No, fuck all that, it is just sex. Chinese woman is hotter and hornier that white woman. That’s all.

Case in point: Deedee. Oh, Deedee, the hottest woman I saw in all my years here.

Now hopeless whore as I am, I do even so generally try to keep some sense of decorum in class, and do not hit on students. If I am much taken by one I might say, at the end of the final class, after I have written my email on the board for all to use, ‘Keep in touch’; but that is generally as far as it goes. But Deedee, Deedee so totally captivated me that I ran down the street after her to give her my name card and urged her to keep in touch.

Attractive women are not at all rare in China, where the cuteness ratio is far above back home in the UK. There, barely one woman in 20 merited a second glance (after my years in China it would be one woman in 200). Here, it’s one woman in five. And this is particularly so in Shanghai, I have found -- go north to Beijing, go south to Shenzhen, and while there are still attractive women, they are not in such abundance as here.

But few were so outrageously, punch-in-the-face sexy as Deedee. Part of it was just attitude – she had that Shanghai thing of confidence, of self-possession, of style that rather a lot of women lack.

I do believe passion and individuality lies within most women in this country. But the men prefer them to hide it and so, in general, they do.

But not in Shanghai, where women are the dominant sex. Shanghai Guy is a decent enough sort, but rather bland, timid; and usually he does the cooking and cleaning too. Shanghai Woman wears the trousers.

Of course one cannot truly say ‘Shanghai men are like this’ or ‘Chinese women are like that.’ One can’t even sum up ten people in such a sentence, and so using it for a city or nation is generally lazy and inaccurate.

The character of any society is not visible in its individuals. It is spread through them, like color in water. A vial of water, seen close up, is only faintly tinted - even clear; but a bucket of water is colored deep and vivid. And so this person has one hint of the group character, and that person another, but each one their individuality. Singly they are indeed individuals; as a group they have their own characteristics too.

The character of Shanghai Woman is not, in fact, restricted to Shanghai. This kind of woman is confident, bold, wants to stand out, be fashionable, sassy; is interested in her looks, in fashion, in all the whizzes and bangs of modern life. Echoes of this kind of woman can be found in most any city, but in her purest form she is only found here in Shanghai; hence she is called ‘Shanghai Woman.’ And indeed I have found time and again that I can spot the Shanghai girls in class – sure, I am not always right, but eight times out of ten I am. (It is the same with the Taiwan guys. They too are immediately obvious, so different a species are they from too-common bland and pasty mainland guy.)

Deedee was pure Shanghai, from her cute beret to her sexy white leather boots, from the casual way she walked into class to the slight air of bashful shyness she combined it with. I was utterly fascinated; she was a bright splash of color that made the rest of the room fade to sepia. Frankly I just wanted to lick her bootprints from the floor, she was so captivating. But I tried my hardest to drag my gaze from her, and worked my way round the room talking to each pupil.

One of the great advantages of teaching languages is that the whole getting-to-know you routine is required. This makes it ideal for a wolvish chap like me – it’s a way of hitting on a woman without quite seeming to hit on her. I can get to know something about her, then ask her questions to get some idea of her world view, then discuss it some to see what kind of mind she’s got; for intelligence is the sexiest attribute of all.

The group that Deedee had sat with was as the back of the class (even that charmed me, her choice to sit at the back with the naughty pupils and not at the front with the goody-goodies), so I talked to her lot last, trying not to drool and slaver too obviously as I did so.

So I found out a little about her. She’d seemed pretty young to me, maybe 18 or 19, but I was glad to find out she was in fact a final year undergraduate.

I should say that this is not at all a sign of any hint of respectability in me. I would not hesitate to chase an 18 or 19 year old (and indeed I did so – Simone, who I will get to anatomizing later, was 19 when I first took her to bed (though 20 about a month after)). But with an 18 or 19 year old, there is not much more to do than sex; beyond sex there is so little in common between me and someone about half my age that there is nothing to do or say.

