The Huaihai Road Starbucks was, as usual, sprinkled with a few beautiful women, in ones and twos, some with guys and a couple of those guys hip and stylish too; and so from the woman dressed in the black and gold cashmere top and slinky purple dress and the student with the wet kiss-me lipstick, the bold, gold notice-me earrings and the long, soft white sinuous leather fuck-me boots to the wanna-be super model in her shades and false fingernails, cultivating an air of detached boredom while talking into her phone, I was spoiled for choice, as guys like me (which is any guy with an ounce of gumption and slack morality) always are in this city.
Now there are a number of simple ways to initiate contact in such a situation, but talking Chinese into a mobile will do it best. Chinese people are still surprised when a foreigner can use their language (just like they are often absurdly surprised when a foreigner can use chopsticks, or has heard of any city other than Shanghai or Beijing, or can point to, say, Liaoning Province on a map). And so doing this will lead to that moment of surprised eye contact that allows one to make an introduction gracefully. The ultimate variation on this theme is to talk Shanghainese into my handset. Doing that is so jaw-droppingly unbelievable to Shanghai locals (for if many Chinese are proud of their culture and routinely believe foreigners simply cannot understand it, the Shanghainese are pride upon pride and have trouble enough believing Chinese from other cities can understand their dialect, let alone foreigners) that most often the Shanghai girl in earshot will introduce herself to me on hearing her language in my mouth.
Of course, one does not really need the subterfuge, for just being foreign and confident is quite enough of a ticket to walk up to a woman and get to know her after making even random eye contact. And so I made my selection – the woman sitting in a corner armchair whose attitude, posture and location seemed promising, made eye contact, and walked over to make my introduction.
Being a Shanghai Woman, she was of course unfazed by my approach, inviting me to sit down with a spark of mirth and interest in her eyes. And so we got to know each other – an easy trick to do, just taking interest in her life, who she was, what she did, and answering her questions about me, more or less truthfully. Her name was Kay (Kay the Coffee Shop Girl, in my little black book), and as we relaxed into each other, our body language became looser, freer, more intimate – she’d lean forward to talk to me, our legs and arms would touch, eyes meet, our hands still doing the little dance that hands do before they finally rest with each other. The pauses in what we said were every bit as meaningful as the words themselves…Talked for an hour, shared another coffee, talked some more.
Finally I moved in for the kill.
‘So what are your plans tonight?’ I asked.
‘What are yours?’ she parried. But surely she knew what my plans were. Bed, sure, passion, pleasure – but not straight to bed, for that’s no fun. I wanted the chase to last a bit longer, so I suggested dinner.
‘Do you know somewhere nice?’ she said.
Do I know somewhere nice? But of course. I took her to a great restaurant near the coffee shop, on Xinle Lu, a French place. Now in the general run of things, Chinese food is the world’s greatest and most diverse cuisine, but sometimes it’s pleasant to make a change – and all the more so given the great lamb this place does and the fantastic Chasse-Spleen 1988 they serve; and even better than this, they have dining alcoves which provide just the seclusion for the intimacy I was looking for.
The meal done, the wine drunk (by both of us – unusual, this, for a lot of Shanghainese women do not care for alcohol – but beneficial to my purpose since it relaxed and excited her) and sitting next to each other on the sofa seat, we shared yet more coffee and desert and, our body language now sparking and crackling, we moved closer… closer… and then my lips on hers, a kiss, from which she pulls away, then to return and kiss me more. I slide my arm around the backrest of the sofa, around her body, my lips on hers once again and let fall my hand to her breast. A sharp intake of breath from her as I touch her, perhaps a little too soon, but she presses against me, murmurs into my mouth, and I am pretty sure I will be taking her home with me this night.
But challenging this thought she breaks away from me – ‘No... no, I can’t, I like you, I do, I like you – but I have a boyfriend – I have to – want to – I can’t, it’s too much... it’s hard enough as it is.’
No man will give up easily when he has got so far and so I moved to kiss her again. What should I care about some other guy? She was with me, here, now, accepting and returning my kisses, caresses ‘No –really – I cannot, I must not, he is important to me…’
But considering the ‘No’ factor, a man should not move any step beyond a refusal that is sincere and so I smiled, defused the tension in the situation, kissed her cheek and said, ‘That is fine, don’t worry, there is no pressure at all.’ I suggested another coffee, and an
‘So what’s hard about it?’ I asked. She explained that her boyfriend was an African guy, a black African guy. I was shocked by this. I had never met a Chinese girl with a black boyfriend. My interest turned from sex to survey. On the streets of
She told me that her parents, her aunts and uncles, cousins and ‘friends’ not only could not understand her choice, but also urged her to dump the guy. ‘Of course I knew that when I got together with him,’ she said. ‘That’s why for the first six months of our relationship I did not tell anyone about him. No one ever says it, but the fact is Chinese people look down on black people… sure, they will deny it to your face, but I know it is true.’
