Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chinese compromising

A cheap home-gym according to Wang

I thought I’d start this sunny day by sharing a story about my Chinese friends and that time when they were going to start exercising. To make the writing a bit smoother we can call the girl Yang and the guy Wang. Yang is a lovely girl in her mid-twenties from Yunnan, and Wang is a nice guy in his mid-twenties from Harbin.

It started somewhere during the early spring. Wang kept telling Yang that she should lose some weight. I personally don’t understand why, because she’s already very, very thin, but obviously there ain’t no such thing as ‘being too thin’ here in China. Rather, the more visible ribs the better.

Wang kept mocking Yang who kept complaining to me, telling me about obscure diets and days where she would only eat apples.

-Stop that stuff and come and visit the gym instead, I suggested.

-Ehh… I don’t like training. I don’t want muscles, Yang responded.

-Well trust me, you are not going to get loads of muscles if you just go once or twice a week. It’s healthier than starving yourself anyways, come on, give it a try!

Yang decided to take my advice and joined her local gym. After some weeks of hesitation she’d worked up enough guts to ask the personal trainers to make her a program, and before you knew it she was working out 3 times a week –and loving it.

In fact, she loved it so much that she asked her boyfriend Wang to join her.

Now, some notes about Wang. He’s a very traditional Chinese man. He’s that kind of guy who believes that house chores are stuff that women should take care off, meanwhile he’s playing his computer games. When Yang suggested he’d come with her to the gym, he frowned and said no.

But Yang nagged and nagged (apparently she’d seen many other guys working out and was keen to get her own man to abandon the couch and maybe get a bit fitter at the same time) and in the end, Wang finally gave in and promised to join her at the gym for two weeks.

For two weeks straight they were sweating and panting, running on the treadmills and lifting free weights. Yang was over the moon.

After two weeks Wang threw in his towel. Said he’d now given the gym an honest try and that he thought it was ridiculous and stupid and that he was never to return again. He also thought it was a waste of money.

Yang wasn’t happy with her man’s decision but it didn’t matter what she said –Wang could think of millions of reasons why he wasn’t to return to the gym.

One day when Yang came home she found her lovely Wang in the kitchen, lifting a table up and down.

-What are you doing? She asked.

-Working out! He said. I figured that if I have to burn my energy I want to burn it on something that’s worthwhile. See, I can lift this one too! (He lifted a chair), and this one! (picked up a pile of books). And look what I made you!

He showed her a box that he had filled up with heavy stuff.

-This one you can carry with your left hand while you are standing at the stove making dinner. When you get tired you simply swap hands! Then you get your work out at the same time as you are doing something useful!

Yang was speechless. She couldn’t deny the fact that her boyfriend had a point, but she would have still preferred him joining him to the gym once or twice a week.

-What about you then? She said and pointed at his belly. How are you going to get fit?

Wang’s lacking fitness was a lingering question for a while, until one day when he turned up outside the gym with his bike. Yang was just leaving (catching a bus) and was surprised to see her boyfriend there.

-Are you here to exercise? She said, with hope in her voice.

-No, I am here to pick you up. In that way, we save on the bus fare, I know you get home safely AND I get some exercise at the same time.

Yang couldn’t protest. And from that day onwards, Wang always picks her up from the gym with his bike.

As for the cooking/weight lifting…. It didn’t really happen as I believe Yang more or less refused. Although according to Yang, Wang is still trying to think of house chores for her that are more physically challenging. 

-In order to use the energy you want to burn for something good! he says.

I say nothing.


Anonymous said...

Erh.... That's one weird bf. But picking her up at the gym is sweet.


That is the funniest, male chauvinist story I have heard in a long while. It's the stuff funny foreign films are made of. Keep you mouth shut and your eyes and ears open, and keep taking notes. All these stories will some day make a great screen play.

Pingu said...

you can deny his logic! ;)

CJ said...

Wang has really weird ideas!!I didnt know chinese men are so chauvinistic(sorry guys!!)Its a bit like men here in India.They want their gf's and wives to look beautiful no matter how fat or ugly or ungroomed they are.I guess this is how most asian men are.SO sad.

S said...

Oh. Dear. Nonetheless and interesting and funny story :)

M.M.E. said...

Oh my gosh, I couldn't stop laughing! That is the best story I've heard in a while. Good for Yang for getting her man in better shape. And I agree, there's no way I'd do the 'home gym' workout.

Redbabe said...

yeah man, that's one bit the weirdest bf i ever heard off...lols. Hillarious though...