As I write, once again it is to the sound of horns blaring in the background. Fucking fucking fucking Shanghai drivers… They really are cretins, are animals. This is how it goes; a single horn will sound.. will sound again… then another joins it.. and another… and more.. until a crescendo of horns blares, blares, blares, disturbing everyone within a dozen blocks, the anger palpable behind the angry fingers jabbing the dashboard. They’re like a flock of angry geese, all copying each other, all the same thoughtless, ignorant reaction. Shanghai driver hear, Shanghai drive do. The vehicle causing the blockage will move and the chorus of anger will subside – to rise up again a few minutes later at some other trivial pause in the traffic flow as more of these pig drivers think only of their own needs and nothing of all those around them they disturb; these damn fools who seem to think that blasting, blaring, shoving their horns will have some effect. I can feel it, touch it, the coiled, pulsating anger on the road, the impatience, the selfishness. If these guys (it is always guys, never women) had guns, what carnage there would be! Day or night they do it – 3 a.m. some Yahoo slob of a driver will blast his horn, nonstop, 30, 40, seconds. No thought, no consideration, just ire, impatience, selfishness.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

To the bedroom

Come to the bedroom’ I whispered.

Won’t it be weird?’ she asked.

It will be fine… come…’ With that, I raised her to her feet and, taking her hand, let her to the bed.

It’s weird’ she said.

It’s fine’ I replied, kissing her again. Slowly she got a little more responsive, and as she did so I became more bold, running my fingers under her top, over her belly and bra, and then under her bra, finding her nipple, caressing it.

So more kisses and then I wanted to undress her more, so I took the hem of her top to peel it upwards. She resisted a little, locking her arms to stop me undressing her. ‘It’s weird’ she said, and ‘What will you think of me next time we meet?

I assured her it would be fine, that this was good, sexy.. but she was still a little shy, bashful, and so I had to cajole some more. After a few moments she yielded, letting her arms go limp so I could lift the top off over her head. Then, as I kissed her again I undid the catch on her bra. It was, of course, plain, dull; Chinese women seldom wear gracious lingerie. She crossed her hands over her breasts, still shy, and so I had to cajole her once more to be less timid.

Her breasts were not the greatest, lacking some definition, and with small, small pink nipples and aureoles. I kissed, licked her there, sucking on each while I ran my hand over her pussy and slipped open the button of her jeans; and then down with her zip and off with her trousers, before pushing her back on the bed. By now I was mostly naked too, and I gave her the speech, telling her she was in total control, she did not have to do anything she did not want to, and if she said stop I would gladly stop. Now all of it was true, and I would have stopped had she asked. But that was not why I said it; I said it to show her I was a decent, trustworthy guy, so that she would be the more willing to fuck.

She did not ask me to stop, and so I did not, kissing down her body to her sensible beige panties. Sure, there was a pound or two that could be trimmed, but what of that? Sexiness comes from character as much as body, and she had plenty of it.

She surprised me, however, by saying ‘It will hurt…’

You’ve never done this before?’ I asked.


‘But.. you had a boyfriend before?’

‘Yes.. I had to stop him lots of times, he wanted to.’

‘Why did you stop him?’

`I don’t know…’

What I really wanted to ask was ‘So why are you willing to fuck me, who you know so slightly?’

I kissed over the top of her panties, taking off my last clothing as I did so, and then moving up to kiss her mouth, kisses to which she responded with more passion. And then back down, fingers under the panties and off, to reveal a rather nondescript pussy, a little unkempt, au naturel. I ate her, and she liked that – quite a prominent clitoris. I also explored her asshole, running a finger in a little way. She flinched slightly after a moment or two, so I stopped and concentrated more on bringing her off. When she’d come I began my fiercer attack, moistening her well and bringing my cock to the point. I began to slide in more easily than I had expected, but it soon caused pain, so I reached for the lubrication. I had somewhat hoped to avoid that, since the tube of lube in the bedside drawer shows what a slut I am; but it was necessary. It helped; though the pain continued she felt nothing so bad as Sara felt (and still does) and after a few minutes I was fully inside her. Mostly just missionary, after some minutes of which I withdrew to rest a moment, and to suggest she come on top. She refused.

You think it’s `weird’?’ I asked. She did. So back in missionary, only this time I pushed her legs up to change the angle. ‘Does it feel different?’ I asked.


‘You see? Every different position feels good..’

