On “Middle-Aged American Seeks [Asian] Female for life in the USA” and other fake queers

One of my white male colleagues in China gave me this parting advice:

“Before you leave China, be sure to get yourself a Chinese wife. They are not as disrespectful as American women. It’s their culture, they are sweet and loving and the best part about being in China.”

I really enjoyed talking to this colleague, and I really like his sarcastic, no-nonsense wife, so I had a hard time digesting this sudden revival of orientalist claptrap. He’s lived in China for a decade, and he claims to suffer from being pinpointed as “one of those Americans” stealing Chinese women. Poor him?

Well, he’s in the Philippines now (where Asian female-ophiles go for retirement). And I’m left pondering.

My friend calls his own relationship “unconventional,” but, in the spirit of Asian American patriarchs (Frank Chin, Shawn Wong, etc.) I want to call him a “fake queer.” The very sound of “fake queer” is offensive to the ear, and that’s part of the point. A “fake queer” relationship is not “normative,” but is also so eye-rollingly typical and indifferent (or complicit) to heteronormative cultures that it would make anyone cringe to name it “queer.”

Fake queer desires are kind of like “reverse racism,” in that they sound “queer” if only we lived in an ideal society deprived of any real context/history. The “white American male seeking an Asian female” relationship is one of these.

Take this craigslist post for example.

image 1

This Christmas-color-wearing hunk has left the same ad in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and god knows where else. His “nickname” is “RRRR (pronounced like a growl).”

He is seeking:

Wish list: soft body and spirit, unconventional, strong mind and character; free thinker yet likes her man in charge and to protect her; height/weight proportionate; no large tattoos or piercings exc. ears; EXTREMELY feminine and intelligent; LOVES classical music (knows, for example, the difference between Haydn & Ravel; doesn’t think Beethoven’s a large dog and Bach’s the sound he makes when chasing cats); arts & sciences, politics, literature, nature; incurably curious.

I suspect that the ad may be fake or exaggerated, but then again, in Asia it’s a pretty typical style of flirtation.  I call men like “RRRR” fake queer. Not only does he seek out an Asian female who will adjust to his personality traits, his language, and his country, but he sees himself as a rebel for it. Riddled throughout the ad are efforts to find a woman just as “weird” and “nonconformist.”

On a more sympathetic note, his love for the Asian stereotype could be termed a fetish (and, remarkably, queer). As RRRR writes, “I’ll open your door, carry all heavy stuff, be strong for you, and protect you.” It sounds like something a good honest person, comfortable with her sexuality, has whispered in my own ear. Indeed, the whole ad could be read as a call for a dom-sub fetish one-night stand. He says: “I’ve fulfilled all my sexual fantasies, and want to keep fulfilling them with someone I love, and who loves me.”

There are times when reading his ridiculous, unconscious orientalism that I couldn’t help but insert sex-positive yawps: “I favor gender fairness, but I’m sick of being treated like the enemy by bitchy American women [oh yeah, I’m such a dirty dog]. Why do you think so many American men look overseas for wives? I won’t apologize for being [such a] masculine [big bad boy!]. American feminists tell men to get in touch with their “feminine sides,” but I only do that to give it a firm spanking like the dirty little slut that it is [no commentary needed].”

How do these men go on in their (out of the bedroom) fetish stereotypes, and call themselves “unconventional,” “nonconformist” or “stereotyped”? Fakes, all of them.

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Leaving China

I’m in a hotel lobby in Beijing. The desk I’m at has a bust that reads “Vice Manager of Datang”. I asked for a computer and they showed me a big room full of PCs. Then I tried one and couldn’t get on the internet. They said: “Oh, you want international computer?” I noticed everyone else around me was playing a video game. I nodded yes. The internet would be nice.

Now that I’m on the internet, I’m a bit surprised by how many sites I cannot access. BBC and wikipedia I can’t access, though FOX News and NPR come in just fine. I wonder if they like their news as exaggerated and full of it as their governmental news, that way the whole world looks insane together.

There are a few things I’ve neglected to mention about my stay in China, foremost being the people that make up Beijing. Last night I saw an old lady getting beaten senseless, and when I mentioned this to my traveling companions I got a host of stories I wasn’t prepared for.