I think he did not feel up to par with the other men at the gym, and that he is completely jealous of them and the attention that she will be receiving from them.

He picks her up so that she comes home to him and only home to him, and that all the men at the gym see that.

And, all men want their women prettier, thinner, sexier, than themselves and they want to not worry about themselves or their 'pretty lady' leaving them for someone else.

Surely this guy is covering all the bases.

mantse said...

No a bad idea with doing excerise to pick her gf up~~ we cannot do this in Hong Kong (not allow two people on one bike...)

david1082 said...

Wang sounds like the kind of guy that we call a "total wangker" in Britain.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Kanmuri -yeah, it sounds weird to us.. but it is how he's been brought up. Dong-bei ren in China (people from the north-eastern part of China) still believe the women should take care of the house and the family meanwhile they r working... this guy is slowly learning!

Teri -hahahaha, thanks for that comment! Love sharing what I see, hear and experience w all of u guys.

Pingu -can or can't?!?!?

Recipes -well, I think in a way he has a point.. : we stuff ourselves with food and then run to the gym where we use some pointless machines to get rid of the xtra energy... we are not hunters like back in the days.... that being said, when Yang told me about his kitchen-work-out-plan I saw red for a while.. then I just started laughing!

S - :)

MME -so glad to hear that!!! I too, would refuse the home-work-out. Gosh, over here I don't even do my own vacuuming.

Redbabe -sure made a good story!

Mantse -u r not allowed to be 2 ppl on a bike here in Suzhou either but everyone does it still.

David -not a total jerk I think. I think it's still sweet of him to pick her up from the gym every second day! Although he gets some jerk points for telling her she's fat, coz she really isn't... she's tiny!

david1082 said...

"Wang kept telling Yang that she should lose some weight"
"already very, very thin"
"days where she would only eat apples"

He isn't a jerk, he sounds like a lunatic who uses psychological abuse to control her.

0carina said...

I say he shouldn't make boxes but step out of his damn box!

Hang said...

Some of you made me consult with Cambridge Dictionary online to find out what it says about male chauvinistic! So here it is: "(male chauvinism) the belief that women are naturally less important, intelligent or able than men."

What?! "women are naturally less important, intelligent or able than men" Are you joking? At least over 50% Chinese women are naturally more important, intelligent or able than men. Men have to use their intelligence and labour to earn money. While over 50% Chinese women use their intelligence to obtain house and car from men through marriage. Ha, ha ... I am kidding. Pls don't take it seriously.

BTW, I am of the view that men and women are of equal importance.

Jonna Wibelius said...

David -when Yang first told me about Wang telling her to lose weight, I was like 'what the hell?! is he crazy' and I asked Yang if she was angry about receiving such comment, seeing that she's already so thin.... 'Oh no!!' said Yang. 'All Chinese men are like that. And he's right. I should be thinner'.... so yeah, a bit of a jerk but I also have to say that she has a somehow twisted self-image...

Hang -of course they are! Women rocks! :)

Ocarina -well at least he compromised.. which I think is quite an achievement seeing that he seems to be so stubborn otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonna,

Long time no comment.

Hope I can get in before your multitude of fans bombard your comments page.

Your entry coincides perfectly with this week's episode of "Shipwrecked", a UK reality tv show where 2 teams of hot young things on 2 close tropical islands. Every week a new contestant arrives and lays down an "island law".

This week, the contestant's law was the girls were going to be the "serving wenches" for the guys, who were to be "kings for the day". And when the guys wanted the wenches to do something for them, they literally called out "Wenches. Wenches! I need my feet cleaned", or some such task.

Being fully westernised, you can imagine the guys loved the idea, while most of the girls were staring daggers at the newbie.

I thought it was hilarious.

While Mr Wang is a bit of a pyscho, I believe that western ladies who no longer do the household chores are really missing out on skills which help in family life, and in attracting men in the first place.

I've met some girls who have law and business degrees, and can cook as well as my mum. Needless to say they never lacked boyfriends.

If I may go off on a tangent- a few years ago, I read a blog by an Asian girl who explained why she dated white guys. One reason was that Asian guys thought she was fat, while White guys thought she had a pretty good body.

I find it quite ironic that Asian bred guys want their girls to be stick figures, yet they themselves are so thin that from behind, I sometimes cant tell if they are a guy or a girl. I think my Western upbrining is influencing my perception of what a guy's physique should be like, but they can look pretty feminine sometimes imho. (but keep this to yourself Jonna, ok?)

Gosh, so long.

Take care


Pingu said...

typo :P

Pete In Syracuse said...

