Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Finding Himself Man

“What do you do?” That’s a question thrown about at all networking events, dinner parties, post dinner party parties, and other hook-up activities thinly veiled as something more socially acceptable. It’s asked all around the globe. In most NORMAL parts of the world, when posed to a man, they’d reply promptly. But in Beijing, when you ask an expat man this, you’re more than likely to get a) a blank stare as his brain slowly putt putts away trying to figure out what response would make him sound like he actually does SOMETHING respectable b) a frantic caught-in-the-headlight look as if you just asked him to explain the meaning of life c) a slick, well-rehearsed monologue about how China is the future and he wants a part of it, which sounds acceptable until you realize after listening to him ramble on for 30 minutes that he still has not actually told you what he does d) a list of jobs which include the words freelance, writer, artist, actor, filmmaker, DJ or English teacher (no offense to the decent guys of these professions but sadly your lesser brethren have given you a bad rep) or finally e) muttering and stammering with the phrase “finding myself” thrown in repeatedly. Girls, if you stumble upon one of these fellas, and you inevitably will if you spend even 30 seconds in Nanjie, Kai, Shooters, Bar Blu, Browns, oh hell, ANY BAR in this city, run! You have just met the “Finding Himself Man” (FHM).

The FHM can initially seem deep and philosophical. He will undoubtedly spend hours expounding on the alienation he felt in the materialistic and superficial surroundings back in his home country-the alienation that drove him to search for something more in China. Sounds beautiful doesn’t it? A modern day TK of your very own. Who cares that he doesn’t have a real job? Or dresses like a slob? Or never gets up before noon? He’s above silly social constraints like ambition, a clean wardrobe, and daylight hours, right? “Oh, he’s so deep,” you think and even begin to question your own sensibilities. Maybe I should quit my job and wander about aimlessly? Maybe I too should stop showering. Maybe there is something to living like a vampire? The months, maybe even years, will drag by, as nothing seems to change. The finding himself process can’t be rushed, right?

But one day, the light will go on. You will start asking, “Just exactly what do you expect to find night after night at Nanjie?” “Are the answers to your questions written on Qingdao bottle caps?” “Do the lyrics of Chinese punk rock songs at D-22 say something to you? I find that hard to believe since you don’t’ even speak the language after 2 years here!”

To the FHMs out there I say:

FIND some maturity by getting a real job. And no, filing one story a week to an unnamed newspaper back home, occasional modeling as the token white boy in some baijiu billboard, and “tutoring” Chinese college girls does not count!

FIND some decency by appreciating your girlfriend-the one who cooked for you after 10 hour workdays, ironed and laid out clothes for you when you had interviews, who puts up with your equally immature friends and pretends not to be lonely when you leave her four times a week to go find yourself on Sanlitun.
FIND some courage to tell your girlfriend the TRUTH about the other woman you’ve been seeing so that your girlfriend doesn’t have to hear about it from other sources and suffer a near anxiety attack in the middle of a dinner party being thrown by her boss.
If you were a real man, you’d FIND a doorway out of this little box of selfishness and oblivion in which you live. You’d FIND a way to recognize that living like a nomad does not make you deep, only pathetic. You’d FIND out that responsibility and commitments aren’t evil constraints but realities of life. You’d FIND that you can’t live like a teenager forever!


Steven said...

Wow. This site makes me so happy to be a fabulous gentleman of the United States. If only there were more like me in China.

Bangkokker said...

This blog is amazing!
I relate it to western guys in Thailand, where it’s also Dead On.
The Loser Back Home theory is well established in Thailand, but the FHM is a great new one.

Bruce said...

Cheers to everyone out there reading this awesome blog.
I'm not sure where my comments fit into this blog but I did read with quite a lot of interest.

I have been having a relationship, here in the US, with a Chinese woman. She is married to one of the "Loser Back Home" men that was talked about in a post before. Her story may not be too uncommon to some of you--I don't know--since finding this blog and reading the posts, I felt a need to write.

