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Mixed joy club (2)


14:25, November 10, 2012

Young couples in urban China run into similar situations when their parents come to live with them. My father compiled a list of my "sins" after living with me and my family for a month, including dining out and ordering bottled water. For someone who had tasted hunger, penny-pinching is not only a virtue but a necessity.

Cui's article on East-West conjugal union touches on certain cultural differences, but at their core they may not be country-specific. When two people decide to form a family, they will naturally bring their differences with them. In China, the urban-rural gap can rear its ugly head in a marriage. The so-called "phoenix man" is someone raised in the countryside but who broke into the much higher society of urban China through education and hard work. As he marries a city girl, a "peacock woman" who has never been through hardship but has a tendency to show off wealth, their outward compatibility may soon be run over by lifestyle differences instigated by economic disparity in their background.

Surely, a transnational marriage between a Chinese woman and, say, an American man can provide plenty of fodder for cultural comedy. A dinner-table scene in the movie Joy Luck Club has such gags galore. A Chinese parent said her cooking is not good or the dish not salty, but the American son-in-law did not know it was typical Chinese modesty and took it literally.

The joke can also be on the Chinese side as the American eats everything on his plate as a sign of liking the food or just being nice and, as a result, gets endless restocking.

The biggest stereotype about East-West wedlock could well be the Madam Butterfly myth: Because Asian women tend to be small in build, even petite, they are thought to embody the quality of submissiveness and extreme loyalty, as shown in the opera Madama Butterfly. In reality, women who marry outside their clan, so to speak, are usually those with an adventurous streak, a strong will and a special willingness and capability to adapt to new environments, assuming they are to relocate to their husbands' land, not the other way around.

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