Recreating Lives

When I first moved to Hong Kong, I didn’t have any expectations on how it would go. I didn’t know anything about the city, and quite frankly, I only took the job because nothing else remotely as interesting had panned out1.

When I landed and was picked up by a driver sent by my then boss, I was in (a very sleep deprived 2) awe of just scale of humanity in the city. Up until this point, I don’t think I’d ever stepped foot in a city as vertical as this one 3. I knew no one in this city of 7 million, a sobering idea when I nearly got hit by a bus on my first day because traffic goes the opposite way 4.

Because I had no notions of what to expect, I was able to build a completely new life there with new people, new hobbies, and new interests. The only thing I really wanted to find in Hong Kong were good American craft beers 5.  That was it. This is not to say I wasn’t homesick. I was, for about the first 6 months, but that went away surprisingly quickly.

Moving back to Chicago has been an entirely different beast. From having spent 4 years for school here, I had an expectation of how the city would be like, and it was romanticized in my head as being the place where I first felt at home, where I belonged. I forgot that what made places feel good to me were the people there 6.

I find that I’ve fallen into a trap where I’m trying to recreate the bits I loved about Hong Kong (reliable public transportation, people who were ambitious in some form or another 7 or just did really cool things, gym community, British beers, boyfriend), but nothing is coming together. The CTA is notoriously, conspicuously, and frustratingly slow 8. I’ve made some new friends, but I don’t feel like I’m learning much about anything from them. My current gym is seriously subpar9. Not pining too much for British beers as I’ve found a couple of others that are pretty nice.

And yes, now addressing the boyfriend. Notice how I’ve been silent for quite a way on anything romance related? It’s not that I’m keeping things from you, reader. It’s just that there’s absolutely nothing worthwhile to write about. The dates I’ve been on have been so unremarkable that I have even been unable to spin any sort of remotely interesting story about any of them.

A friend of mine (she shall henceforth be referred to as Burrito Friend because our friendship started by pursuing a top 10 list of best burritos in Chicago 10) remarked a bit offhandedly to me that not everyone can be lucky enough to still be in love with their ex. And that struck me. Maybe it’s true, though it’s been a while since we split up, so it shouldn’t be the case, right? Am I enough of a sap to still be hanging on to this slightly more romantic image of him? Though I suppose it also says a lot that if we ever find ourselves in a similar locale and are both still single, I’d go after him in a heartbeat. Yes, I understand that we wouldn’t be the same people as we were when we were in Hong Kong, but why not try?

The Bun also weighed in on this for me since it threw me for such a loop. She thinks it’s ultimately a good thing that I haven’t demonized him in my own recollection. Though, it’s pretty hard to demonize a cute guy with a British accent who brought me all sorts of food, even when I was in the hospital. He even visited everyday.

Ok, maybe Burrito friend is right. But I should be able to find someone similar in Chicago right? Doesn’t necessarily have to be British or look like he did. I just want someone nice who will bring me food.

1. 4th year for me was weird because when everyone else was going crazy with recruiting, I was putting together an application for the Army’s officer candidate school. That didn’t pan out as I didn’t manage to heal from a nearly torn through tendon in my foot, leaving me scrambling around March and April for a job. The other places I had on site interviews at were completely horrifyingly soul sucking enough that I took a job at a small company I couldn’t find much information on in a city I knew nothing about. That should say something about how I felt about those positions.

2. Contrary to popular belief, I am not completely unflappable. I just prefer not to have many people around when I have my meltdowns. Someone I know once told her girlfriend that she was modeling her lack of expressed negative emotions after me. Anyway, I digress. That flight was super sleep deprived because I was an absolute ball of anxiety during the 12+ plane ride over. I was nervous enough to have gotten sick the second I landed in San Francisco from Dallas to catch the connecting flight over to Hong Kong.

3. Sure Beijing had been more populated, the city was also much more spread out.

4. When I drive back stateside now, I still have to remind myself that I need to drive on the right side of the road. Funny how just 2 and a half years abroad can have such an impact on my life.

5. But then American beers got crazy happy with beers that supposedly are flavored by jasmine tea,  blackcurrant, vanilla or something else equally as heinous for a beer. I now find myself pining for a glass of clear British pale ale.

6. I find that I’m saying I don’t feel particularly strongly about people very often now. But really, if you’re a friend of mine in person and are reading this, you know that isn’t true.

7. I have only met ONE new person in Chicago so far where I had the initial reaction of, “OMG you’re so cool. How can I be more like you?”

