Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not being a twosome at 29 = unhappy life?

Life's about this. Full stop.

Had an interesting chat with one of my Chinese friends, C, the other day. She’s one of those friends that I have always considered being quite open minded (she and her boyfriend, for instance, are supposed to not eat pork because of her boyfriend’s religion, however, they still do, and when the parents come to visit they hide the meat in the bottom of the freezer), or well, that was until we had a chat about love and marriage.

My friend C started telling me about her cousin: a 29-year old, career woman, who’d done two degrees at top universities and who was now working as a lawyer in town.

-Excellent! I exclaimed, until I realized that C was looking at me in horror.

-How can you say that? All the has is her job, she has no husband, and she might not ever have children?!

-She’s only 29, there’s still time?
I tried.

From the look of C’s face I realized that there was no such thing as “still time.”

C then went on to describe the unhappy life of her cousin, which, I am sorry to admit, sounded rather great. She’d not only done 2 degrees in order to achieve an excellent position as a lawyer, moved across the country, gotten a good salary, and claimed she was happy with her life.

According to C, however, one could not be happy, if alone.

-Worse thing is, C went on, she’s not even ugly! She’s quite beautiful, and she’s got a good figure….!

I shrugged my shoulder, oblivious to what I could say.

-You don’t happen to know some laowai looking for a….

-NO! Come on. Let her meet someone on her own!

-Ah… she never willl!!

-How do you know?

-Because she hasn’t yet!

-But she’s only 29?!

-Only?! It’s almost already too late….!

Useless to discuss –the message is clear. Being 29, single and a career woman is apparently still considered to be a minor catastrophe in China. I guess we are to wait some 10-20 years before this mindset starts to change.

20 comments:

arwen said...

Interesting blog you have here :)

I wonder if you have ever heard the Chinese term “剩女”. The phenomenon of 剩女(left-over girls, girls over 30 and still single)is apparently being considered a major social problem in China nowadays.

The combination of highly educated girls who can't find a husband and poorly educated guys from the poorer countryside who can't find a wife is according to sociologist threatening the stability or "harmony" in the Chinese society :P

I personally find it sad that Chinese woman are still primarily judged by their ability to "catch" and "keep" a husband ...

kanmuri said...

Marriage is very important here, too. After 29, you're called a "Christmas Cake." Just like a Christmas cake after Christmas is over, if you're a "Christmas cake" you're out of season, too late, expired...

Jonna Wibelius said...

arwen -glad u like it! And yes, I've been in China long enough to be familiar with the term 剩女 (leftover girls). Really sad that it's considered to be a social problem.

Top dog said...

Why do you think you're more open-minded than she is? It just seems like a cultural issue to me.

胡崧 said...

The problem with the urban social life in China is that there are too many highly-educated women in coastal cities but not enough men of similar background.

So if you are above 25 and still not able to find a quality man then you are pretty much screwed...

So yeah, your friend is REALLY screwed.

Chrissy said...

It's definitely an Asian thing.

I am 27 going on 18 lol and most of my peers are married with children as well.

There's just so much in life to accomplish alone before finding that one to be with hopefully for like :D

I most certainly do not see an issue with being over 30, looking presentable or well mantained and unmarried as long as you have a good career, fulfilling life (however that is defined by the individual)and most importantly truly happy. Without having the need for someone else to provide you with that well deserved happiness.

Guess it'd take centuries for this mindset to change! It's unfortunately almost everywhere in Asia, i'm just thankful my parents are really understanding and actually really supportive of me dating around and sort of just waiting it out until i am sure.

♥ your blog Jonna! have a good week ahead.

C said...

it's just a belief system on aging and lack of resources. A social conditioning of tribalism. "if i do this, you have to do this" mentality.

Chocolatesa said...

I would have tried explaining to her that in some cultures a career is more important than raising a family for a lot of people.

Momcat said...

How would it feel to be an educated woman married to an uneducated and uninterested in being educated man. Just for the sake of being married. Thats like hell on earth.

Hendrian said...

"Being 29, single and a career woman is apparently still considered to be a minor catastrophe in China."

It's not minor, it's MAJOR.

globalgal said...

Try being married, 34 years old and childless. All the aunties in the small city where I live are astonished. I think they believe there is something physically wrong with me.

My 25 year old single friend is constantly freaking out about how she is not yet married, but she also sometimes confesses that several of her married college classmates are not happy, and since she wants to become a rich businesswoman she is not sure she should get married anyway. I can see she is really conflicted between her own wants and society's expectations.

Dr. Heckle said...

The ironic thing is the double standard of this idea of "progression." Jonna, I point to your comment bout waiting "10-20 years" before this changes.

Who says that is "progress?" Who says that China HAS to change in that way?

For example, here in the US, if a man were over 30 and working at a gas station, McDonald's, or Walmart everyone would consider him a failure as well because it doesn't meet our social ideas of what "successful" is.

What if he is perfectly happy and feels his life is fulfilled doing just that?

Why don't we call that an injustice and expect THAT to change in time?

(Now it sounds like I work at Walmart or something, which I don't, I'm just making a point)

The other issue I see in the US is that this "progress" that we've made where women are now capable of "success" has had a negative effect on women who don't have those career-driven aspirations. We now look down on women who want to stay home and raise a family.

