He’s a Paul

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Imagine this guy but without the glasses, shorter, and slightly-Asian.

When you’re in the dating game long enough, you come to understand certain types of characters you won’t mesh well with. Sometimes, new guys come along bearing all the red flags of an ex, sending your flight or fight response to a healthy “get the fuck out of there”.

Back in college, a wavy-haired nano-scientist caught my attention at a potluck. He was socially awkward, sexually deviant, and somewhat handsome. But goddamn, he sat so high up on the spectrum I’m not sure how he even had any friends. If not for his good looks and intelligence, he’d be fucked. His empathy gauge always ran on empty and by the end of our relationship, I’d become convinced of his psychopathy.

Yesterday, I played around on a Chinese app called Momo. Someone sent me a message using simplified Chinese characters so I responded immediately. He looked alright in his pics. Unfortunately, when I got there, I discovered he was shorter than me by several inches, too skinny, and super awkward. And no, it’s not because he’s Chinese. I met plenty of other Chinese guys who inhale and exhale cool. I didn’t wanna be rude and I felt a bit hungry, so I sat and had coffee with the guy.

“What do you do?” I asked.

“I’m an astronomer.” He replied.

“Wow, that’s actually super cool.”

I wasn’t lying. Studying the stars is pretty badass. But the more I talked to him, the more I realized he was a Paul, even down to the ticks and strange facial expressions.

“Sometimes, I get lonely.” He said. “I live alone. I’d like someone to talk to besides my colleagues.”

Actually, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this concept. We all get lonely and we all need stimulating conversation that has nothing to do with work. That’s just human nature.

Unfortunately, I’m a shallow bitch and can’t be serious about a dude who makes me look like an Amazonian warrior princess when I stand next to him. Nor can I stomach looking at his oddly-shaped dick. I’ve seen a lot of cocks in my life and this guy’s wang is in the top 5 list of least aesthetically-pleasing. It’s skinny at the bottom and thick at the top like an ice cream cone. Worse, he likes blowjobs. A trouser snake needs to appeal to my eyes if I’m gonna stick my face anywhere near the damn thing.

It gets worse. He’s got a receding hairline at 33 years old. He can’t look me in the eye during conversations. He won’t sit still for five minutes. Despite his PhD and international travel, the most basic social skills seem to elude him. Also, he’s from mainland China. There’s just too many deal-breakers with this guy. On to the next one.

Independent Girls

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I really miss Chloe. Upon arriving at the Internet cafe, we sat down to our respective computer stations. Electronic poker, her game of choice, booted slowly on the subpar Internet connection. My MMO of choice, League of Angels, didn’t fare much better.

“You’ve got a gambling problem,” I joked while staring blankly at a seemingly never-ending load screen.

“No, I usually win. I only lost money yesterday because the game cheated. Today, I’m gonna get lucky,” she replied.

I only had six beers today, my scruffy ex-boyfriend’s voice slurred through my skull.

I just need one more Xanax, the ghost of my childhood best friend whispered in my ear.

I gotta get some dick tonight, a mirage of my college roommate chuckled.

Just one more level, a childhood memory of me whined at Dad after a 16-hour gaming binge.

“Where I have I heard that line before?” I mumbled under my breath.

Chloe snapped her fingers and clicked her tongue. “Yes! Finally! I just won 200!”

A few moments later, League of Angels finally loaded. Before I could fully immerse myself in the digital realm, I heard a loud groan coming from the desk behind me.

“Holy shit, this game cheated me again. Now I lost 400.”

Most of the people in my life are addicts. In the past, it’s been difficult to resist the temptations of all the aforementioned demons.

We continued chatting during lag times and somehow the subject of independence came up.

“I feel wrong for saying this, but I can’t connect with most Chinese girls. They act so childish.”

“It’s a cultural thing,” Chloe replied. “Even in their 30s and 40s, they continue to act like teenagers.”

“But you’re 27 and you act so mature. You’re so independent, like a Western girl.”

Chloe frowned. “It’s because I have no choice.”

We sat for a moment in silence.

“I guess I also have no choice,” I replied.

“I’m really tired of living a random life.” She sighed. “I really want to settle down and have a family.”

“Me too. Independence isn’t worth dying alone.”

 

 

Hello Taiwan

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Taiwanese graffiti is the shit.

Chloe awoke swiftly to the sound of heavy knocking at our hotel room door.

“Who is it?” She yelled several times in Chinese. No answer.

She rolled out of bed, threw on some pants, and slowly slid open the door. The clerk had come to inform us that the police had called to let them know about a routine check to be performed the following day. As a small, newly-opened hotel, they weren’t allowed to rent to foreigners. They weren’t even allowed to rent to a Chinese who would have foreigners as guests.

Shanghai has become ridiculously strict in light of the looming G20 summit – a huge international meeting where a bunch of privileged big wigs talk policy – policy often designed to fuck over the poor and immigrants. My former customer’s friend had arranged the room for us so we’d assumed there be no problems. We were wrong.

I wish I could say this only happened to me once. However, this year I’ve been kicked out of places onto the street at least five times, usually for no reason at all. That’s China. After this, I decided I didn’t want to stay anymore. 