8. I have outpaced 3 buses on a certain route while on my bike recently.

9. Everyone there is perfectly nice, which is why I stick around (that and it’s close), but I’m not entirely convinced the coaches know exactly what they’re doing. It’s also a nice place for me to get a much needed ego-trip and feel superior to others.

10. Carbon Live Fire Mexican was the winner. Get the Motherclucker, Stelotes, or Fish named William burrito. Their elotes are also great, as are their flour tortilla chips that come with the guacamole.

More Arbitrary Numbers

I was talking to a friend how Brother Bean is getting married in less than a month at the tender age of 28 and how our Facebook feeds are starting to blow up with sickeningly saccharine engagement and wedding photos1.. This led to a discussions about what age we want to be married by, and the number that came up was 37.

Neither of us really thinks that we will get married any time in the near future, or even near 282. I (jokingly?) made a pact with a friend from college saying that if both of us are still single by 35 and have no prospects on the horizon, we’d just marry each other for the tax benefits that come from filing jointly, and the shared benefits in case one of us ends up with kickass insurances and the other one is getting shafted 3. I suppose that says a lot about my views on marriage: more practicality than anything else, though is this really my mindset talking or just my current seemingly perpetual singledom talking? Though, The Atlantic agrees with me in regards to the high cost of staying single, especially as a woman.

I suppose I’ve always been too practical for my own good, when it comes to my love life. I didn’t date around in college4. because I knew that I was still looking for my own mental footing to be able to accommodate all the drama that seemed to surround friends who dated. Dating in high school also didn’t happen probably because I was still a bit painfully shy and because I’m sure my parents would have murdered me in my sleep (Asian parents) then gone on to murder whomever I was dating at the time. I also don’t think I could’ve survived any sort of sex talk that could’ve provoked5. And I’m probably being too practical now! Currently on a dating and anything romantic dry spell because I’m more focused on finishing up pre-requisite classes, applying (and getting into) graduate programs, and working to really have time to think about the needs of another human being.

I suppose this means I’m in the perfect place to use Tinder now, right? I can use it to scratch an itch without any entanglements? Though the ROI on sex is probably better in some sort of relationship because it’s easier to have sex with 1 person multiple times than it is to have sex once with many different people. I just need to break my dry spell and get laid. That’s really the moral of this story, not my weird feelings about Brother Bean getting married and people from high school getting married. I should be sowing my wild oats in my mid-20s, right? Right? Right??

1. Especially from people we knew in high school, and the scary fact that some of said people from high school already have children who are out of diapers.
2. For the reader’s note, this is in 3 years for me
3. Ok, I might have to check his financial situation first so I don’t accidentally shoot myself in the foot. Also, does posting this online constitute as conspiracy to commit fraud? If green card marriages aren’t technically legal, are these sort of ones also no-nos in the eyes of the IRS?
4. Though considering my alma mater, I might have dodged a bullet there
5. though this would’ve been more of mortal embarrassment. Also, another contention for the readers to ponder: if you’re Asian, did your parents ever give you the sex talk? Or was it just swept under a rug as they hoped you’d learn from school or some other source that was not personal experience? Though I suppose China didn’t get to its own population levels now if parents really did have the sex talk with their children. Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

Dating by Numbers

I want to talk about numbers in regards to dating. I’m not going to touch upon THE number, the one that tells the whole world how many people I’ve slept with because, quite frankly, that’s a very boring number that tends to provoke unnecessary judgement and/or congratulations1.

Instead, the first number I want to address is the average number of dates that I (and the unwitting friends I polled) are willing to go on before deciding to sleep with someone.

For me, it’s 3. The Bun actually shares this number with me. After a quick informal poll of friends, this number seems to be on the lower side. Now, I will say that I’ve never had a one night stand,2.but I am most definitely not going to wait after 5-6 dates. Generally with working out schedules, the first couple of dates, for me at least, are spaced a week apart. 5-6 dates meaning investing 2 months of my time before figuring out if we’d work out sex wise, and that’s just too long of a time to sink in.

Some may think that 3 dates is a bit short, but one month gives me enough time to figure out if 1) I actually like you as a human being, 2) do you bore me, and 3) do I want to share a wet spot3. with you? Oh, and a major thing for me is if the guy smells good. I know it sounds bizarre, but some people just smell funky to me and to no other person4..

After a quick informal poll of friends, this seems to be on the lower side for my female friends. For the girls I polled, the answers ranged from, “If I’m feeling it on the first date” to “at least 5-6 dates.”