“You think that’s bad, just last night we saw twenty or so Chinese guys kicking around what looked like a dead human carcass…”

And so on. Most of the travelers could only respond with the same menacing sneer and lunged out gut that we had given when we were confronted with such violence. I’m not sure what to say about it, except one thing is for certain:

In the daytime, there are police and army personnel EVERYWHERE. They stand beneath large umbrellas with their noses held as high as their rifles. On every city block they’re keeping watch, looking professional and making you feel the displeasure of living in a one party state.

But then at night, they all disappear.

Well that’s kind of the opposite of what you want in a civil society, isn’t it? I wondered then if they just faded away like a mystical mirage when the sun beams ceased, or if they turned into Chinese dragons and went into the countryside to hunt for virgins. I contemplate this while people are getting their heads bashed into brick walls.

But the people here are usually nice, caring, though perhaps subservient, citizens. Many of them show physical scars of either some skin disease, lung disease, cuts along their necks or shoulders, deformaties in their face, or they have a missing limb. I’m absolutely serious about this. I have seen an incredible amount of disabilities since I’ve been here.

But it’s alright. China seems to be growing out of their own scars that came with such things as the cultural revolution, the long march and everything that happened in 1976.

At the train station I saw a man with no hands begging out of a can he held tied to his nubs. Everyone felt pity for him and gave accordingly. Sometimes people smile when I smile at them, though it’s willless, and I wonder if I’m torturing them by making them do it.

I’m in Tianjin right now, the third most populated city in China and also one of the most god-awful places I’ve ever visited. The polluition here reminds of how the preachers used to describe hell. Everything is tinted rust and the people live in the dirt.

The haze of pollution in Beijing is increased three fold here, and I can barely make out one of the dozens of skyscrapers that make up this city. But the more I find it putrid and disgusting the more I think about how this still is the third most populated city in China, and how millions of people call it home and have to deal with it every single day.

I begin to wonder how they put up with it. If they go to worship a God that will save them, or if they read from ancient texts, or perhaps rebuild one of the millions of Buddha statues that their fathers destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, or perhaps they look at their beloved Chairman on their currency and that gives them purpose.

Now it’s occured to me that I’m as clueless about China as I was about Japan a year ago. Nothing that happens here makes sense to me, though I’ve read the Nobel Laureates from China and attended “Asian-style” parties…there’s so much that’s impossible to comprehend.

So I leave you with the facts I’ve observed.

North-East China is badly polluted. It makes me sick. I’ve only eaten two meals since I’ve been here and after each one I wanted to puke. The Great Wall is hard to see because the toxins make the air thick. I’m reading a post-apocolyptic novel right now, where everything is black from ash and the sun never peaks beyond black clouds. A world like that seems all too possible when you go to China. It feels like a post-apocolyptic war zone. On the train, I began looking out the window but soon closed the blinds for the rest of the ride. There were bags in front of me to puke in, like on an airplane, but this was a smooth train-ride. The bags weren’t for traveling sickness, they were for looking out the window at the God-awful descent of humanity kind of sickness. Everywhere are squares, the color brown and gray, dirt, things broken or crumbled. It’s a mess.

Later.

By the way, I’m staying at a four-star hotel tonight for only $23 USD, and until now I stayed four nights at a hostel for about $8 USD. Beer here costs 26 cents a bottle.

China II “The Wall”

My stay in China has been getting better, at least it was. About ten minutes ago, you wouldn’t believe what I just saw. It was probably the most disgusting, putrid act of humanity I’ve ever seen face to face.

But it requires some backstory.

Yesterday I was on a mission not to hate Beijing, though it had plenty of reasons so far for me to hate it. First of all, the strange mist that surrounds the city—wait, that’s no mist, it’s a haze of POLLUTION. I don’t see how these people breath and go on day to day without thinking: “wait a minute, this is freaking INTOLERABLE and I should probably speak up about it!”

Anyways, right–so I must not hate Beijing. After all, the Olympics will be here next here (I swear the committee only chose Beijing because they want to increase global warming awareness…and what better way to get people upset at Global Warming than when their star athletes suddenly get lung cancer from five days in the Chinese capital?)

