According to my husband, I don’t take care of myself. Sure I eat a healthy vegetarian diet, run 3 times a week, don’t smoke or drink, limit myself to one coffee per day, only drink decaff tea and take extra care when I cross the road. But apparently that’s not enough.
Because there are some things I do which are truly RECKLESS according to my husband.
Sometimes, when I get up in the night to tend to our crying baby, I don’t put my slippers on. And sometimes when I get home from work, I don’t put my slippers on. And at other times when I ought to know better, I forget to put my slippers on. So reckless.
Not only that, but also sometimes, when the weather is getting hot and I’m feeling thirsty, I go and buy a mango 冰沙 ice slush drink (or passion fruit if I can find it). Sometimes, at Starbucks I get a frappucino instead of a hot coffee. And sometimes, I put ice cubes in my drink at home! So so reckless.
Another crazy thing I do, and have done for many years now, I sleep on my front!!!
To my weird and wonderful husband, and seemingly many who have grown up in China, these simple things are sure to lead to health problems in the future. I feel like people in China live under threat of future health problems if they don’t listen to these rules and take measures to protect themselves.
As a man, my husband is particularly careful about his lower back getting exposed to cold air or wind, as this could compromise his kidneys (which as a man, are more important to him…). But I think for women, such rules are even more important. During that time of the month, they are warned to be careful about putting anything cold into their body, like cold water or ice cream. And of course during the period after giving birth, they must be very careful about what they eat and drink, and mustn’t go outside for fear of being exposed to the elements, otherwise known as 坐月子 sitting the month or postpartum confinement.
There are certain Chinese customs which have become part of my lifestyle, but Chinese traditional health principles really don’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. In my childhood world of carpeted rooms, floors were not cold and slippers were not compulsory. Ice cream was not a daily staple but was fine for a treat, whatever time of the month. And no one has ever commented on my sleeping orientation… In Chinese culture, wisdom still passes from generation to generation, much more so than the West because of Confucian principles about respecting elders. And in times gone by there may have been reasons for certain practices. Drinking cold (unboiled) water may have meant it wasn’t clean, washing in cold water after childbirth may have risked infection, getting cold feet could have risked exposure.
But I’m not sure these customs are still relevant today. The consequences of these reckless actions are often vague. I’ve heard threats of damage to bones, pain and a troublesome menopause. But my western-mind needs scientific facts to back up these claims. And my poor husband may have to watch me risk my health for decades to come…
( I will never forget my Korean ex-boyfriend telling me that he truly believed he’d die if he slept with a fan blowing on him, until he moved to the UK. Even more extreme than view held in China! )