Later I tried to get her to come on top again.

Why?’ she asked.

‘Because it feels good.. it’s sexy..’

‘Won’t it hurt?’

‘No… you can control it, you do what you want.. so let’s try and if it hurts we can stop…’

Again she was reluctant, turning away from me, rolling over so her back was toward me. So I approached from that way, at which she squeaked and half rolled back, so that she was now on her side. I entered her thus, scissors-like, and she enjoyed the feel. ‘See? Every position feels different… do you like it?’

Mm’ she said. But that position, half doggie, like fully doggy, is too much for me and I could not go long without my orgasm rising. So I withdrew and once more urged her to come on top; and this time she yielded, climbing on top, cautiously fitting me inside her.

Once I was in she saw that what I had said was true; it felt different, and good. She got quite into it, working herself up and down on me, leaning forward to press her clit harder against me, trying to bring herself to another orgasm. As she did so, I pushed back against her, and again explored her asshole, deeper this time, almost getting my finger past the sphincter. ‘How does that feel?’ I asked.

Weird’ she said.

‘But not bad?’

‘I’m not sure…

Together we worked up a rhythm that took her, I think, all the way there, for she collapsed against me, satisfied.

Several times she’d ask ‘Have you finished yet?’ meaning, had I come. Of course I had not, and I took her unsurety about it as consistent with her being a virgin. Talking about it with Clarissa online the next day, she asked ‘Do you think she was cheating?,’ a reasonable question; but I think she was telling the truth, that she was indeed a virgin. Once more, now, she asked if I’d come. ‘No.. I can control it – but I will come now, if you want to finish.’

So back to missionary, a few minutes of vigorous thrusting, and I was about ready, felt it gather and prime in me, and withdrew to come on her belly, coming big, spurting some up to her hair – she squeaked – then directing it more downwards, a spurt, a second, then a pause as it gathered again and a set of longer, heavier spurts.

After I’d done, and had leaned down to kiss her, she was a little bit piqued that I’d come on her. Again, I took this as evidence of inexperience. ‘I thought you were going to use a condom’ she said.

I guess you think this was was ‘weird’ too? But that’s they way most people do it, dear.

Her pique did not last for long, and we talked as we lay in each others arms.

How did you know I’d do it?’ she asked me.

I wanted to say ‘I could see it in your eyes. It was obvious from the moment you got in the taxi here, and was likely even before that. That’s why I wanted to see you today.’

Instead I gave the more flattering version. ‘I did not know… but I hoped.’

‘What if I’d refused?

‘Then I’d have kissed you on the cheek, given you the DVDs, and walked with you back to the tube. I would have been perfectly ok with it.’

We chatted about other stuff, such as her last boyfriend, and what between us next (I told her she should decide what she wanted to do, to carry on as friends or lovers). Then she showered (and said there was blood when she washed. There had not been when we fucked; she might have been cheating me, but still I doubt it), dressed – like Sara, like Lucy, wanting to do so on her own. Even though we’d just been as intimate as it’s possible to be, she still did not want me to see her get dressed. And then I took her in a cab home.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Seducing Jingjing

And so I was rebuffed. It was a little awkward, for she, naturally, did not know how to refuse gracefully and I, naturally, wanted to make sure her No really was a no and pressed again. There were hints, shoots of hope, my arms wrapping her from behind, a hand on her breast, questing. But her No was a real no, not a modesty no, and so that was that, and I took her down to a cab.

An SMS exchange followed:-

Her: Sorry. But I cannot. I really thank you for respecting me.
Me: It’s ok. Hope I didn’t embarrass you. You’re cool, I like you a lot. We’re still friends, right?
Her: Of course. I am really glad to know you and I still trust you.
Me: Ok. Sleep well, dear!
Her: And you still willing to help me. Right?
Me: I just sent you my suggestion about what you can write. It’s in your email.
Her: Thank you. Good night.

I met her once more a week or two after this, just before Spring Festival. She was on her way to her home city, Lianyungang, and dropped by for a coffee before her train. This time she was with a fellow university student who had also been in the class I taught. He was a decent sort of guy, intelligent, stylish and urbane, so I was a little more circumspect in my flirting. But Jingjing was rather giggly and shy, very different to how she was when it was just us two together. That told me plenty – she no longer saw me as a teacher, and certainly not as a lecher. I’d also been wooing her gently online and by SMS too, and could see she was weakening.

