Girl talk

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?

9 thoughts on “Girl talk

  1. Wait so is she Chinese? Of course it sounds extreme, but there are parents like this everywhere. Mostly they think they are doing what’s best for their kids but they are acting under false information and radical customs that are thought of as normal. I feel bad for Sylvia, but why is she dating someone she doesn’t love? The whole situation seems bleak. My parents like to try to tell me what to do, but in the end the usually respect my opinion, and my life is my own, as in typical American culture. My parents are divorced as well, but after talking with my boyfriend about it, I see it as a way to apply effective communication to our relationship. Of course, because they got divorced doesn’t mean I will, just like being a gay parent doesn’t mean your children will be gay. People like to make assumptions, and if you are a child of a parent who makes assumptions like that and bans you from living your life, it’s a tough situation. It really makes me think about my own life when I hear about strict people like this. My life would be so much different if my parents didn’t let me move abroad and date whomever I please.


  2. Well, I have heard similar stories before from other Chinese but of course I can’t say whether it is the norm. For examples a friend of my wife was dating a high school love for a few years but her parents were against him as he was too short in their opinion. He did everything he could for the possible in-laws but nothing was good enough. Now she married someone her parents chose and the baby was just born…I and my wife doubt that she is very happy with her current life.

    Another story is from my wife’s cousin. Her parents divorced when she was in her early teens and there was a lot of drama in the family. People didn’t talk to each other for a long time however now the situation is more normal again. The cousin, when she is in China as she studies in Japan, stays always for some time with any of her two divorced parents, so there is no choosing here really.

    Extreme cases can be found all over the world but I thinkespecially in China it can become overly extreme due to the one child policy and the over protective values which come with them.


  3. I have a few Chinese friends who come from divorced families, one of my students (that I know of), and my step-daughter. A fair few of my husband’s friends (who are in their late 30’s) are divorced. The situation surrounding divorce is much different from my home country.

    Actually, from the people I know were Chinese children of divorce, most of them ended up being raised by the grandparents. I was told it’s hard for parents to remarry with the “baggage” of a child, so the kid often gets “dumped” on the grandparents. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s often the reality of how the situation is perceived.

    People act like I’m a saint because I am raising my step-daughter (her birth mother has no contact with us) and find it odd that I’m close with my step-mother and step-siblings. I don’t think it’s a rarity in the US to get on well with your step-family, but it sounds like it is in China.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is odd in China. Many people still believe that the only thing that matters is blood ties. Adoption is also uncommon for the same reason (“how can you love a child that is not biologically yours?, it is not really your son/daughter”, etc)…


      • Yeah, this is a great point. Biological ties are very important to most Chinese. When we were first dating, my husband and I were in Beijing and he was very confused to see a white couple with a Chinese baby. I explained that the baby was probably adopted by them. He turned to me and said, “Why?”

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Sad story. I don’t personally know anyone in such a extreme situation, but I know of several people that got married because of an accidental pregnancy but didn’t love their partners.

    It is easy to say when I am not in the situation, but I think your friend should raise her voice and do whatever makes her happy. And regarding virginity… seriously? Do young men really care about that?


  5. Wow, your friend Sylvia has it very tough indeed. Her story does strike me as extreme and likely not the norm (though I still do receive the occasional comment regarding an extreme mother/mother-in-law on my blog). It is always a sad occasion when parents are too controlling towards their children. I hope Sylvia will be able to marry as she wishes in the end, despite the obstacles.


  6. Like Monicast says, controlling parents are the same everywhere. 😦 I spent enough time in the American South to see some pretty extreme Baptist parents that won’t even allow dating. They insist on “courting” with chaperones — a couple left alone will get up to the Devil’s work, you know! The religious “Quiverfull” movement in the United States keeps even stricter control over their children, homeschooling them and keeping “harmful influences” away. (This also keeps the family and children dependent on their pastor for information and guidance.)

    As for checking to make sure her daughter is “intact,” well, while it seems nuts, it turns out there’s a market for intact hymens. I know. Twenty-first century. How can this even be a thing?!

    I hope Sylvia can find her own identity and resist the pressure.


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