“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!