So yesterday I was on the great wall, tired as hell of people asking me to buy things from them. Along the wall I saw them picking out tourists one-by-one, specifically the older women. It was quite a struggle, but my mind couldn’t take it. I thought, if one more person comes up and asks me to buy a goddamn postcard or statue or write my name in Chinese…somebody is going to die.

Then someone tapped on my shoulder.

I burst like a ripe tomato. I thought I would spred blood but my mind wouldn’t let me. I lunged at them and gave them my last defense against the utter tyranny they had reaped upon my life

I gave them THE WALL.

If you are unfamiliar with The Wall, it’s a highly used resource when it comes to teeny boppers, though it’s known far better as a psychological barrier (See: Pink Floyd). It’s an impenetrable defense where the defender stretches their arm like a shotgun in front of them and holds their palm up like a policeman at a traffic light in a manner that defaces the enemy like hiding in shade from a discomforting sun.

This is what I did to the Chinese man attempting to rain on my parade. This is what I did, and even declared in a most pompous, patronizing manner — “Get out of my face–I’m an American!”

After the Chinese saw me do that, they didn’t follow me again. They had seen something they had only read about in books, something perhaps in American movies or mythologized like the great dime novels we have heard so much about but never touched…they had never met someone with the audacity to really give them The Wall, until today.

The rest of the trip until tonight has been pleasant since I began giving people The Wall. I’ve met many nice Chinese people, and they are fantastic to talk to, not desperate to meet foreigners or always nervous about introducing themselves like Koreans, or overly polite and formal like Japanese. They are their own, laid-back and laughing breed, hard working and unafraid to get down in the dirt.

That brings me to what I saw about twenty minutes ago. The most horrifying spectacle I’ve ever seen. When I was in Salt Lake City I saw a mexican melee where an old mexican drunkard got his head repeatedly shoved into a wall and…in Chicago I saw…well I could give you a thousand stories of FUBAR, but this one takes the cake.

I saw an OLD CHINESE LADY getting BEATEN SENSELESS in the middle of a shopping street, and NOBODY DID A GOD-DAMN THING.

I’ve seen old people getting beat up before, usually for something they did (steal, act superior to somebody else), but NEVER have I seen that kind of moral injustice go by in a street filled with dozens of people and NOBODY GIVING A SHIT.

Even if she stole from him, even is she had clubbed the guy in the balls repeatedly, even if she had somehow set off a device that blew up the guy’s family…somebody would have stepped in. IF this was America. IF this was Korea, Japan, or any sane country I’ve visited and had the pleasure to see heroism in all its forms.

But not in China.

This wasn’t like a gang beating up an old lady either, where nobody could intervene because they were afraid of getting shot. This was one dude, grabbing an old short woman by her gray hair as she screamed for help, then slamming her into the pavement, kicking her as she laid helpless, then chasing her down the block as she ran through scores of people, grabbing her again and repeating the violent strokes.

Now, you may be wondering why I didn’t intervene. I had certain precepts I had to consider.

1) Perhaps this was just a cultural difference I had to respect.

RIGHT. That was out immediately. I think only a super-liberal nutjob would ever buy THAT kind of moral relativity.

2) They put people in jail for getting involved with this kind of incident.

I’ve had friends who were put in Korean jails for defending people. And I couldn’t imagine what a Chinese jail might be like…

3) I had a boat to catch.

This may seem like a cop-out, but this boat is in total control of my life right now. If I don’t get on this boat I won’t make it on time for my plane ride back to the states, which means I won’t make it in time to register at UW for fall classes, which means I wouldn’t be able to get into the school I’ve been applying for for the past two and a half years.

I weighed my choices wisely. There’s an unwritten rule as a traveler, which is if it’s not your business, you butt out. My friends and I felt as helpless as the old woman, who like us, was watching the dozens of Chinese men who were watching her getting beaten and for some reason did nothing to help her.

China has been an interesting trip, I couldn’t imagine a place I’ve been more repulsed by—environmentally, socially, and now, morally. They should have taught this kind of stuff in schools. In college, all I got was — Chinese culture is great! Let’s all go and meet those smooth-faced girls whose function is little more than an afrodisiac to western men! Let’s see their charm and wit and how they LOVE us Americans!

What a load. Though I’ve meet some nice Chinese eople, I wonder how many of them would have helped an old lady getting beaten in the street. Did they lose all their morals in the Cultural Revolution? What has communism done to what used to be the most morally superior land in the world? What happened to the country of Lao Tzu, of Confucious, of philosophy and moral leaders, WHAT HAPPENED?

