PHOTOS BY THE BRILLIANT CLAY LIPSKY
The other day, I asked my Chinese teachers to bless me with the privilege of a Chinese name. After a bit of debate, they came up with “Hua Xin,” which translates into “flower heart.” Seemed innocent enough. I asked them what was the inspiration behind the name choice and they said, “Because you’ve had so many boyfriends.”
The week before, my teachers and I had gotten into a heated debate about dating in China versus the United States. In China, many of my teachers married the first boy they every dated and/or kiss… if that was the case for me, Anthony Bell from Coolidge Elementary (Kindergarten Class of 1996) would be my current beaux, going strong on 17 years. They asked me how many people I’ve ever dated and I gave them an honest answer: I don’t know.
But before we start the slut shaming, you need to take into account all of the first-dates-gone-wrong and brief relationships that I’ve endured in the past 4 years. I didn’t really have a serious boyfriend till Freshman year of college and I haven’t since. Most guys I date don’t make it past the 3 month mark because that’s when the “honey moon” phase is over and the real shit comes out. More often than not, the reason my relationships end is because I pick up and move 3,000 miles away-and not a mile less. Many of those relationships were healthy, functional, and I cherish those memories fondly with no regrets.
Due to our diminishing numbers, everyone is either leaving with their significant other to another place, desperately trying to salvage something long distance, or waiting… waiting for that “big fish.” Or the “one.” Depends on your perception and/or bitterness towards relationships.
Even as a serial dater, I have met multiple people that I could really see myself settling down with in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, or where ever else the wind blows me. It’s kind of terrifying. People here are looking for Love, Actually.
That’s because most expats in China are Type-A personalities… or weird and couldn’t hack it in their home country. The Type-A’s are all well traveled, speak multiple languages, and have a plan for their future… and now they’re looking for someone to share all of their experiences and success with. While my life feels like a perpetual mess, I can feel myself gravitating towards the same mentality.
But here’s the crux: Type A’s want to find their “equal.”
Whatever “equal” is defined as is up to the preference of the individual. But because the expat community is so small, anyone that you hook up with or date will ALWAYS be in your life until you leave the continent.
Hong Kong is just too close for comfort.
So when dating in Beijing, it’s important to invest wisely. Because two things are inevitably going to happen:
1. You’ll marry that person
2. You’ll break up with that person and ruin their reputation and yours AND THEN, you both will see each other all the time.
Seems a bit extreme, but in Beijing, we play for keeps. Everyone here has wandered the world looking for someone who just “gets it.” Obviously, if we’re single, we haven’t found that someone back home or during our past travels. Fortunately, nowhere else in the world has a better concentration of more interesting, talented, and decent human beings than Beijing. Which is why everyone holds onto their significant other fiercely if they’re so lucky to find that special someone. Wanderers have seen it all. They have sampled, failed, shattered, and rebuilt relationships in the past so, theoretically, they know what they really want.
However, I say theoretically with great emphasis. There are always exceptions to the rule. Drug addicts. And drifters… who should not be confused with wanderers. Wanderers are social and cunning butterflies, engaged in a perpetual search for nothing in particular. Drifters are just weird.
So now I’m officially COMPLETELY single. I’m not talking to someone on the side, I don’t have a “cuddle buddy” (when has it ever just been a cuddle sesh?), and I’m not casually dating anyone. I am single, not looking to mingle, and I want to get my shit together before I really pursue anything.
Because you can’t take care of someone if you can’t take care of yourself first.
I decided not to remain with the Chinese name of “Hua Xin” because I don’t have to settle. With anything. Or anyone.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Ladies… if you’re feeling lonely, move to Beijing. It’s nearly a 3:1 ratio of men to women that it’s not even fair. I’ve gone out with a “wedding band” more than once just to be left alone. This is not a humble brag, it’s a sheer numbers game and it’s in our favor for once.