For the boys, it ranges from “Hell, yea I’ll try to make a move on the first date” to “after 5-6” to “if we’re both feeling it” to “sometimes I’m so clueless that I just wait for the other person to make the first move.” One more data-minded friend broke it down directly: 155., 1, 1, 206..

Most people I asked were pretty hesitant to put out an exact number, or even a ballpark number. Instead, I tended to get quite a bit of explanation about why things are the way things are. I also wouldn’t want to sleep with someone if I’m not feeling it with that person, but generally I figure that out before dates 4, 5, and 6. Maybe I’m just too quick to judge, but I think I tend to have a pretty good judge of character7.

 

 

1. I’m a big fan of congratulating both my girl and guy friends on sex things.

2.Remember how I tend to obsess over axe-murderers? There’s a part of my brain that tells me that I might get axe-murdered by a one-night stand, even though I don’t own an axe. Also, meeting people is a really awkward affair for me most of the time, and I just don’t think I’m really that great at picking people up in bars or wherever people go to pick each other up.

3. This is one part of sex that movies and TV shows always forget about! It’s fun and games until the awkward moment of figuring out who gets the wet spot.

4. In college, I made out with a guy who seemed pretty great, but he also just smelled like a mix of cheese, old socks, and new paperback books. I like paperback book smell, but not when it’s combined with the other two. I asked another friend to smell him for me. Said friend went up to the guy, gave him a huge bear hug, took a very very audible inhalation, looked over at me, and declared, “Nope, smells normal!”

5. High school girlfriend.

6. Catholic enough to care, though apparently not anymore?

7. Not dating related, but I’ve met up with more than my fair share of people from the Internet in person, and I’m still around! My favorite first meet up involved getting picked up at a corner in Beijing (I’d only been there a few weeks tops) by someone from the Internet.

The One

We met via Craigslist, the sometimes cesspool of the Internet of all that is sexually depraved. It came as a surprise to me too. I’d always imagined that we would first bump into each other somewhere more conventional, go out a few times, and hit it off before anything more would happened. But no, I guess the heart wants what it wants, and there is no stopping it.

To me, it was definitely love at first sight. On our first date, we just walked around the block, a charming little stroll around his neighborhood. But by the end, I knew that I needed to have him in my life. Him and all his blueness.

This past summer was our first together, and he has been an absolute gentleman. He’s taken me to work and to school, and he’s taken me on adventures within Chicago: up and down the lakefront, in and out of various neighborhoods. He is always up for doing whatever I want. All he asks me in return is to ride him hard, if you get what I mean.

And I have. Granted, just starting out, he was a bit rusty, but once he got used to my cadences and rhythms, we can now go on for hours on end together. Me on top. Him, uncomplainingly on the bottom. The only time we have to stop is when my legs get too tired. I take good care of him too. At least once a week I’ll rub him down.

Instagram tells me that we’ve only been together for 22 weeks, but he’s also already met all my close friends. They’ve all complimented me on such a treasured find. I like to joke that he is the only constant thing between my legs these days. They laugh. I couldn’t be prouder.

And now, I’d like to introduce him to the blog.
bike

Anatomy of a Tinder Greeting

Dear Men of Tinder,

When you send me that first message, please use half a brain. Here are some examples of greetings that I did not even bother to reply to, and thus, did not get you laid:

  • “Hey”
  • “Hey I’m Efy nice to meet you.”1 
  • “Hey Bean! How’s your week going?”2
  • “Hello!”
  • “Good morning!”
  • “What’s an expat?”3
  • “I love. Terrible puns as well!! Why are you reacfliwt. To the U.S. Of The”4
  • “Ever had a threesome”
  • “Esoteric that word is such beautiful grammer. As beautiful as an Oriental like u.”

The last one takes the cake. 1) That’s not what esoteric means. 2) Horrific grammar. 3) Leave me alone you fucking white boy with Asian fantasies (but apparently not enough sense to understand that Oriental is racist and not a compliment). This is what I get for being a bit shallow and swiping right on a cute guy.5

Now, here are some that worked. Let me preface this section by saying that my profile explicitly mentions my having a badonkadonk6, my love of weightlifting, a random country I’ve been to, and an enjoyment of terrible jokes.

