September 27, 2010 7 Comments
In retrospect, I really should’ve realized sooner that there was no possible way government-sponsored speed dating could be as cool as I imagined.
But I was pretty intrigued when my boss first mentioned it to me. I was even more intrigued when he told me that my presence was specifically requested—and not as an example of what not to date. Still, when he asked if I was interested in attending, I had to be honest: “The problem is that I’m not going to stay in China forever, and while I might be interested in something for the short term, it’s hard for me to imagine that’s what any of these girls are looking for. I think it’s just a fundamental cultural difference. In fact, I think it would be pretty disingenuous and irresponsible for me to even show up at all.”
Which is basically just a long-winded way of saying “Hell yes!”
So when the day arrived I put on my best shirt, shined my shoes (well, brushed some of the mud off, anyway) and headed to work. For reasons I don’t fully understand, the whole event was held at the Institute. I thought this was kind of interesting because, well, the Institute is not exactly the most romantic place. But it was convenient. And in a way, I suppose that sort of makes sense, since convenience often trumps romance in a relationship. Or so I’m told. Don’t have a whole lot of firsthand experience with relationships myself.
Like most of the things that happen to me in China, I didn’t fully understand what was going on until someone explained it to me later, but apparently the whole idea was for these unmarried government workers to come to our Institute to pick up some unmarried scientists. And if that makes sense to you, please explain it to me.
There were both guys and girls from the government office, and from the Institute as well, which kind of made me wonder why the single government people didn’t just date each other, and the single scientists just date each other, since they’d be more likely to have things in common. But I guess if we were all normal, well-adjusted people who could form stable relationships on our own, we wouldn’t need government-sponsored speed dating in the first place.
I was a little surprised to see one of my friends there though. Not because she’s an attractive and socially competent person who certainly doesn’t need help finding a date, but because I happen to know for a fact that she has a boyfriend. She got pretty embarrassed when I asked her what she was doing there. Of course, I guess I did pretty loudly point out that she was already ‘taken’.
Her face went a little pink, and she hurriedly explained to me that because it was part of her job to coordinate all guests at the Institute, she had to be there. I could understand that.
“Ah, so you’re just here to look at all the hot guys, but not touch them.”
I think it’s funny to tease people who can’t defend themselves in English very easily. Because I’m an asshole.
No wonder I’m single.
The event in question was held on the badminton court (with the badminton net taken down, unfortunately. That would’ve made things more interesting) with chairs surrounding it. I wondered why they chose this particular setup, but the answer came soon enough.
Apparently, the government’s idea of a good way to get people to fall in love is to make them sit there and listen to a guy talk about…something…for about an hour. I didn’t know what it was because my Chinese vocabulary is limited to the subjects of food, hitting on girls, and profanity. Oh yeah, and I know how to say “down jacket”. But apparently this guy wasn’t talking about any of those things. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is lame. Yeah, he might’ve been talking about the profound and magical connection that can be formed between two loving people, but as my understanding of relationships is also limited to food, hitting on girls, profanity, and down jackets, it was way beyond me.
I also didn’t like the way he would occasionally point to me and everyone would laugh politely. Now I understand Chinese people well enough at this point to know that he probably wasn’t insulting me directly, but it still made me a little uncomfortable. But that’s ok, because I’ll get the last laugh in the end. You know why? Because I can go to America any time I want to. And stay for as long as I want.
But while I was sitting there listening to this guy go on and on and on about…whatever…something occurred to me: I really shouldn’t be there. Because as long as I didn’t actually open my mouth or give any other indication of the nature of my personality, a lot of those girls would consider me a pretty ideal catch. Basically, I’m their ticket to a better life. Seriously, when I go downtown and girls are checking me out constantly it’s not because I’m so devastatingly handsome (well I am, but that’s not why), it’s because it can still be a struggle to have a decent life here, and in a lot of their minds I represent a way out of toil and uncertainty. And while knowing this does make it slightly less cool when I see a hot girl checking me out, it does not in any way diminish my enjoyment of getting molested by cute female Chinese security guards. Which happens more than you might think.
So yeah, rather than have the Chinese Communist Party set me up with a potential love interest, I decided to just go ahead and ask one of my friends out for a drink. This has the disadvantage of her already knowing my personality, but the advantage of not having to listen to some dude go on for a freaking hour about something I don’t care about (by the way, I found out later he was giving them the history of the Institute. What the hell? The institute is only like 3 years old! And how does knowing it help them pick a potential partner? Oh well.) Anyway, she asked if she could bring some friends along. I asked if any of them were cute. Apparently this was not the right thing to say, and now I have that against me too.
But at least I always have government-sponsored speed dating to fall back on.