But I did not see her again after that for six or eight weeks, since she spent a month in her hometown, after which I was out of the country. But a few days ago we finally met.

However, I’d spent the night before with Sara (my current regular girlfriend) and so the day I’d arranged to meet Jingjing began with Sara still in my bed. Mornings, she is a heavy sleeper, dozing on until 11. As she dozed I planned how to organize my day. I put Jingjing back to 2 pm via text message rather than the 12.30 I’d arranged, to give myself thinking space.

After Sara woke she asked me my plans, and I claimed I had a class in the afternoon. I did it a little reluctantly, too, for I like being with her and spending the rest of the day with her would have been good. I could have put Jingjing off, but there were other women I wanted to see on the following days, and so I kept to the lie, saying goodbye to Sara at one pm and sitting down at a café on the Nanjing Road half an hour later to wait for Jingjing.

She arrived a little after 2, nervous, as she always is at first, Every time I’ve met her she’s been a little shy to begin, blushing and bashful. It’s rather appealing, though the shyness soon passes. We had a nice enough meal, and then coffee. It was in the coffee bar that I got more to it. Soon after she arrived she returned a bunch of the DVDs I’d lent her before, so now I said that if she wanted to borrow more she could come to my flat to do so. I could not keep the real meaning of this out of my eyes -- `Come to my place and let’s fuck.’
`Why are you looking at me like that?’ she asked.

`I just enjoy your company’ I lied.

She came back with me….

Of course just the coming back with me was no guarantee; but she knew what the look I’d given her meant – and, of course, last time she was here I made a pass at her. For her to come again, then, was promising… but even before I made the offer I was hoping for fuck – so much so that, as we drank coffee, I went to take a shit so that, if we did fuck, I should not fart when I came.

Having a shit in a public bog China is something generally to be avoided. Most of the toilets are the squat type, and usually are filthy and smelly, piss, shit, phlegm and cigarette butts spread everywhere. There’s never any paper, never any hot water to wash, and never any soap. And there’s never anywhere to hang your coat or jacket, frequently no doors, and usually a pile of shit-smeared newspaper by the side of the bog (though of course being smeared with shit is all the Chinese media is good for). Added to all this I find balancing on my haunches somewhat awkward, and indeed from time to time have pissed and shat on myself. All in all, a visit to a Chinese public toilet is something to be avoided. But in quest of a better (putative) fuck I sought a shit, and was lucky enough to find a sit rather than squat toilet. But no paper, soap or hot water.

The lack of soap and hot water is universal, even in toilets in big companies or glitzy shops. No matter how big the company, how wealthy the office building, there is never soap, never hot water. In fact, after six years in China there has only been one time I found hot water in the country’s toilets – during the SARS outbreak. For two weeks there was hot water! There was soap! O civilization! And then the drama passed, the government declared there was no more risk….and it was back to shitting and spitting and no soap.


Back home, first of all I let her look at the DVDs in my bedroom where, luckily (and with Sara’s help) I’d made the bed already that morning. Now for Valentine’s day she gave me a picture she’d drawn of us, and whenever I know she is going to visit, I make sure this is on my bedside table. It usually resides in the drawer, lest I bring anyone home. And since Sara had stayed the night before, this is where it was. So, entering the bedroom first, I was able to obscure sight of it with my body at I walked towards it, and tip it over so it was face down. Then I left Jingjing to look at discs while I made sure the other rooms were basically tidy, something I had not had a chance to do that morning.

The rack of discs in my room is by my bed. When I came back in the room Jingjing was crouched in front of them, so I sat on the bed and leaned a little against her body. She seemed comfortable with it, so when she moved to the room next door to look at the other banks of discs I expanded this, standing behind her, pressing my body to hers, developing to an arm round her, a hand casually brushing her breast (stiff, rigid – the sign of the padded bra), then a finger tracing the skin across the small of her back, then again both arms locked round her holding her to me as she crouched in my study looking at the piles of discs.

