Privacy and public debate

For the past week, China’s social medias were flooded with comments on a private scandal. Former Olympic Badminton player Lin Dan had been filmed when giving some intimate gestures to a pretty woman before the hotel’s curtain was shut down. Anger and criticism went viral in the internet, especially because his wife, another former world champion just gave birth to their son two weeks ago.

Well, everyone believed to have right to comment on a celebrity’s life, where privacy and public image are confused. The majority expressed their condemnation on Lin’s betrayal, considering an extramarital behavior was the first sin of a man, especially of a successful man. His legends collapsed and people mocked about their ten-years’ true love story.

After first waves of criticism directed to the national idol, many began to point out the naive and aberrant action of all internet users, who were supposed not to take others’ privacy as an official trial. Some even claimed that all the emotions were just a show which reveals the emptiness of our social life.

The counter motion was triggered, refuting this cynic conclusion and justifying their roles in defending the moral duty. While men were accused of their compulsive animality, women were satirized though their increasing self-respect.

To many’s surprise, the wife tweeted a disappointing response several days later, claiming that she would forgive her husband since the later had acknowledged the fault.The internet went even crazier. Some cried on the typical weakness of women, some thrilled with the happy ending, some seemed  find justification of being wrong, some called love illusion and marriage a cruel trap and some just laughed at all discussion.

“You know, China is very interesting.” Many foreigners told me. A famous young writer also admits that life was even more interesting than some American TV shows because everyone seems so involved but the next episode is never predictable.

Then, one week later, other news began to top all social medias. The former champions can finally sit down and talk about their private problems while all internet users still suffer with their own problems and lose hope to seek an example to apply accordingly.

Why are we so afraid of divorce?

I was back to Shanghai for two weeks and had serval gatherings with my friends and colleagues. The major topic of our talk around a cup of coffee or a table full of varied dishes is to complain our miserable marriage life. “What’s new about our other classmates? Has anyone already got divorced?” this question, although with negative response, did trigger some compulsive comments on the sustainability of our own marriage.

For our partners and our parents, gossip, whether it relates to ourselves or others, was just a killing-time leisure for women. For us, it was also an effective remedy of our depression. One began to talk about the neglect of her husband in all fields, not only the chores, but also the education of the child, the concern of her feelings, the abusive absence at home. Another followed, adding that her child’s daddy was even worse. Then, it turned out a competition of describing the most miserable life that we have endured.

However, nobody mentioned the possibility of divorce. This unwillingness to reach such a solution is not a sign to undermine the validity of all complaints but an indicator of another bigger problem : we are so afraid of divorce, at least women, at least in China. Our parents already told us to endure the common disappointment of marriage life and have cited numerous examples witch ended deplorable. The devaluation of a divorced woman is especially huge and unworthy, affecting even the woman’s job and social relationship. Besides and after all,  we all give too much privilege to our children, whom we could never imagine suffering the mock of peers.

Then, after indulging ourselves into a storm of accusation, as if letting out all harmful energy, we began offering strategies to handle with a namely miserable life. Some showed their knowledge about make-ups, believing that a refreshing image of oneself can cheer up. Some asserted the importance of career performance, holding that having a respectable income is the basic guarantee of their independence. Some even swore to take vacation alone to gain more hope and optimism. All affirmed our need to have more friends and more hand-out.

Nobody suggested a talk with her husband nor a try to reshape the life style. We all don’t want a divorce, neither another chance to meet a better man, neither to negotiate a better way to handle the current indifference in family. Why? After nearly ten years being together, we all know so much about the other person lying on the same bad. We are all frightened by our potential power to declare the war.

But still, it’s so complicated to explain the fear of divorce which is torturing and tempting. In spite of our education background which emphasized  women’s freedom and self-sufficiency, even with a decent job and social position, we are ultimately determined by our own original family.  We grew up listening our mothers complain about our fathers. Sometimes, we would rather prefer their divorce in stead of suffering the constant stress in family. Nevertheless, we clearly remembered how many nights we refused to sleep because sacred by the idea of our parents’ divorce.

Now,  when we have reached such a period where the disappointment of our partner becomes daily, our mothers’ pessimism automatically activated us. Their fear of divorce was so deeply and dramatically rooted in our mind that we repeat unconsciously their stroy.

Sacrifice

When I was young, I believed that love was pure and sacred. All those love stories where sacrifice was glorified had been touching me, shaping my own view of a perfect partner and guiding my behavior of being a lover.

Later, when it came to marriage, my mom reminded me that sacrifice was the most important quality as to maintain a long relationship. It is so common in our tradition that most women are proud of having put foreword the interest of their family or their children. For all kinds of reasons, we gave up our own dreams or ambitions. Unfortunately, the society takes it for granted.

Marriage is a long journey and love is a bewildering feeling. We need sacrifices and concessions to coordinate daily life and the long term family project. However, if we keep thinking that our motivation is selfless and that our action is a purely sacrifice, we will  soon or later encounter a stronger compulsive power, which rises from inside calling for justice. Of course, sacrifice can be rewarded. The problem is that we expect rewards so much while the moment of rewards is always delayed. Not mention that most of time there will be no sign of such expected rewards. The calculating of sacrifice from each partner, although in favor of the family’s future, undermines love, marriage, self-esteem, trust, intimacy and relationship with our children.