‘So what happened after six months?’ I asked.
She bowed her head thinking carefully, and then said, ‘I saw that I was being unfair to him. He was the guy I chose, and why should I hide that? I thought they loved me. I could do what I want. But my parents were enraged about it, as I feared they would be – well, they are typical ‘old
She told me her boyfriend was studying here at university, and that he was a sportsman, apparently a good one, with a shot at joining his country’s Olympic team (I will not say what country: I cannot always tell the absolute truth), and that he had gone back home for training. This made it more clear why she responded to me; in part she was just a bit lonely, but there was certainly more to it than that. Pressured by her family, friends and society she was buckling, weakening – for who can stand up to the endless (and inaccurate) boast of ‘We have 5000 years of history and this is what we expect you to do’? Bored (so she said) by the limitations of the Chinese guys she had dated, I was the more socially acceptable cross-cultural relationship. In
In other circumstances I would have made another attempt to persuade her to come home with me. I could have done it, I know. But not now; this woman was a revolutionary enough already, having a black boyfriend. There was simply no way I was going to mess that up for her. Playing the devil’s advocate I wanted her to keep the boyfriend, to marry him, to challenge traditional Chinese thinking of color limitations. Perhaps selfishly, I wanted to use her as my own little revolutionary soldier against Chinese racial imperialism.
Jin Yuanpu, Director of the Humanistic Olympic Studies Center (HOSC) says, ‘The Western world has to remember what the Chinese have been through in the last one hundred years of misery.’
I wonder if
It crossed my mind how the Chinese workers in
Jin Yuanpu says the Olympic Games will be a chance to present to the world an accurate picture of
Let’s think about the Chinese media’s distortion regarding one of their sporting prodigies.
Zhou Mengmeng, a rising pool star, rejected the affections of her boyfriend, a fellow pool prodigy, whereupon he reportedly harassed and beat her. Her protests were gagged and dismissed, according to her father Zhou Ruixin, who recently spoke out about the shabby treatment she had received. He also leveled charges of corruption against games officials who, he said, had inflated expenses to siphon off thousands of dollars into their own pockets.
Jin Yuanpu says, ‘The world gives us 15 days, we will give it 5000 years.’ I say, Of what?
I think ahead to those 15 days and the young athletes who will come here to compete – strong, confident, at the top of their game, toned and muscled, lithe and focused. And human, very human. What will happen when other nations’ sports heroes in the Olympics of 2008 fantasize, fancy and lust after tall sexy, female Chinese volleyball players, petite, shapely Chinese divers, well muscled and toned Chinese tennis players, and lean, supple Chinese swimmers? What will happen (should China live up to her claims that she will let her sports stars be people, not machines) when a diver’s skin meets the muscle of a basketball player? When flexibility of gymnast meets strength of weight lifter? Sex? Terrible!
Jin Yuanpu says, ‘It is very clear Chinese culture cannot be Westernized or replaced.’
I say, Which culture? The culture that gags this woman for standing up for her rights? The culture that, in preparation for the Olympics, will sweep the ‘undesirables’ from the street and pour billions of dollars into two weeks glorifying China while millions of her people still live in hunger, disease and ignorance? This blustery culture of pride that is already heavily Westernized? The culture that looks up to White and down to Brown and Black?
Thankfully it’s very clear that Western culture cannot be Sinicized or replaced, the Olympics being from
I imagine how life is for Coffee Shop Girl. The fear she feels how, when she is with her boyfriend, she will be discovered by parents or friends. But the ultimate shock of being caught in a sensual embrace must terrify such a couple – being caught by family and friends, or, worse, I see them in a hotel somewhere, snitched on by the inquisitive, judgmental and watchful staff, the police at the door, opening it with the pass key, stealthy, quiet, to see her and him locked together on the bed, into each other, expressing their passion, their human needs and desires, loves and lusts; and the cops, unable to mentally process it, grabbing him, hauling him off the bed, cursing words of spite and contempt at her, traitor to China, slut, whore, and bundling him off to the station.
And what of the other side of the coin, where a small handful of local currency in some African nation must bring satisfied smiles and derisive gales of laughter from sexually satiated Chinese workers adding their own sexual imperialism to China’s mercantile imperialism?
Jin Yuanpu says, ‘Westerners should come to
Well, they can certainly criticize Chinabounder. But let’s see how open they will be in their discussion of romantic liaisons between Chinese athletes and other sports stars when they are possibly exposed by one of the thousands of international reporters who will be scurrying for the latest hot flash at the world’s biggest sports meeting.
The International Olympic Committee has said it may allow for the first time Olympic athletes the chance to blog the 2008
I wonder if
A warning – once you begin to peel back the covers of Chinese history in the last hundred years, you may find more terror than tradition, more cover-up than culture, and more mystery than the frequently appealed-to misery.