Just the other day I had a very interesting conversation about the dating/marriage scene in China, but as I said then, I don’t even know how to blog about the subject. It’s complicated. It’s probably controversial. And I’ll likely be talking about it, in small bits and pieces, over the next several weeks. Because it’s also fascinating. I mean, I write romance novels, right? I do have some interest in the topic of interpersonal relationships and how culture affects that sort of thing.
First off, in case some visitors to this blog are totally clueless, let me state for the record that yes, I am a girl.
And, according to this article, in China I would be considered a leftover woman (check out the attached survey, which is hilarious):
Leftover women: A group of highly educated, high income, older-aged young women [28-35-years old] who cannot obtain their ideal fates [marriages]. “Leftover women” is a new name for those those older young women, who can also be called “3S women”: Single, Seventies (most were born in the 70s), Stuck.
‘Leftover people’ are considered a social problem in the city of Nanjing and local government is trying to lower people’s standards of choosing a spouse and to help those singles find their companions.
Now, I ain’t nobody’s leftovers, but the term—that it even exists—and that it’s seen as an negative (probably to everyone but these independent women), is interesting. Actually, more than interesting. I see this phenomenon in the United States, though no one has given a name to it (or if they have, I haven’t been paying attention). In China (and amongst the Amish, but that’s another story), when people ask my age and discover that I’m unmarried, the responses I receive are unanimously tragic. I am, apparently, an old maid, a piece of beef jerky, a chicken past its prime. The goose is cooked.
In China, however, you can’t hardly disassociate dating from marriage. Traditionally (and this is changing, of course, and also depends on where you are; as in, the city versus the countryside) girls marry their first boyfriends. That’s tough—depending on your point of view—but either way, talk about pressure to get things right, at least from a girl’s perspective! Guys don’t have to worry as much. The double-standard lives on, my peeps (but writing about the pervasive acceptance of mistresses in China is another post entirely).
Yet this is all highly ironic, given that folks are always going on—legitimately—about the skewed male-female ratio in China’s population. There are more men than women in this country. About 40 million of these dudes could end up as bachelors for their entire lives. Personally, I don’t find this entirely tragic, but the point is—smart, well-educated women should be a prime catch.
And they’re not.
Now, first off, in rural villages there will be more men than women anyway, because most girls are sent out to work in the cities before finishing school—and they’re usually gone for quite some time, or just never return home. There’s more money and freedom when you’re on your own, even if you are obligated to send most of your paycheck back to the relatives (I’ve known many, many, girls who paid for the education of younger brothers this way, at the sacrifice of their own aspirations). But after you reach a certain age—no later than your early twenties– you are expected to get hitched, one way or another, and have a kid. You don’t have to stay with your child—in fact, most people aren’t expected to, given that job opportunities are so limited in rural areas—but you must produce one. This is a big deal. Pressure is immense.
But first you have to get married.
My grandfather’s sister, a lovely wisp of a woman who can hardly stand anymore, literally leapt to her feet in outrage and berated my dad for not making “arrangements” for me years and years ago. In her opinion (and in the opinion of the Amish—but again, that’s another story), he was neglecting his duty by not making certain that I was married off and producing an heir to carry on those sparkling Liu genes. My dad was like, “Whatever,” which nearly got him beat over the head with a broom. Until another member of the family reminded my elderly relative that I was educated. And that took the fight right out of her. Because, according to her—and a lot of traditional types in China—no man wants a woman who’s smarter than him. Of course, I’m not certain she realized what she was implying: that, following her logic, a lot of really dumb men must be looking for wives and girlfriends.
Anyway. There’s one issue, presented for your discussion, about the dating/marriage scene in China. Trust me when I say that it’s the least controversial of them all.