When she had got to the end of the piles, I said `So.. what am I going to charge you for borrowing all these discs?’


’I think I should charge you a…. kiss…’ As I said this, I lightly took hold of her chin and turned her face towards me, kissed her. She did not respond with her lips, and kept her eyes open – but did not pull away, was not tense. ‘It’s okay’ I told her, ‘It’s okay’ as I kissed her again. Still with her eyes open, unsure, she began to kiss back. Cool at first, but with slowly rising passion. As we kissed, still crouched on the floor, I caressed her a little, her belly and back and then more firmly over her breasts. When she did not flinch at that I was sure…

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A new lover

Sometimes a mere moment of eye contact is enough to know a woman will be easy to charm into bed. Such a woman was Jingjing. I taught her back in December. She’s a student here, plunging into German prior to going to Hamburg. Not great looking, but still somehow rather sexy.

I’m not yet quite so unprofessional, quite such a slug (that description provided by Shutty), as to directly hit on a woman in class (well, almost never… just once in the several years I have been teaching, when a woman so captivated me that I ran down the street after her when she left the class, giving her my card. She is called Deedee (the Shanghai fondness for idiosyncratic English names!), and, I think, I am within a dinner or two of bedding her).

Instead I just write up my email on the board, like all foreign teachers do (and most Chinese university lecturers do not, wanting to have as little contact with their pupils as possible), telling all the students I am happy to help check their work, advise on practice essays and the like; this way I do not seem to be hitting on any individual – though from time to time I do say ‘Keep in touch’ to the women that catch my eye.

Jingjing did keep in touch, popping up on instant chat a day or two later. The tone of our conversation was promising, so I set up meeting for coffee. I set it up at Xujiahui, near her dorm. This was unwise, since that area is where Sara lives; Sara is my ‘proper’ girlfriend, the one I am seeing on a permanent basis. Making the rendezvous there was thus tempting getting caught. It was also shitty of me, meeting another woman in what should be sacrosanct as Sara’s romantic territory. But maybe that is part of the thrill of it, living a little dangerously and flaunting my power. And perhaps there is something attractive in sacrilege, too.

But before we could finalize the rendezvous, Jingjing went offline. This was because in the Chinese gulag university system, the electricity is often switched off at night, to make sure the students do not start to behave like students and develop an active social life. But a moment after that, I found this email:-

Of course I do want to meet you, but I’ll likely be pretty nervous! So if my English is no good, I hope that will be ok. I don't dare to call you, cos when I pick up the phone, suddenly my mind goes blank. So maybe you could give me a call!

..which seemed promising, so I chased her on sms and concluded the when and where.

That coffee date went fine, and ended with me promising to lend her some German DVDs, so that she could get used to the accent. The next time we met for coffee, I forgot these, so I suggested dinner a day or two later, whereupon I would hand them over.

She agreed to this but, at that dinner, I again forgot the discs – this time on purpose. This was so that I could suggest she came to my place to collect them. That would give her the excuse she needed to come back here, where we could fuck. A woman might be willing to fuck, but she does not like to appear too much so.

I took her to my favorite restaurant, naturally (Laris, a more perfect seduction restaurant I have not found), and then a coffee; and suggested coming back here to pick up those DVDs. As it turned out, the ruse was unnecessary, for she needed to print out another copy of some application form, and, as she had no printer on campus (such is the paltry level of facilities in China’s universities) I offered to help her that way.

As we traveled home, as, home, we printed out her forms, she knew something sexual was coming. And though she was shy of it yet… yet she knew it was coming and she let it come, too.

Now of course a guy will often say ‘She wanted it’ about a woman, claiming she meant ‘Yes’ when in fact she was pinned in fear as by a snake. But it was not that. Yes, she was nervous, true, but no fear; and nor was I threatening but rather loose, gentle. Cajoling, sure, but with words only. I kissed her, and while she did not respond she did not pull away either. Instead, she gave me the old line – ‘I’m an old-fashioned person.’

