The Unbearable heaviness of loving

Chinese women face a different kind of pressure than men do. Life is supposed to be about family, finding a good job, a boyfriend-to-be-husband, and have a child, preferably a boy. 

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They have less time to get married, 26 years old being the « left over » age. Being unmarried by 26 means that « something is wrong with you «  explained Lin, a female friend in her late 30’s. Phone calls from parents become more frequent. The words « 奇怪 » (qiguai,weird) come out more in conversations with older generations. But members of younger generations passively resist their parents appeal, brushing off their remarks and sometimes engaging in something foreign to older generations outside of big cities, drenched in foreign influence: one night stands and temporary boyfriends. In my perception, this behavior is usually accepted or rejected by society. But I actually saw that this was yet another « grey area » like there are so many in China. I had the feeling that even if it is not explicitly forbidden, it is met among more traditional Chinese men and women, even from younger generations, by a complete lack of comprehension. 

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 « Have you ever had sex with a girl that didn’t become you girlfriend? » asked me a male Chinese friend one day. A few questions quickly followed up: « so what happens? Do you just do it, and leave in the morning? Or she leaves? Do you talk about it? Does she tell you that she likes you? Do you call each other? » His questions also came along with an air of harmless misunderstanding. He wasn’t showing any animosity in the tone of his voice, being judgmental, or challenging . He was genuinely trying to understand the rules of such inconceivable encounters. It was like a scientist trying to understand an animal’s behavior.

He never shared a bed with other women. If he went to their home it was quite easy, he could leave whenever he felt like it. The matter was a little bit more delicate when they came over and he had to explain to them that he would take them back home past midnight, because he was insomniac and couldn’t fall asleep with someone in the vicinity of another being. This wasn’t far from the truth, but the main reason was less noble and he couldn’t confess it to his lovers: just after making love, he felt the unbearable desire to be alone.[…][1]

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« I’ve told plenty of boys I didn’t like them anymore! » burst out Jung, when I challenged her to the fact that when Chinese couples usually get together, it is with marriage in mind. She was obviously frustrated at my blatant ignorance and insulting generalization. In this typical force Chinese women have when they get annoyed, she stared at me with her pitch black eyes. The wind was making the necklace that she left hanging on the bedside lamp swing in an almost hypnotic way. I was scared shitless that I had actually annoyed her. 

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I had a rather interesting conversation with a girl named Johnny one day. She was questioning the status quo that our relationships sometimes seems to strive on in the western world.  « If you don’t tell a girl that you like her, then how do you know? How do you know if someone is your girlfriend or boyfriend? ». I had no witty answer to this. The way things are done in the west suddenly seemed completely arbitrary to me.

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He was stunned when he woke up and Tereza held his hand firmly! He looked at her and barely understood what had happened to him. He recalled the hours that just went past and felt like he could smell a perfume of an unknown happiness. Since then, they both enjoyed resting together. [2]

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There is one thing that differentiates this post-90s generation with their parents and great-parents: they ask questions. They wonder why things are the way they are, and sometimes choose to challenge the unwritten laws through acts.

I also learned not to annoy a Chinese woman. Ever. 

‘You’re only a rebel from the waist downwards,’ he told her. She thought this brilliantly witty and flung her arms round him in delight. [3]

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1. The unbearable lightness of being, Milan Kundera(1984), p.6
2. The unbearable lightness of being, Milan Kundera(1984), p.6
3. 1984, George Orwell (1949).

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