Now I hate this word”sacrifice”, delusive and poisonous. In every decision, I tell myself that what I will do is not a sacrifice waiting to be glorified and rewarded. What I will do is to give me another chance to impower myself, whether it is to increase my tolerance and patience or to boost my effectiveness and creativity.

A healthy love journey is not to direct a wonderful film where the main characters gain happiness and wealth while you are waiting years later to get the frame in the podium. As a family number, we should thrive with the other members, sharing the daily energy and joy.

So at the 8th anniversary of my marriage, I looked back all the important up and down moments and more detailed trifles in my life.

Congratulations! The success of this love journey is not represented by a positive answer from my husband to such naive questions : Do you still love me? Do you love me more? Do you remember and reward all my sacrifices?

I’m happy because my marriage has enabled me to meet a “better” Me.

When we are old…

When queuing after an old couple in the supermarket,  I turned to my husband and said, “you’d better keep your shape, otherwise I will have problem to carry you when you are old.” It was a spontaneous reaction, as other remarks I made in our daily life. I even didn’t reason before saying it out, but I’m sure it was not a joke, neither of the old couple or of my husband.

In fact, since we always meet lots of old couples doing things together, in the supermarket or on the street, I couldn’t help myself imagine my life at their age. Most of time, beside an empathy towards these old couples, I admire their companionship. It’s rare to see young family handing out together in supermarket, since shopping is considered as a boring routine, a chore that one can handle with alone. However, when people become very old, shopping together in the grocery may turn out to be an essential part of their daily life. Compared with the images where single old women or men push their wheels and pick items with their trembling hands, old couples and their cooperative gestures always convey a joy of deep and long love. This kind of scene warms my heart.

“Even now, you barely can carry me!!” My husband seemed irritated by my words, “I have no hope in depending on you.”

What he said was true but hurting. I held my tongue and we passed to the cashier with a forced smile. At that moment, the picture of our future life appeared miserable.

Such conversation undermines our marriage life, due to the mutual misinterpretations. We definitely have different perspectives. When I foresee our retired life, I depict a companionship whose details are overwhelmed by the harmony tone. When I said “don’t be too heavy”, I just could not fit an over-weighted couple into our own  future’s imaginary. However, my husband is used to focus on realistic details. The picture in his mind underlines all the difficulties that old people may encounter.

We were both mad. I was disappointed that he had belittled my ability as a partner and caregiver, while he was frustrated by the fear of being old and dependent. We’d better avoid this kind of topic.

However, we do share a common perspective which allow us to imagine being together when we are old. We will be together, like this couple in front of us, who may have many problems in life but still or more in love.

That’s others’ Daddy

When dinning with the whole family of Claire’s friend Anna, I was surprised to learn that her daddy was their cook. Both parents work and they share the house chores.  It’s normal in U.S but appears so enviable for a traditional Chinese family, where the mother always does most of chores and ought to be responsible of their children’s education. Nowadays, since most of women work, families in China often involve the grandparents in the daily housework, especially including cooking and taking care of young children.

However, in big cities, when men seem take the situation for granted, women are easily disappointed with the absence of men in the family life. “He leaves all to me and doesn’t care anything.” It’s a common complaint when women get together, shrugging their shoulders. Although the family takes a smooth daily life, with all things done correctly, the wife tends to dream another life with a equal involvement in family from her partner.  We have forgotten the reason why we married our husband, his personality which charmed us, his quality as a man, by focusing on his failure of being a father and a partner. “I know many good daddies, but I had no luck, neither my daughter.” sighed one mom.”Me neither.” followed another.

Little by little, our partner has lost all other identities but “being a farther” and the deficient farther, while he still expects all qualities from his wife, as being a good lover, a good mother and a good cook. “Always busy, busy, do you notice me? ” it’s the common complaint from the married men,”how lucky you are! our parents help us a lot, you should appreciate it.”

The gap is forming and becomes sometimes too large to bridge, even with the conciliation intention. Sometimes, wives tried to convince their husband to commit more to the family, but the reasoning always went wrong:”Look, that’s a model daddy!” Sometimes, husbands tried to revive their lovers with an effort to point out another model. This only made the dialogue dead.

“That’s others’ daddy!” my friend gave up her hope.

Yes! That’s others’ daddy! Why should we talk about it? Why are we so obsessed with the comparison? Why do we stick to the word Daddy to name our lover? Why do we tend to star at others’ shinning point and imagine the opposite of our partner? That’s others’ daddy, not mine, not yours.

Every family is different and every one is different. We will never copy other family’s model in order to produce the happiness in our own family.

We need presents!

“Anna is not my best friend any more! Never ever!” Claire was back from school, grumpy. The next morning, she refused to go to school, just because of the same reason. I didn’t take such situation seriously. It happens. Sometimes, I asked why, which made her more willing to stick to her decision. Being their judge could even worsen the situation. Children can learn how to deal with their conflicts.

Yesterday, Claire was finally happy and told me that Anna was still her best friend. I thought they were OK. But what was the magic?