Neruda perhaps says it best when I think of China.

“And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!”

China – Tian Jin

China

Last week I hastily stuffed a green backpack with random assortments of clothes and took off on a completely improvised trip to the only government state more redder than Texas — CHINA!

Before I even got there, shit went wrong.

First of all you need to get a Visa to enter, which takes about four days of processing unless you pay a ton of extra fees. I usually don’t mind a stalled trip–it gives me time to think about what I’m doing and back out before I do something crazy–but in this case the American Visa to China costs about $100 more than if you’re from any other country.

I stayed in Seoul for five days, seeing all the sights I didn’t see before, hanging out and sleeping in a Korean sauna. Every day that I spent waiting for my Visa came to me like the upward clicks on a rollercoaster, those rythmic beats that come just before nose-diving into what’s still a complete blank in my mind.

As naive as it sounds, that’s what China was to me. A big blank at the end of a roller-coaster drop. I had no way of knowing whether there were thick-metal bars to lift me out of the shit once I was deep enough in it. But like every roller-coaster, its only an illusion of danger.

The boat to China lasted twenty-five hours, and was delayed about two hours before I left. I met some people at the train station and hitched onto their bandwagon, so I felt confident China would be a breeze.

The only part I remember about the boat ride was the Incheon bridge still under construction.

When we entered Tainjin, the Chinese port, I felt queasy from the oil and shit in the water. I began coughing sporadically from the toxins in the air, barking out waves of black dust.

About Chairman Mao: there’s no amount of currency that doesn’t have his picture on it.

At the Tianjin docks we were hounded by beggars, so bad we could barely move. This was the middle of the night, might I add, so I held my passport and wallet at all times as we moved through the crowd. Finally we found a Taxi that flew over 100 on a thin dark road in the middle of nowhere.

We were on the drop off of the Chinese rollercoaster, screaming headlong and just waiting for something to lift us out.

Only when we opened out eyes did we find that 100 wasn’t that fast. It was in kilometers, dummys.

Everything in Tianjin was dark, though there were buildings everywhere. Crushed buildings with insides as hollow as a crisp-burnt figure after an eruption. It was like driving through a warzone, but actually, it was only one of the most polluted cities in the world.

When we got to the train station to Beijing we were accosted by yet more vagrants, and after walking through them all I couldn’t hold my belongings with the same patronizing fear I had before. Maybe this was their routine – sleeping outside of a train station and waiting for westerners to come by with a hand-out. There were thousands of them, more than I’d ever come close to seeing in my life.

From Tianjin to Beijing I began to think of a novel I’d just read, Memoirs of a Geisha, which was educational about Japanese sex culture, at least how it presents itself to the reader. In the highly fictionalized novel, before traveling, every Geisha would always check their astrological almanac to see if it was an auspicious time. I began to think I should have checked my almanac. So far, coming to China was getting scarier by the second.

At the Beijing station, there were even more homeless people than in Tianjin, and I felt helpless in the choice of either being patronizing to them all or give away all the money I had with me. So far, I’ve been a sucker for a sad face. Meaning, I give to make myself feel better, or to get out of frightening situations.

Another frightening taxi-cab later we were in our hostel. Then I slept, and woke up, and then it was today.

This morning I showered thoroughly, the fear of the massive clouds of pollution just outside the air-conditioned hostel. And those streets are gigantic as hell. Where it took me about four hours or so to walk from one end of San Francisco to another (slowly), it would probably take me about a day and a half to walk from one end of Beijing to the other. In fact, walking has now lost it’s privilege of being any fun, adaptable or easy.

Today I was attempting not to loathe these Chinese touts who have drained the money I have. Anytime I decide to get in a taxi, or buy a souvenir,  or get entry into a museum, or even eat some God-damn pork, they screw you with the might of a persistent school-child that looks so innocent and helpless–and just so foreign. You want to be a nice guy in a different country, right American?

These enemies of sight accost you at any tourist spot. They pose as “interpreters” or “tour guides” or “drivers” or just plain merchants but I find myself growing ruder with every tourist site. We avoid them until we need them, then we take a taxi and the driver locks the door, tells us to pay twice what we had agreed. Then he pretends to have no change.