When I first went to Guangdong in 2014, I was treated quite warmly by most everyone. I could stay in any hotel, even a hostel that only cost 20 RMB per night. I doubt that’s possible now. If I wanted to rent an apartment in Shanghai, I’d need to be certain I wanted to stay for a long time as they all require several months of rent in advance plus a security deposit, plus an agency fee. That puts the cost to around 10K RMB or higher. Rent in Shanghai is quickly becoming as bad as NYC and Chicago. And honestly, what’s the point? If I wanted to spend every ounce of my income on rent, I could have simply stayed in the USA.

I made up my mind two nights ago, as we were packing our bags with no place to go, for what felt like the hundredth time, that none of this was worth it.  I booked a budget, next-day flight to Taipei. My last night in Shanghai was spent sleeping in an internet cafe. One of my Taiwanese customers put me in touch with a club on this side of the strait. Within hours, I made an arrangement with a local agent.

The Taipei hostel owner, Robin, greeted me with enthusiasm, even allowing me to check-in early. He gave me a bottle of soda and chatted with me in Chinese. I told him I can only read the simple characters because I stayed almost two years in the mainland. He said that’s still excellent and informed me that pretty much every Taiwanese person can also read simplified Chinese. I felt right at home.

Exhausted, I took a nap around 1:30 and woke up around 4PM with plenty of energy. Around midnight, I went out to the club. A suave Taiwanese guy caught my fancy. Before we knew it, we were in some hotel downtown making enough noise to wake the folks across the street. I have a feeling Taiwan is gonna be so much better.

 

 

 

 

The Duck

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The Chinese word for gigolo is 鸭子 which means duck. The other day in Shanghai my friends and I went to a duck KTV just for fun. We’d been invited by a mutual friend and had nothing better to do on a Friday night. Slow business in summer means it’s time to play.

As soon as I entered the room, a group of tall, handsome, cream-of-the-crop Chinese men offered me a seat and a drink. They called me beautiful, played dice games with me, and clapped every time I sang a song. I felt uncomfortable. It was like working in reverse. Going to a KTV as a customer when you work as a KTV girl is like seeing another medical professional if you’re a doctor. Rather than enjoying your time, you evaluate their work ethic, clothing, posture, smile, and charm. You listen to the intonation of their voice when they slather on compliments like sunscreen in summer. And yet, there’s something oddly erotic about it. We, both essentially cheaply-paid actors, can succumb to a night of fantasy beyond the mere ordinary trappings of the commoners.

I asked my two KTV girl friends what they thought about the ducks. Chloe, the quiet nerdy one with a gambling addiction, really hates the feeling. Amy, the outgoing one, thinks it’s a great way to spend a night off. I’m somewhere in the middle. I still keep in touch with my duck, if for nothing else, just to know where the best party spots are in Shanghai.

You’re Just a Foreigner

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The morning I arrived in Shanghai, I was thrilled to finally get back to work. I felt happy to finally have another foreign friend to talk to and she’d agreed to let me stay in her home until I could gather the funds to rent a room of my own. A former customer picked me up from the airport and drove me all the way to my friend’s flat in downtown. The following day, another former customer took me to dinner. We’d been driving around lost, trying to find a seafood restaurant open at 3AM. My customer stopped to ask the owner of a food stand for directions. Later, we invited that handsome guy to dinner. I added his WeChat because he was cute. The customer paid me 1.5K RMB for eating dinner.

The next day, that cute guy from the fish market invited me to have seafood with a bunch of his friends. After, we all went to a karaoke bar and sang our hearts out. The beer had been flowing all night, one thing led to another, and before I knew it we had the most mind-blowing encounter in a cheap hotel across from a KTV. The next day he asked me out and I said “yes”.

We’d been doing that nauseating cutesy couple shit for almost a week – taking endless pics for social media, cooking for each other, going for walks in the midnight summer air. One night, my roommate decided to stay at her boyfriend’s house so I invited my new guy over for the evening. We ordered takeout and fell asleep.

Next thing I knew, I woke up to the sound of my crazy roommate screaming about how I should have told her I was bringing someone over and why didn’t we throw the take out container out right away. She had no trash can in her house and immediately going outside after every meal proved cumbersome after several days. I told her I planned to take it out on my way to work. As for the guy, why should it matter when she has a different one over every other night. Then she told me I had one hour to pack my things and get out. I still feel she completely overreacted to an incredibly trivial situation. I don’t do well with nitpicky types, never have and probably never will. That day I lost my only foreign friend in Shanghai.

Too upset to go to work that night, I booked a room in a hostel. The next day my boyfriend asked me to come stay with him. But his accommodations aren’t ideal.  There’s no bathroom. Shitting and showering are done outside. His air conditioner doesn’t work so it’s always too damn hot in our room. But at least it’s free lodging in Shanghai. That’s still a bargain in one of the most expensive cities in Asia.

When I finally felt well enough to return to work, I met the big boss of our KTV, a Chinese woman in her mid 50s to early 60s who exudes confidence and elegance. She wears long, flowing dresses, several gold rings, and enough make-up to open her own branch of Sephora. She commands an entire room full of unruly men by simply walking through the door. She’s probably mafioso, but I admire her power. I can only hope to be as strong as her if I ever live to see old age. But alas, I’m just a foreigner. Whatever happens to me doesn’t matter.