It amazes me to think that back in the early part of the 20th century being heavy was concidered a sign of wealth and was a status symbol. Being thin meant you were poor and uneducated, then being thinner started because of heath reasons and now it's the opposite. I have lost 150lbs. (I was very prospeous), but the three things I found out about eating is this.
1. Don't eat & drink at the same time. If you eat you have to wait 1 hour before you drink again & when you drink you must wait a half an hour, because of your digestion time & when you drink & eat it tells your brain your still hungary cause your pushung the food out of your stomach.
2. Chew your food 25-30 times & wait 2-5 minutes between bites. This help you eat less taste the food & gather moisture in your mouth that is the only place there are taste buds. It also takes 20 minutes before your brain starts to feel satisfied while eatting too!
3. Make sure you eat a protein at every meal, because without protein in your meal your metabolism doesn't work at it's peak. Thats why if you work out alot and don't get your protein in you can actually gain weight. most people will say Oh! that must be muscle gain, but that only happens if your measurements get smaller & your getting buffer.
Enough preaching, if wang wasn't triing to do excercize too in his funny way I think I would think he's a jerk, but he continues to try in his own funny way to move and be active and the bike move, is sweet. It isn't a bike for two is it? I mean he's doing all the work with peddling right, like he's not getting off the bike & making Yang peddle him home is he - ha ha... just joking!

Jewels said...

Oh my. I laughed so hard while reading this that tears came to my eyes.

You can see that Wang thinks he is being very fair and helpful at the same time. All of his suggestions make perfect sense to him. He has the "kill two birds with one stone" mentality. Good luck Yang!

Emmy said...

Wow! All I can say is wow.

mtl said...

geeze guys, give him a break huh!

The standards of being thin is different in a different culture. Plus, Wang can see her size much clearly. A little pressure to get a partner to look better is not chauvinist or crazy. Unlike westerners, asians don't go crazy when someone suggests they might have gained some weight.

He prbly doesn't think the gym fees are justified. the culture in Asia puts emphasis on saving. He's just looking for substitutes that are more cost-efficient, and there is nothing wrong with that, especially given how much locals earn and social security situation they have.

Also, he kept his word and tried it out for the 2 full weeks.

You guys have no idea what real chauvinism looks like (older generation in Taiwan, Korea, Japan). Give the guy a break!

Though the house chore deal is not good tho, I agree. Especially if Yang is working as well (most likely she is). But c'mon, I think there's too much of a close-minded & culturally insensitive comments here.

The Candid Yank said...

@ dfvxc - I don't agree that anyone should "give this guy a break". I don't believe, either, that he is a horrible person, and I can see that cultural influences may play a big part here. Unfortunately, it is not only men in China, or men in Asia who do this.

I can't speak for every woman in the world, but most of us want to feel attractive in the eyes of the man we love. We do not want to think that when he looks at us, he sees an imperfect version of what he would like us to be. We want him to love us for who we are, and support our life choices as long as we are happy and comfortable with ourselves.

What Wang is doing, while he probably does not intend to harm his girlfriend, is sending a clear message: "My idea of what you should look like is more important than the decisions you make for yourself." I think it is wonderful that the girl is going to the gym and getting fit, because as Jonna said, it's much healthier than starvation.

A universally accepted method of politely, lovingly urging your partner to change their lifestyle is to offer to do it with them. It's OK to say to a partner, "I think we should eat healthier," or "Let's join a gym." Pointing at someone's (nonexistent) fat belly and telling them to get rid of it is just not OK. Not even chauvanistic, just... unacceptable.

I would be very upset with my boyfriend if he attempted something like this. He did, however, 2 years ago suggest that we join a gym together. We both go regularly. He has lost almost no weight, I have lost more than 30 lbs. So he may have gotten what he wanted without hurting my feelings. :)

sorry this was so long!!!!

mtl said...

Dangerous Des, I can understand and respect a culture where it's extremely rude/impolite/hurtful to suggest someone could lose some weight.

What I'm saying is, in east asian culture, it's not nearly as hurtful as you might think. This is why people liberally comment on others' weight. So, what Wang did is not as bad as you guys think

Ok on the other hand. IMO, the "taboo" and extreme reaction of commenting on weight in the west is irrational. Consider this: your weight is something you can change, it just takes some discipline. There is no need to go into denial, which is not constructive. We all could eat less these days.

Women wants us to love them for more than looks, and we usually do if we're together. They also want to have perfect looks in our eyes? Nobody is perfect and you know it. A little pressure to get you to improve your fitness & look is not terrible. If done subtly enough, and received rationally, it can help you look better, feel better, look more perfect in our eyes, and help the relationship. Afterall, ur body is something you can change.

