The City of Sham Relationships

Januray 3rd, 2012
Location: Wagas, Grand Gateway
Time: 7:06 pm

If I had a nickel for every Asian girl/laowai duo that walked through the doors of this coffee shop tonight, I’d have . . . 50 cents or so.  And I’ve only been here for an hour.

People call Paris the city of love, but I wonder if those people have ever lived in Shanghai.  I realize that the calling of love is strong throughout the world, in every city, in every season, and in many hearts.  But, I think there’s something about living abroad that drives some to pursue love a little more wholeheartedly.

Oh, did I say love?  Excuse me.  Silly blunder.

I think the word I’m actually looking for is sex.

Forgive my crassness, but if I wasn’t already indifferent about the prospect of a relationship in general, Shanghai has made me nothing short of jaded. For the most part.

I will admit that there are undoubtedly three or four real romances springing forth in this burgeoning metropolis on a daily basis.  In a city of millions I think it’s a statistically viable thing to say.  But I also have to consider the stories I’ve heard on the regular, both in the expat community and the Chinese.

Like much of the world, but maybe more so than other countries, China (and Shanghai especially) is caught up in material success.  The possessions you have define who you are – and they define whom you may date and whom you may marry. In People’s Square there is a marriage market.  Mothers and fathers gather in the busy park to post pictures of their child, along with criteria of what they are looking for in a future son or daughter-in-law.  As a man, if you don’t own a house or a car, don’t waste your time.  Your ethics, talent, character, humor, and values are seemingly irrelevant.  Oh, but there is a “must be this tall to ride this ride” criterion.  You want marriage in this city?  Better have money and be at least 5’7”.  Also, you can’t be put off by the prospect of carrying a woman’s purse.

Money grubbing is so pervasive within this city the government recently enacted a law that safeguards men’s possessions in the event of a divorce.  Women were outraged. Naturally.  Wouldn’t you be upset if your plan to marry an ugly, fat, old man for his money and divorce him a year later and take half his assets went up in flames?  I would be.

But in regards to the relationships that I see in this city, it’s not the Chinese who have made me question these so-called love matches.  It’s the foreign men.  And they know exactly why.

Dictionary.com gives four definitions for relationship:
1. a connection, association, or involvement.
2. connection between persons by blood or marriage.
3.an emotional or other connection between people.
4. a sexual involvement; affair.

Here is how Chinese women see their relationships with their foreign boyfriends: definition 3, in hopes that it will eventually evolve into definition 2.  Here is how many foreigners see this relationship: definition 4. Si. Quattro. Neljä. FOUR. And only four. And supposing number two crops up (through lack of proper precautions) it’s time to head for the hills.

This isn’t mere speculation.  I have been told, on more than one occasion, from more than one man, that if his girlfriend decides (against his objections) to go through with that “mistake” he will pull up stakes and find greener, less complicated pastures.  I’ve yet to meet one who has actually left, but I’ve met a few who have helped their girlfriends by taking them to a clinic.

And I’d be remiss not to mention those who are “dating” not one, not two, but three women simultaneously.  And by dating I mean sleeping with, of course.  I should also mention that these women don’t know that their boyfriend has other women and that he calls all 3 his girlfriend, although he doesn’t consider them as such.  He just fails to tell the women that.

Not that all scuzzines lands at the feet of men.  I recently met a woman who had a grand ol’ time regaling me with a story of her French boyfriend –  the pathetic sap who bought her loads of crap, drove her about, and wanted her to meet his parents, who she had been cheating on since they first started dating.  After all, she wasn’t planning on marrying the guy anyway.  Nobody really expects monogamy in this city, right?  Of course, if she discovered he’d been cheating on her she’d castrate him without a second thought.  I wanted to smack that woman clean across her face and then douse her in bleach lest her disgusting self contaminated my soul.

While living in this city isn’t a vacation per se, it often does seem like a break from real life.  It’s temporary.  Few actually plan to stay here for the rest of their lives and their treatment of relationships is a reflection of that. For those few that make it to the alter, the statistical likelihood of “til death do we part” isn’t exactly encouraging.

These are statistics from 2003 as I’m having a hard time negotiating this site (uscis.gov) to find more recent facts: 

3889 K-1's (fiancée) entered the USA
54.0% left the USA within 6 months
28.2% left between 6 months to one year
17.7% lasted more than one year

1546 K-3 (spouse) entered the USA
70.3% left the USA within 6 months
22.6% left between 6 months to one year
7.1 % lasted more than one year

Pathetic.

So, Shanghai isn’t the city of love.  First of all, it’s way too ugly to be considered romantic.  And secondly, love has got nothing to do with the hand-holding I see waltzing throughout the city.  Rather, I shall dub Shanghai the city of Sham Relationships. Please don’t take pride in that, Shanghai.  It’s not a good thing.  But I still give you permission to put it on your postcards.





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