Seven more days till Qrious graduates from yoga teacher training boot camp and resumes the old writing life (and new yoga teaching life) in Beijing.
To mix things up a little, this week I bring you a male point of view (partly because the intense physical regimen here leaves me little time to write on love and romance, a favorite subject). Once again, here is the controversial M. France, this time speaking his mind on “finding The One in Beijing.”
It seems to have become a prevailing orthodoxy of late, to view the comings and goings of Beijing personal lives through the prism of how “difficult it is for women”. I have lost count of the number of such references I have read on this matter, even on this hallowed blog. The complaints come thick and fast: how modern Asia ‘corrupts’ men; makes them shallow and leads to them to chase only short-term pursuits; that women looking for a long-term relationship are at a disadvantage. Never mind the subtext that locals girls are sluts who have no interest in the loftier ideals that westernised girls want, the main charge is that men here cannot be ‘good’, are immoral and fall to the temptations of the flesh far too easily.
It seems to me that this is all somewhat self-indulgent of womenfolk out here on the frontier. The simple fact, conversely, is that men find it just as difficult to find the right relationship. Although some guys, particularly for the first few months here, feel like a kid in a sweet shop, for most people the trip across does not suddenly render all their traditional ideas redundant. Several of my friends, some of whom would be labelled precisely the kind of ‘player’ so beloved by girls who want to set up a straw man, are looking – quite consciously – for that special someone. The problem is, they can’t find any here. There are two main reasons why, for the two types of girl out there.
First, there are the local girls. Here we essentially have the age-old problem of cultural clash which is still largely irreconcilable. Modern Beijing females will go out clubbing and drinking, wear revealing clothes and put out, of that there is no doubt. This leads men to think they are more western than they really are, however, since no matter how many episodes of Friends they have watched, or even how many years they have spent studuying abroad, the inexhorable pull of centuries of Chinese culture still tells them they should marry early, that they should have children, that they should be saving for a house and so on. When you consider that the average marrying age in the UK, even for women, is now well over 30, the dissonance between the two sides is clear. This is not the basis for true love, and the still overt materialism of many such girls is the final nail in the coffin.
Then there are the western girls – and here no doubt the shrieks of indignation will explode. These are the put upon, long-suffering women who know they can’t compete as they have either too much self-worth or too much girth to get their men to pay attention. Or this is at least what they would have you think. But when one examines these supposed martyrs of our age, a quite different pictures emerges: of self-pitying, neurotic girls who verge on psychosis, obsessed about how unfairly local girls compete and how terrible the men are. China does something to women who come over – it makes them feel at the same time self-righteous and also, well, desperate. When any half decent guy comes onto the scene, girls who should know better (and at home on their Ivy League campuses, may never fall victim to this) become clingy and possessive. A pride of female lions guarding a carcass at the end of a sub-Saharan drought have nothing on these girls.
So there you have it – women bring it on themselves, and they certainly have it no worse than men. There is no getting away from the fact that men will tend to play around at first. But to characterise the general trend as being totally focused on this, is erroneous. Men find it every bit as hard as women to find a girl who is sophisticated, relaxed and independent enough to commit to, and unless girls change their attitude, the short-term pleasures will always win out.