She was from a small village but very smart and did well in school. She told me she was the first person in her village to have the chance to go to college--the village was poor. No running water, or phones--she told me when she was younger she used to have to wash her clothes by hand.
At university she said at first she was made fun of because it was pretty obvious she was a village girl and not a city girl. She learned English quite well, and soon was working in a post where she meet the white guys from the west. She was married to a Chinese man but things didn't go that great. She told me she had an abortion because her husband didn't want a child. She was pretty upset and wanted the child, and she did want a girl. She thinks that's why her husband forced her to have an abortion in the first place. Her job took her to another city. I don't know if that is common to be married and have to live in separate cities, but that was the case. At the university she worked at, she began a relationship with a visiting American professor. He had told her that his tubes were "tied" and that she couldn't get pregnant--but she did become pregnant. I don't know all the details but her son went back to live with her parents in the village she was from. She divorced her husband and the American prof wanted to marry her, but there was some kind of falling out and she didn't marry him--and she tells me she has had no contact with the visiting American Prof since. This has been 10 years. As I read this blog, the American Prof was probably much like "The Finding Himself Man."

She met and soon married a LBH type of fellow, who was probably teaching English at the university where she was on stafff. And they moved to the US about 1999. He was about 15 to 20 years older than her, and the marraige didn't go well from the start. She found herself in the US with no family or friends, and living with a fellow she soon realized had been a loser back in the US. Things got a little better for them when her son came over from China to live with them here in the States. He was maybe 3 years old at that time, I'm guessing. She told me that her Husband is a pretty good step-father, and she wanted her son to live in the US because back in China he may have been discriminated against.

Dear Friends, this was very difficult for her to tell me over time, and I realize now that she might have gotten with this American because it offered a way out and a better chance for her son.

I met her a few years ago as she was in graduate school and had an internship in my deptartment. I had a few Chinese friends, and the men that were my friends were all very smart, good-nature fellows. I had never really known any women from China. She used an English name and I just assumed she was married to an American or she was American herself. On a university campus where I work, you would see Chinse men and women, but they were often as Amerian as me, having never grown up in China. You would see two white students or faculty and you would assume they were American, but you walk past and they're speaking French...

I won't go into the details but we became friends--and then lovers. Having a relationship with a married woman is complex, but I must tell all of you that it is entirely on her terms. If we plan to meet, and she doesn't show, I can assume its because of some other matter and she couldn't get away. In no way do we plan to get caught, and I know I might be taking a chance writing this comment--but I have been compeled to do so--as our relationship has been so secret this past year.

Empowerment is the word that best describes her. She wants to be on her own making her own decsions. She tells me it would be difficult to divorce LBH because she says he would never have it. She feels trapped.

Why are we together? I believe she trusts me. I don't judge her and I try to offer encourgement and support. She says she feels safe with me, and that she needs me right now.

She has told me that Chinese men can be pretty black and white. They abide by what they persive as what women's roles are. Women are to obey their husbands. She says they can be boring. Well, the American guys she hooked up with are not much better it seems--probably myself included. But as I said, the Chinse men I know here in the US are pretty good guys and enjoy their friends and familes as people do everywhere.

She wants to divorce her LBH American husband, and make a life for her son and herself--and she still wants ties back to China and her villige. She has many brothers and sisters, and does send money back to her parents.
I may not fit into her plans--she's still somewhat of an enigma to me.

I believe I do love her--and would like to be a position to marry her. I'm not sure if she would. She seems torn between here and China. Her young son has pretty much grown up as an American--and has no desire to live in China himself. And since he will not be fluent in Chinese, it may be difficult for him as an American to go back to China and try to study and live and work.

When I found this blog, I thought I might gain some insight into my Chinese girl friend. So, I do hope that my comment is accepted and that it finds all the readers of the blog in good spirits



chris farrell said...

This is a hilarious blog. I lived in Japan for a while, so I can relate. Also, I have no job, I seldom get up before noon, and I dress badly.