“She gave me a present!” cheered Claire, showing me a simple paper for coloring. A present?! It worked again. I remember that last time they were mad of each other, Claire finally brought home a simple drawing, which ended her bad mood.

“Kids are so easy to be bought in.” exclaimed me and her daddy. We are always reluctant to use presents in order to calm down her crying or make the exchange of a peaceful day.

But this time, the very simple present made me think more.

I still believe that the two friends will continue to have conflicts, perhaps due to the same reason. However, they now can talk, thanks to such a plain paper. It was not a real present. We have plenty at home. One gave something, whatever, to the other, it’s the gesture that made them speak again. Claire would refuse to receive such easy present from me. She forgot soon the coloring paper but she repeated that Anna gave her a present.

After 9 years’ marriage, my husband and I both nearly forgot what present means, pretending that we don’t need to give anything to the other, since we share the earnings. Buy yourself what you like!

When we were first in love at college, we couldn’t pay for necklace or watch although we were dreaming to afford them later. Nevertheless, we offered presents. I took the bus for more than one hour to buy him the believed most yummy egg cake in Shanghai, although I knew that boys were not much interested in desserts. He got me Belgium chocolate that I founded too sweat. We were not romantic as other couples in university but we did love offer some small things, as if they were big and meaningful presents.

At the beginning of our marriage, we still kept the good intention. Little by little, we allowed ourselves to make realistic comments on these presents. “I don’t like the color of this dress!””That’s too expensive.””It’s just a waste!” Then, we became even lazy to think about the idea of present. For anniversaries or other festivals, we would prefer to dinner in a chic restaurant and didn’t mind who paid the bill.

Time goes by and we seem to be busier and busier. Frequently, we have quarrels, which make us affirm that we are not loved any more. Sometimes, we even cannot remember why we are so mad with each other. We can be taciturn for days and no one will take the first step to talk. No message. No hint. No effort.

Is there magic? Like the simple drawing or the common coloring paper, which made children forget all their sadness and revive their friendship?

“I made it for you!” I can easily offer the morning coffee as a present. He can just pick up some flowers while buying grocery and present them with a smile. We can do more. We still don’t need to buy necklace or luxury watch, but we need presents.

Everything can be a present. Presents can easily melt the iced communication and make us warm. Then, we can talk. Even it’s just the beginning, even we still will have conflicts.

If you are married to the wrong person

Alain de Botton‘s article Why you will marry the wrong person has been the most popular article of New York times for several weeks. I read it with admiration. Nobody is perfect. As time goes by, we tend to be more picky with our partner and cannot bear his or her magnified flaws.”I deserve a better man,” we comfort ourselves by imagining a person who surely understand us better, just as Emma Bovary, the famous heroine of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary. “It’s the fault of fatality,”concluded her boring but sincere husband.

Emma was indulged herself in romantic novels. She tried to love her family but never gave up her dream. We are not as foolish as Emma who confused reality and imagination. Moreover, we think our partner will be much more charming and smarter than the poor Charles, her husband and her other hypocritical lovers. However, we encounter constantly surprising but disappointing discoveries in our marriage. We even doubt about the existence of love. Let’s read again Madame Bovary, a novel of 1856.

“Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books.”                                                                                     Chapiter 5, Part I, Madame Bovary

We are all, at a certain time, Emma Bovary. And then, if after each quarrel with your partner, you think  you are married to the wrong person, what do you do?

Most of my friends have family problems. Me too. Most of us chose silence to affront the disagreement. Cold violence turns out to be more harmful, because we unconsciously accumulate our anger and the explosion will be more violent. In the silence, we get time to justify ourselves, to prepare the attack, to peer or seek other proofs and to compare the past and the present. Once we compare the past and the present, the present seems always horrible, because the past, especially the beginning of our love and the first days of our marriage were embellished in our memory. Naturally, we are more or less egocentric.”The marriage was wrong,” we accuse our partner to ruin our expectation. We rarely use “I” to form the sentence, as “I was wrong”.

It happened that in yesterday’s college entrance exam in Shanghai, the writing subject was to express one’s opinion on “comments on others”. Making comments on others becomes our busy activity, especially in social medias. Comments and judgments fill also our family life. We don’t want to be mean, but sometimes, we are so mean without awareness.”Your haircut is awful,””you are always impatient,””How stubborn your are,”… Gradually, we focus more on someone’s quality than on the issue itself, trying to figure out the origin fault of our problem. “I never thought you were so selfish,” we shouted out.

If you are married to the wrong person, I mean, if you think that you are married to the wrong person, stop highlighting the word “wrong”. In marriage, there is no right no wrong. Stop commenting or judging your partner. Stop making sentences with “you” as subject. Try to buy her or him a present, as what you did on the first day of your date. Make him or her a coffee or just hand over the coffer mug. There is a Chinese expression which describes the good marriage life, even it’s not in line with our ideal of best love: “Be polite as guests !”

If you are married to the wrong person, the first thing to do is to stop thinking that you are married to the wrong person. Try to think that all marriage are not easy. As Alain de Botton reveals, “you will still marry the wrong person”.