Ah, ‘old-fashioned.’ She’d bought the virginity lie, had locked into the ‘good girls don’t’ bullshit. I did think she would have quite liked to, for as I tried to cajole her I had a hand on her breast and she did not murmur. So it was just that purity thing; she had the feelings, the passions – but also the conditioning. Yeah, the ‘Not until I get married’ kneejerk. In this city, in this year! Well, what a place China is, chicks who fuck at the drop of a hat, like Erin, and chicks who can’t imagine such a life, like Jingjing. Such breadth.

So I guess I still have some way to go when it comes to reading women. This kind of mix, this will-she won’t-she stuff is sometimes hard to fathom. She is young, yes, born in early 84 (this I saw from her application forms); but no woman of any age is that young. It is not that I am saying ‘she came home, she knew it was a signal,’ no – but rather that my signal came earlier, over dinner, over coffee – even over the choice of venue itself; and she cannot have been blind to that. No woman is so emotionally obtuse. She knew it was a wooing; she came back with me. Sure, not to fuck, but out of curiosity, out of To find out. Out of adventure, maybe, exhilarated by having a more articulate guy than the normal sap run after her (my opinion of the romantic abilities of the majority of Chinese guys is exceedingly low). But when it came to it, all those years – centuries – of conditioning came up, beaten in by her school education, topped and rolled by her university education, and plastered and smoothed by the whole of society. A traditional person!

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Stealing someone's girlfriend

Gloria was a slow-burn relationship; I’d known her a long time before we became lovers. She worked at one of the German departments I used to teach at, and she was unusually efficient; switched on, capable, reliable -- head and shoulders above most I have met here. Workplace efficiency in this country is pretty abysmal, and initiative, reliability and industry are not so easy to find. Gloria had them all.

But in this country it does not matter how good you are; it matters who you know. From top to bottom, China is stuffed with incompetent and idle buffoons who hold their jobs by mere virtue of having the right friends.

China does not reward talent (which is of course a blessing for me), and this is the reason so many people leave the country. Time and again I have heard it from students (most often female students, for the connections club is mostly male) – ‘I can’t get ahead in my company, I don’t have the right connections.’

Example of this enough with Gloria; by far the most capable person in the office, she lacked the right friends. And without that protection she had no defense against the spiteful backbiting, the dirty jostling and sniping, the petty viciousness and cowardice that is so much a part of the impotent and raging history of China.

What did for Gloria was a letter about her sent to head office -- but not a bold, self-respecting letter from one with a grudge, but a tattling malicious letter from nine, signed by thumbprints alone.

Thumbprints! What cowards people can be, how weak! Gloria knew where the enmity came from; her error had been to nail her allegiance to the school. A mistake, in a culture where connections are the entire grease for the engine. The way to do it here is to flatter and butter; in her case, when various staff asked her to collude in their plan to sign and draw pay for hours they had not worked, she should have agreed. She could have done so easily enough, since she was office manager. But her straight answer, her refusal, led her down that crooked path, its claims and counter-claims, the denials and the whole worthless vortex of it.

She saw how it lay; she knew one of the nine signers, knew he was greased with the big boss of the university; and thus knew she was wasting her time in fighting it. And so she left, and at least left without as full as dose of bitterness as she might have, since one guy in the chain, lower ranking but some way above her, seemingly as angry as I but with the avenue of a more effective response, saw her off with three months' pay.

Thus does China reward honesty. And how it rewards dishonesty I need not say. That’s what you’re reading.

So one day months ago, just after she’d got binned, we spent a long and close afternoon together. Oh, just eating, talking.. but subtle flirting, too. My arm on her back crossing the road; hers on mine to emphasise a joke. We ate in a Korean joint in a new food street near Fudan University, and then went for a long walk, along the tree-lined evening streets, the student crowds. The railings round the campus were hung with exhortative banners, urging citizens to live clean kind and pure. We took them as our texts for an impromptu lesson. It was good.

So the attraction crackled between us, but remained unspoken. I’d known her for two or three years by this point, and while we’d often teased and flirted a little, it had not been as strong as this unspoken feelings now.

Unspoken because it was complicated; she had a boyfriend already. And I knew this guy pretty well, and liked him. I'd given them a little bit of help with their English studies, and he passed the relevant exam, she did not. And off he went overseas to study, off to Canada. A decent guy, kind and loving and strong for her. But staid, but dull, but passionless; unable to put his love into glorious actions or wild words.

