Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dating in Beijing (3): what I look for in a woman

Well, having risen to Tulsa's challenge and covered the unique challenges of the Beijing scene, and given my encouragement and advice to the expat ladies of the city, it is now time to review my own situation in the light of some of the observations on these previous two posts.

What am I looking for in a woman?

1) Someone who is not too far from my own age. I jested earlier about being encouraged by the Beijing dating environment to consider twenty-year-olds, but..... it would have to be a really exceptional twenty-something (and nothing much younger than late twenties, I think) to hold my interest. I've been attracted to women in their thirties ever since I was in my early twenties; that hasn't changed. These days, I am prepared to cast the net a little wider, to consider women of my own age or maybe even a little older (the early to mid-forties); but basically 30-40 is my target zone.

2) Someone who isn't a Language Nazi. I am always terribly impressed - sometimes swooningly so - by women who have achieved a very high level in their Mandarin skills. But, as I observed before, people this proficient in the language are often savagely intolerant of indolent bumblers like me who get by with the 'Lonely Planet' phrasebook. Tolerance is good, I think; a key quality of personality that I look for in any woman I may become interested in.

3) Someone who isn't a happy-clappy Sinophile or an embittered China-basher.
I place myself somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, but with a heavy dash more scepticism and criticism than everything-in-the-garden-is-wonderful optimism. It is difficult to coexist comfortably with someone who diverges too far from that outlook.

4) Someone who is likely to stay here long-term.
I am very settled here now. I have a pretty good life, plenty of work, some fantastic friends. I can't imagine being able to enjoy such a good quality of life anywhere else in the world. I would be very reluctant to relocate (I did consider it briefly - in a rather hypothetical way - when I was dating an American grad student a few years back; but I fear it was never a very likely outcome). Thus, women who have any sort of terminal date for their sojourn here - even if it's 3 years hence - are not an appealing match for me.

5) Someone who shares my interests. I'm all for compromise and being tolerant of and curious about and inspired by difference, but..... in some things there's only so much difference you can take - and it's not very much. I remember reading an interview with Quentin Tarantino once where he said, "When I'm getting serious about a girl, I always take her to see Rio Bravo. And she'd better f***ing like it!" I once showed a girl I was dating Harold & Maude; and, despite her being well aware that it was a film I absolutely loved, she was emphatically unimpressed with it - that's not good for a relationship. Similarly, I can't imagine having a relationship with someone who doesn't read (a lot); or with someone who doesn't like Tom Waits; or with someone who does like rap music.

6) Someone who doesn't have incompatible beliefs. I am a passionate atheist. Religions annoy me. Anyone with very strong religious beliefs (at least in one of the more obviously theistic religions) is very unlikely to be able to get along with me. These days, vegetarianism and teetotalism (and not wearing leather or fur, extreme recycling, etc.) have become new forms of religion. I do not at all disapprove of any of these things per se; quite the contrary. However, these are not superficial lifestyle choices; they are prompted by fundamental issues of principle. I happen not to have adopted those principles in my life; so I'm never going to feel very comfortable around someone who has - there will be a constant uneasiness that at some level they disapprove of me, a constant regret that I cannot share my pleasures with them (I appreciate all the arguments against alcohol and meat - but for me they are instantly defeated by a good steak and a fine whisky), perhaps even a gnawing of guilt that I have not been strong-willed enough to embrace these worthy ideals myself. And I tried dating a vegetarian once - it wasn't fun (although this was the same girl who didn't get Harold & Maude, so it wasn't just my carnivore-guilt that undid us).

7) Someone who isn't too much shorter than me. I'm 6' 3". I have a weak back. I don't like bending down too far to kiss someone. The shortest girl I ever dated - by a good 2 or 3 inches - was about 5' 5" (I think her vegetarianism may have stunted her growth). Most of the girls I've loved have been around 5' 9" or 5' 10". One or two have been over 6'. This is a very hard thing for me to compromise on.

