Humiliation by comedy in a Beijing bar. Parents say, “break up with him” because boyfriend is not Chinese. Women tell true stories of their dating experiences in China.
I met an Asian American guy on Tinder, and he said he wanted to take me to a comedy show. I agreed, even though he hadn’t answered my question about whether or not we’d have to join in. I arrived at our meeting place on time; he didn’t look up from the espresso he was sketching until I was close enough to see it over his shoulder. He wasn’t as charismatic in person as on Tinder, and he was shorter than I’d expected. He was an amateur magician with a nervous habit of shuffling cards. He appeared to have three packs of cards in different pockets.
We talked over beers at a hutong bar, in an area I wasn’t very familiar with, and he kept reaching across the table to hold my hand. My reaction to this was to gesture wildly, which kept him at bay without saying ‘no’ outright. He kept fishing for compliments that I wasn’t willing to give him.
We’d been at the comedy club about ten minutes, which was just enough time for him to chug a bottle of beer, when his name was called and he walked up onto the stage. The room went silent and I realised people knew him. He was a regular, and not a popular one.
“Is anyone else here on a Tinder date?”
“If you guys pretend I’m funny, maybe I’ll get laid tonight.”
I wish I had walked out, but I was frozen to the spot. If I’d left, and even one person had noticed, I’d have got more laughs than he did for his entire set.
– United Kingdom, 26
I’m from the most conservative family you can ever imagine. They still have a curfew for me, and I’m 25. Whenever I go back home, they give me all these rules!
There are so many things my parents don’t want me to do, but they definitely want me to marry a Chinese guy, preferably from my town. They have ten or twenty different requirements like: ‘he must be smarter than you, have a better education, his salary must be this much, and he should be from a teacher’s family or doctor’s family, he shouldn’t be too rich but shouldn’t be too poor, and it is better he is one or two years older, he cannot be younger than you’. There’s like one hundred requirements.
So when I told them that I’d been seeing a French guy, who is two years younger than me, they were so angry.
Before I went to study in the states, my mother gave me rules to follow. First: “you can’t go partying with Americans”. Second: “you can never find an American boyfriend”. Third: “you have to return to China right after graduation”. I didn’t obey any of these. Well, I didn’t find an American boyfriend, I found a French boy.
I actually lied to my parents. Even today, they still don’t know the details. I met my boyfriend in April last year and we started dating in May. Of the nine months we were together, I think we were both in Houston for less than six months. I didn’t tell my parents about him until after he moved home to Paris because I knew if they knew we were living in the same city, they would think that we were… you know. Which is not allowed because, you know, no premarital sex.
They were super angry when they found out and stopped talking to me. My dad was like “shut up, I don’t want to know,” and didn’t talk to me for three months. My mom cried and she got sick. She told me, “sometimes when I think about your boyfriend with blond hair and grey eyes it makes me think of an alien or a wolf.” I was like, “come on mom, he’s a human being, a real person just like me, like you! He’s super nice and smart and good.” My mom said, “no, but he is not Chinese.”
My parents would never even consider meeting him. My mom asked me not to tell her about him. She told me to “go break up with him,” when we made it long distance. We broke up about a month after I moved to Beijing because he was in Paris and we didn’t plan on a future together. We broke up in a peaceful way; we stayed friends. That was back in January. I didn’t tell my parents we had broken up because I knew that they’d be so happy about it, and start setting me up on dates with Chinese guys as they had done before.
I told my parents about two or three weeks ago and they were like “yes, finally!” My mom was so happy she bought me three dresses. That’s why I didn’t tell her back in January, when I was heartbroken.
– People’s Republic of China, 25
Learning that an ex is married. Walking away from a Tinder date. Getting set up by your boyfriend. [part 1]
A Chinese first boyfriend who ruined dating for years. Suffering through sleep apnea on a first date. Offered money for sex with a stranger. [part 3]
Guy uses Chinese whispers to ask for a date. Remedies for dating in inauspicious circumstances. [part 4]
Date says more attractive with clothes on. Does an open relationship translate to open dates? Getting an I.O.U. for accepting a drink. [part 5]
These stories are shared by the women who experienced them in their own words. All stories took place in Beijing, China, unless otherwise stated. Identities are kept secret out of respect for the individuals in the stories.