Welcome to my 1st post of 2015, and my 20th post in the 5 months. Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to my blog and everyone who comes to read any one of my posts, I’ve loved it. I’m looking forward to continuing this year with more and more interesting topics.
I’ve been lucky over the years to have met some incredibly open and honest friends who are prepared to share details of their lives so that we can examine the cultural differences between us. Had I not stumbled upon this path, I would have missed out on so many fascinating conversations and chances for cultural exchange, so I am always grateful.
I recently met a Chinese girl called Sylvia. She is around 23 years old and is just finishing her degree in Electronic Engineering, a major chosen by her parents as to lead to good future work prospects. Sylvia comes from a typical third-tier type Chinese city, but some of the stories she has shared of her upbringing and relationship with her parents struck as more extreme than I’ve heard before.
Sylvia has a boyfriend who she’s dated for three years, but she doesn’t love him. Since she has had a couple of boyfriends prior to the current one, her mother tells her that she will be un-marryable, should she break up with him. Despite the fact that the prior boyfriends include a couple of high school ‘relationships’ and one simple ‘love declaration’ which was not reciprocated, apparently these all count in the relationship history and full disclosure is required when deciding to become boyfriend and girlfriend. I wouldn’t dream of recounting my high-school dramas to my husband, unless to laugh at how silly I was back then, but that these could be held against me would feel so unfair. Does it really reflect on who I have become and who I will be as a wife?
She told me that her mother is in a management role at work and is a rather controlling woman at home too. So much is her mother’s concern that Sylvia remain a virgin until she gets married, she once forced Sylvia to undergo a gynecological examination at the hospital to ensure she was still intact. During UK sex education we were told that the hymen could be destroyed through rougher sports, masturbation and potentially through use of tampons, but I have heard that Chinese girls are encouraged not to use tampons, and I can’t help but wonder if this is because mothers worry whether this will affect their virginity and chances of marriage?
Sylvia’s current boyfriend’s parents are divorced and he ‘went with his mum’, which means that he has never spoken to his Dad since. Sylvia says this is the norm and the child must choose which parent to follow and stay loyal to. Her parents are also concerned how this has reflected on her boyfriend. Of course she couldn’t believe how relaxed I am about my parents’ divorce (albeit going through this year with two adult children) and happy about both my parents having new partners and that we are able to socialise as a family. If someone suggested that my parents divorcing after 33 years of marriage somehow reflected on my chances of having a long and successful marriage I think I’d be pretty annoyed – isn’t it better that they are both happier and enjoy the rest of their lives? We only get one after all.
As I said, I think Sylvia’s (or Sylvia’s mums) views are rather extreme, but she says these are all normal. Have you heard similar stories from friends?