I saw very clearly that night that she was lonely, and beaten down by having lost her job, unpleasantly. This was my avenue, and one which I knew I should not take… but wanted to.

That night we parted as friends; but the following day we exchanged a lot of text messages, English and Chinese, among which one from her was `U r so cute' -- which I was half amused, half touched to get. And I arranged dinner with her the next night, for she wanted to cook for me in her flat.

As I walked out my door that evening, I saw clearly where it was I likely headed.

We ate, talking easy, and flirting as we had before, a touch here, caress there. She’d prepared a careful meal, cooked it lovingly. Though the mutual attraction was obvious, I was not sure if she would act on it.

After dinner, we sat side by side on the bed watching TV for a while, until I left the room for a moment. When I returned, she was standing by the foot of the bed. I sat, put my arm round her waist as she stood in front of me, and laid my head on her waist. She murmured and stroked my hair. And then, with the gentlest of pressure from my arm, she sat on my knee. We watched TV some more. But I could feel her heightened emotion, as maybe she mine. A kiss on her cheek was easy enough. Then we locked eyes and the half-hesitant invitation therein was clear. The chastest of kisses on her lip, and still her hesitation. ‘Sorry...’ I apologized, and ‘sorry’ again. But she smiled it away. I kissed her cheek, then again her lips, still soberly. ‘Watch TV' she admonished me, kindly, her fingers on my chin, turning my head to the screen.

Once started, not to be stopped; and so our kisses became warmer and her hands more adventurous; so her I took her lead, moving under her top, over her back, round to her breasts; and soon we were on the bed, undressed, kissing, caressing. She was sexy, seemed a promising lover… But as with other lovers, this first time wasn't so smooth. I could not get inside her without pain – ‘It's like the first time’ she said.

Still, we had plenty of fun, and I boosted my ego by making her come -- that took a while (and some aching in my neck, as this was all oral) with many almost-theres fading out. And her many ‘It's so big' comments had the effect they would have on every other male.

But the way she held on to me as we slept after made me sure that it was more than a one-night stand for her. And I might have seen this, for I knew she was lonely, knew she needed someone to hold on to. Twice the words escaped her lips, recalled as soon as spoke but not quick enough to mute them – ‘I love you.’ And those words rose in me, too.

She was worthy of love.

This was no one-night stand for me either, I felt at the time; for holding her filled a deep well in me, and indeed her pleasure was the more to me than mine, for I did not come -- not being able to penetrate her comfortable the only way was her hand or mine, and that seemed somewhat crude. It was fine by me; her arms were enough.

But of course it creates lies, births deception. The boyfriend’s name was mentioned just once, late, before we slept. More eloquent than this; a bookshelf, fashioned into the headboard of her bed, bore a pile of used IP phonecards, thirty, forty, rubber-band bound. Each of these used to talk to him, I am sure, and there as trophies, talismans. And before lights out, she had to check something on her pc; I did not enquire and she did not volunteer. But I have little doubt it was to do with him. So I have made a liar out of her.

Another example: I added her address into MSN when I got back home the next day, and later on she logged in. And as our messaging began, the pic on her display was of him, the boyfriend. She changed it soon enough to one of her, and again neither of us spoke of him. But he was there, in the room, unspoken.

As maybe Kay was for her. Kay was my only long-term Chinese girlfriend, with whom I had broken up a few months before this, with whom I kept in touch (and still keep in touch) but had (at that point) told nothing of this thing with Gloria. I could not clearly recall telling Gloria I’d broken up with Kay… Maybe I did, or maybe Gloria assumed I had so to ease her (and my) betrayal of her guy. Indeed, just a day or two after we’d become lovers, she told me, ‘I love him’; but even in those words there was a ‘but’ -- maybe not spoken, yet there clear enough.

So what had I done? Taken advantage of a fragile woman or began after someone worth loving -- oh, worth loving as Kay was and is…? But even then I could see it ending in heartbreak for Gloria, could see that I would fail to commit to her like I should have to Kay.

So I did not know. Did not know. But I was happy, filled.