Why can't it be okay if a woman doesn't want a career? What if raising a family makes her happy and completely fulfills her life?

We are all too quick to judge others based on our own ideals and response to social expectations of how we should live our lives.

Jonna Wibelius said...

kanmuri -Gosh, just thinking about that makes me ill... that means I only have a few years to go until I will be considered a Christmas cake in Japan. Sad. Better push that bf of mine.

Top Dog -I think people that are judging others/assuming they are unhappy just because they are not married are less open minded than those who thinks that's up to each and one of us to decide for ourselves. That's all.

胡崧 -Poor girl. Well actually. No one even asked her if she WANTS to get married. Who knows? MAybe she's just not interested in having the traditional family life.

Chrissy -Yeah, I am like you... I think I'm soon to hit the un-married-danger-zone... gaaaah!! But I'm just not that into marriage ...yet. There are so many other good things in life to enjoy! :)

C -Yeah, I also feel that it is very much about what you "should do" rather than what you "want to do".

Chocolatesa -I did. And she understands. Oh, she's always very understanding when I explain about how things are in Sweden. But when it comes to China her mindset is very "set" to how things "should be".

Momcat -yeah, and think how many people that are in that situation... what a nightmare! Cute kitten, btw!

Hendrian -saaaad!

globalgal-Gosh, I feel for you. I guess somewhere in our system we are programmed to believe that we "Must Produce"... It's almost as if people look down on you when u say that you're not that into family life...

Dr. Heckle -Hm... I see your point, good one. However, my comment was more like: "I guess we have to wait some 10-20 years before people stop caring so much about what others do, and accpet the fact that we all have different mindsets/wishes/ideas of how to live our lives." I thought that in some parts of the US it was still considered OK to be a housewife. I think one should do what s/he feels like -as long as s/he's happy. The worse thing I know are people just complaining about their situation (like the "bored" housewife/the person that hates his/her job) but who refuses to do something about it?! I simply don't understand it?! It is like overweight people complaining about them being too fat, meanwhile stuffing themselves with cookies/refusing to start changing their lifestyles.

Steph said...

That's really interesting...because just across the water here in Taiwan, people think my husband and I are way too young to be married (we're 24). People here hardly ever get married until they're practically in their 30s, after they've secured a stable income, house, car, etc. Even my friends who want a boyfriend aren't even thinking about marriage for 5 or 6 more years.

I wonder why the big difference?

Chocolatesa said...

Wow.

Crystal Tao said...

Whether the girl is open-minded or not - it is not going to change the Chinese men around her. With each year she has less and less choice among her Chinese peers (and by the way the second degree only complicates the situation). This is why your friend asked if you know some "laowai".

Lenka said...

Being 29, single and a career woman is apparently still considered to be a catastrophe even in some countries of central Europe... or at least are these woman treated as "kind of odd creatuers"...

PS. Jonna, I am addicted to your blog! Even I don't know China much - I am more familiar with other Asian countries - have to say your observations are most of the time common with other A nations as well... last but not least, good observation doesn't necessary mean good transformation into words, but you have both... Bravo!

Doug1 said...

It's more likely to change in the next 10-15yrs in your Chinese friend's direction in the West including Sweden (well there maybe last) instead.

I'm writing as a formerly liberal, Stanford and top 5 law school American early gen X'er, Manhattan NYC resident for the most part, upper upper middle class, formerly quite liberal, nor more centrist and in some areas rightist, particularly as regards a lot of later stage feminism, man.

She's right; you're wrong. So says biology. So says all but feminist and Marxist or cultural Marxist and offshoot ideology.

Girls are at their most fertile and at their most attractive for non self deluded men at around 25 on average, for guys from around ages 16 through 50. Women's fertility starts declining afer 25, and rapidly so after 30, and precipitously after 35, with a great many women, about half or more unable to bear children at 35, becoming most at 40.

So a man should want to marry a woman at 29 when she's just about done with being really attractive, or really fertile, which actually walk hand in glove in all kinds of ways, due to evolution and biology?

Only the feminist/culturally Marxist and wider propagandized think so. It's bs.

As I said, she's right and you're wrong.

Get cracking.

Chinese Traveler said...

Doug1, why did you have to make Jonna feel bad? You evil ex liberal. Unfortunately I happen to agree with you. Those feminist, Marxist ideology is plain wrong and stupid. Marriage is good for everyone. Maintaining a happy, fulfilled marriage should be any married couple's top priority. The notion that women should pursue career and personal happiness before settling down is self destructive at best. Give me some real women around you who are happy with their marriage after having spent their prime time pursuing career and then marrying late. Bet you can't.

Adriana said...

In 10 years I'll be 29. Ni~~ce! :D
lol Jokes aside, I really think that's still a bit common in almost every country, excluding big cities. I would say single women in/after their late thirties are also pressured quite a bit in my country, and younger ones are constantly asked if they 'have already got a boyfriend'... I think the "problem" in China is that people are still very traditional in that sense. (I'm not against traditional aspects at all, but there are some that just...) Moreover, since many are only childs, parents and the whole family wants babies... But I guess I understand this pressure being more on women, since after a certain (quite early, I must say) age, you have a certain risk when getting pregnant...

btw, nice blog! ^^