I can understand the short term negative feelings. But, in the grand scheme of things, do you want lies & eventual breakup or the alternative I mentioned above? Which one is healthier for the relationship?

if there were no grade/exam pressure, would I study as hard as I do, and learn as much as I do? Without some pressure people tend to get complacent.

But of course this is just my opinion. I can understand if the immediate hurt of the suggestion is so much that it outweighs the future expected benefit (aka time discounted benefit -- we perceive future benefit less than immediate benefit).

No judging from me on the discount rate if it's that high. We all could improve our lives by lowering our discount rates.

mtl said...

umm sorry I didn't explain the last part clearly or accurately.

What I mean to say is I can understand that for some people, such things can be extremely hurtful, perhaps so much so that it should never be mentioned. Different people, different cultures perceive it differently.

On the other hand, one could do well by focusing on the benefits that would come if one takes control of their weight, instead of the immediate negative feeling about the suggestion.

mtl said...

I'm a bit puzzled tho,
you want us to see a perfect woman when we look at you. shouldn't the expectation of looking perfect be placed on you instead of us?

Do you expect to see a perfect man when you look at us? And if you do, is the responsiblity of meeting that expectation placed on us? Or do you distort your perception to make it so?

u want us to see a perfect woman. Is it because you think we expect to see a perfect woman? If you don't expect to see a perfect man, why do you think we expect to see a perfect woman?

I can tell you straight up that we don't expect to see a perfect woman. You don't need to look perfect to be attractive. If you can do something to become more attractive, it doesn't mean you're unattractive.

MJF said...

Western Culture put far more emphisis on physical apperence than East Asían culture, in Asian culture, body is nothing but vessal for your soul and spirit, while ever since ancient greek and rome european culture have always put emphisis on physical body.
The fact is that point out flaws in someones physical appearence are faaar less rude than(if any) than accusing someone to be moraly wrong doing in China.

The Candid Yank said...

@ dfvxc: here is what i said

"We do not want to think that when he looks at us, he sees an imperfect version of what he would like us to be. We want him to love us for who we are, and support our life choices as long as we are happy and comfortable with ourselves."

this doesn't mean that we are demanding that our men think we are perfect. It means that we don't want that when he looks at us, he thinks to himself "I would change this and that and that and that" instead of "that's my woman and I love her." My boyfriend is very fit, but has a tiny belly because he likes to eat. But when I look at him, I don't visualize him without it, or look at any of his "flaws" and think about ways they could be changed. I look at him and think "that's my man and I love him." I'm not seeking to change him one way or the other. If he had no belly, would he be more beautiful in my eyes? Not a chance. I would see him as Christoph-without-the-belly.

The other potential problem with becoming preoccupied with your partner's weight is this: one day, ONE DAY, we are all going to lose our looks. If a girl putting on 5 pounds or so is such a big deal that you will break up with her, then the relationship is obviously not solid. I want someone who will love me even after the looks are gone. So to be sure, I don't expect my man to think I have a perfect body. I expect him to love and accept me anyway.

mtl said...

Ah I see, you want us to feel that you are perfect the way you are. I think that's reasonable.

I also admit, often men want GFs to lose weight (or gain weight) for selfish reasons. If only mentioning it doesn't cause as much pain as it does. In that case everyone would be happier!

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading about Yang and Wang's antics, I think it's probably one of the most entertaining stories about Chinese couples I have read about in a long time. I don't think pointed comments about weight which I have heard throughout my travels/studies in China are without negative effects. I had a Chinese roommate who lived with 5 girls who recorded their current weights and their proposed weights for the following week on a small chalkboard. These girls were all very skinny medically speaking (BMI wise). My Chinese roommate felt bad about her weight and was constantly asking me if she was fat.

Personal experience makes me see nonconstructive comments about weight (You've gotten fatter recently. You should lose some weight). I find these comments unreasonable and hurtful as I often hear them from my Chinese relatives. I am a big girl, especially for being Chinese(172cm tall/about 60kg) I am also a collegiate athlete and most definitely in good shape/healthy. Yet I still receive negative comments about my weight. There is no way I will ever fulfill the beauty ideal of being a petite, 40kg stick thin Asian girl even if I was so inclined to starve myself.

Comments about weight definitely have their appropriate time and place. However perhaps the Asian beauty aesthetic is too narrow, even for people that accept it as a "cultural norm". Cultural norms are not static, they can change.