So the roller coaster has been falling and shows no sign of picking up thus far. I thought more about my astrology almnamac, and figured a trip to China couldn’t have been any other way. I always avoid tour groups, hotels, or just plain anything orthodox as a traveler because I want to really experience the place. Whatever that means. In a place that speaks very little English, that seems like a terrible idea.

On the upside, there are very nice Chinese people here.

2007 Traveling – August 5, OSAKA

At nearly 20 million people, Osaka isn’t an easy case-study when it comes to “drive-by” tourism.

After the long boat ride to Foukoka and refamiliarizing myself with the currency, language and habits of the Japanese, we bought a twenty-thousand yen ($200) railpass to see the entire western half of Japan. Before heading there we spent the night in a Japanese spa, sense neither me nor my traveling companions ever thought it very adventerous to make hotel reservations.

Spending the night in a spa is an experience nobody should miss. First off you get clean as hell, as in rubbing your skin until it turns bright red (which everyone can see cuz, well, it’s a bathhouse). I’m reminded of the Greek gymnasiums, where back in the day training the body was just as important as training the mind, and it was casual to have libraries in gyms and bathhouses. Japanese have that, and it seems like scrubbing and exercising go right along with reading and studying in the spa.

We had to travel through three hours of Japanese countryside on a high-speed bullet train before arriving in Osaka Station Terminal. Osaka is a city surrounded by water, the “water capital” and “food capital” of Japan; Osaka to me was just big as hell. From the Osaka towers you can look in every direction using a telescope, and still the buildings seem to extend indefinately.

Serrendipitously, one member of our group (not saying who) flirted enough with a Japanese girl to get us reliable directions to the hot spots. The first was Osaka castle. The last picture is from the top of the castle we visited, though to get there we had to move through a carnival of festivals and celebrations, losing each other in the mess of rock concerts and cheap beer while the sky was filled with balloons and helicopters.

As a westerner, the castle seemed far more like a medieval fortress than the sustained, subtle architecture I imagined from Dark Ages Japan. In fact, the castle is surrounded by two seperate moats, then built ontop of three gigantic foundations.

Oour tour of the castle was maimed by the lionizing of one of Japan’s greatest unifiers, who also attempted to “genocide out” the Kingdoms of the Korean Penninsula in the sixteenth century: the axe-wielding Toyotomi Hideyoshi. I recall my brother’s girlfriend expressing her nationalistic attitude: “How can they treat him like hero? He is monster!” My response: “Andrew Jackson wasn’t all that great either.”

I barely remember the Osaka nightlife. According to the guide, there are two big spots for nightlife, one that’s “Western orientated” and another that’s authentic Japanese, obviously we went to the “authentic” one.

Here’s what we got: Incredibly talented dart players winning drinks galore while we sat around consuming expensive but miniscule cocktails and watching older Japanese businessmen hitting on the younger boys and girls.

“authenticity” we desired…

Osaka was fun. I can’t begin to encapsulate it within a single blog…It’s big, and there’s lots of water.

Something I learned in Japan the last two times I came: judging by personality, the Japanese are nothing like Koreans. Perhaps this was my own prejudice, thinking they might act alike. But where Koreans are super-shy and self-conscious, Japanese will stare you down and offer conversations at a whim, perhaps because they really don’t care so much about you. Japan’s also far cleaner than Korea, and though it’s people seem far more polite than Koreans (Koreans have spat at my feet, casually), they are also a bit less honest and overtly friendly. This is just my impression from people in Fukouka and Osaka–mostly Osaka. Yet, like Koreans (and probably Americans too), their ostensible pride hits you harder than the stunning lights, the steaming pork ramen and the overly-modern bullet trains.

They also seem to revel in their perversions. Or perhaps perversions is the wrong word, none of them are perverse, in fact, as Erich Fromm would have said, when taboos are absent there is also the absence of shame. Japan is surreal, and free, and conspicuous, when it comes to sexuality. Shameless, one could say. Uninhibited, one could also say.

Even though Osaka is the ninth-biggest city in the world, I was completely unhindered walking the backstreets at 5am. Japan lives up to its reputation. Like Korea it’s strangely safe.

A Map of the water city

City’s website