8) Beauty, brains, personality, wit, excellent English (not always to be relied on even with native speakers!) - and, of course, absence of madness. Yes, I want it all! Must be a good kisser also - which lets most English girls out, I'm afraid.

It becomes easier to see now, doesn't it, why I have been single so often and for so long?

Of course, it is points 1) and 7) that militate so powerfully against me finding a Chinese girlfriend. There is still a very strong cultural norm in China that girls get married in their early or mid-twenties; so, there are very, very few single Chinese women around in their thirties. And there are very, very few Chinese women taller than about 5' 4" - I'd develop a painful stoop in no time if I tried to date someone that height. I am sometimes accused of having a racial prejudice against Chinese girls. That is just not true. I have had very many female Chinese friends, and some of them I have found very, very pretty - but I seldom or never come across a Chinese girl who is the right age and the right height for me.

So, if you are, or happen to know someone who meets the 8 criteria above, please drop me a line in the comments below.

Or, if you think I'm going to die a bachelor and deservedly so, you can tell me that as well. I can take it.


Tulsa said...

um, so #1 is all the problems

#2 is advice to ignore all the problems in others, fix the problems in oneself and just go for it

#3 is reality.

Reality is not negativity. Reality is simply accepting the fact that this particular pool may include less potential for whatever type of relationship one is searching for.

No doubt, you found your soulmate 2 or 3 times in one year, but the simple act of finding a soulmate may not be enough for some. Some might want those soulmates to be available... and to consider the searcher to be a soulmate, also.

Everyone has a different standard of what makes a relationship and what satisfies, as you've just exemplified in your post #3.

But if you took your own advice from post #2, you'd be dating some one by next week, i'm sure!

I'm also sure that it's way better to keep an open heart and open mind and continue chugging along... it'll happen when it happens. (Rather than cross off the entire Beijing scene as devoid of romantic possibilities.)

Froog said...

Ah, the big advice post to cap this series is still in waiting.

I have to go back and read No. 2 now, to remind myself what I said.

I mean, I know I'm good, but next week?? I think I do mostly follow my own advice, but..... that advice is bound by the qualifications that I impose. Those qualifications were already discussed in Post 2; I don't think there's any consistency here.

I meet lots of women. I am capable of charming them if I put my mind to it. I don't because..... a) I'm fussy, and b) my heart keeps on flip-flopping for the wrong people (but when it's flip-flopping for someone, I just don't look at anyone else).

Anonymous said...

You're going to die a batchelor and quite deservedly so. All women develop fuffy ankles as soon as they show the remotest returned romantic interest in you. And what makes you so bloody grate anyhow? Huh? Huh?

Anonymous said...

That should read "puffy" ankles by the way....

Froog said...

Yes, Lizzie, we know.

I still haven't explained that one to the wider readership, have I?

Mind you, 'fluffy ankles' might work as well - unshorn leg hair!

Froog said...

And I have never claimed to be 'great' - merely 'acceptable'.

It was you and Bobs who dubbed me 'Perfect Man'..... but perhaps you've revised your opinion after actually getting to know me??

Dawn said...

Funny, when i googled "expat dating in beijing" I didn't expect to find such an interesting, insightful AND down to earth account. Thanks. As a 37yr old US expat with no timeline for living in or leaving Beijing it's sometimes a bit of struggle to keep up the faith that I'll happen upon that lone "one of the last good ones left" here among the men you've so elloquently described in your blogs.

I'd seriously like to thank you for your non-hyperbolic descriptions of the types of women/men/situations out there and what I think is some pretty good advice. Also appreciate your candor as you describe what you're looking for in a woman.

If I were just taller than 5'4" we might have something.

Oh well, good luck to us both. Thanks again.

Froog said...

Well, thank you, Dawn.

If you've read any of the newer posts on this blog, you'll have a fair idea of where to find me. The 12 Square Metres bar on Nanluoguxiang is one of my most regular hang-outs. (And the boss there is one of the very few people in Beijing to have pierced my veil of anonymity!)

I hope you enjoy your time in Beijing. And maybe we'll be run into each other some time.