  • “What did the buffalo say to his son when he left for college?” (Bison)
  • “You look exciting.”7
  • “What’s the fastest thing in the world? Milk-It’s pasteurized before you see it.”
  • “That’s pretty good use of forced perspective with the fountain….is that Singapore?”8
  • “Pancakes or waffles?”
  • “A lifting booty? congrats! How long have you been lifting for?”
  • “Nearly everybody has the same number of Tour de France titles as Lance Armstrong.”9

Men of Tinder, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that if you make the slightest effort to half-heartedly gloss over my profile, I’ll most likely reply10. I’m not asking you to give me your heart to me on a silver platter (I’ll probably be creeped out because this is Tinder we’re talking about), but I also don’t have to give you a chance in hell to put your penis in me unless you try just that tiny bit.

1. Tinder already gives me your name. No need to reintroduce yourself.
2. You might seem friendly, but really, why should you give a rat’s ass about my week? You don’t even know me. Don’t ask me how my week is going. That is reserved for friends I don’t really keep much in touch with.
3. http://bfy.tw/1u5L
4. Sloppy drunk texts are the equivalent of finally working up the courage (by drinking) to talk to the cute girl or guy at the bar. Then you vomit all over them. There’s no coming back from this.
5. Tinder informs me that he is now 1548 miles away from me. Thank goodness.
6. Don’t judge. This is Tinder. Badonkadonk is also really fun to say.
7. This is an amazing compliment. No one ever wants to be boring, and how often do you ever get called exciting??
8. +1 for correctly identifying a city from a partially obscured statue and a hotel
9. +2! Random trivia + bad joke!
10. Sometimes I might be too creepy or weird in my replies though. Case:
Tinder guy: I can’t wait to introduce you to my mom!
Me: Already? Cool! I’m so honored! (Your mom is cool right?)
*I have thoughts of maybe he is a serial killer who uses Tinder to find victims (Has there been a Law and Order episode of this yet?)
Me: Also, I hope she isn’t dead because that’d be a little creepy.
-END OF CONVERSATION-

All the world’s a daydream…

The Bean’s and my favourite bar in Hong Kong is a British-style pub, complete with leather couches, a few dozen craft beers, and substantial pies1 on the menu, set in a homey atmosphere. We have had drunken nights, work lunches, and even wedding receptions at this place; most recently, however, I have taken to perching myself in a bar stool and writing my latest thesis drafts. The people who would bring their laptops to a pub at 6 o’clock on a Monday2  are few and far between, and are nearly always IPA drinkers who look purposefully unkempt3 , but I always wonder if I would ever find myself having a conversation with one of them about our work, our choices of beverage, or mutual love of MacBook Air computers.

We all have fantasies about meeting the loves of our lives in our favourite places (or places in which we spend the most time), doing what we so often do. Perhaps it is a fantasy about two teenagers reaching for the same book in a library. Maybe two individuals will look up and lock eyes from across a crowded room4. When I worked the cashier at campus dining halls back in college, I had just the perfect daydream that along would come a well-intentioned, handsome, young future lawyer who would be acting as the sole caretaker for some fraternity brothers on student clubbing night. He would be sheepish that they were holding up my line again, and offer to buy me a coffee as an apology.

Every cafe, bar, and cold-pressed juicery we walk into is a place to meet our soulmates. After all, we can’t do any better than perfectly-aligned mutual interests, right?

It would be incorrect to say that I never meet anyone here — after all, I have been coming to this bar a couple of times a week for the past few years. But none of those interactions have ever checked all my boxes. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was asked, as I was carrying two pints of beer from the bar, “are you going to pay for those yourself, or is some gentleman going to do it for you?” I frowningly tried to enquire if he was offering to pay, and received the baffling reply “oh you look like a woman who makes enough money to pay for her own drinks, I’m sure”5.

I’ve reached the end of this post, and I just looked up from my position at my booth. The couple who was on the next table just walked out after an exceedingly awkward date, in which everything seemed off except for the physical contact. The place is half full with rowdy, middle aged, white businessmen, and a few friends I dragged here with me on the pretence of “hanging out”. No one new has approached me yet, but an old man at the bar did mistake my wave at the manager for himself as the recipient.

But despite the lack of mutually beneficial meet cutes6, this still the place I love to be. I may not be settled on one eligible bachelor, but at least I don’t have to date around for a favourite place.

1. I am talking meat pies here — juicy, savoury artistic creations that are topped with gravy and served with thick cut chips. Nothing screams comfort food more than good, old fashioned, steak and kidney.

2. Also known as “time for two drinks before happy hour ends”.

3. I believe that I also fall into this category, but my unkemptness often lacks the elegance of these hipster freelancers. My raggedy look comes from spending hours at a time translating old documents and taking notes — it’s something that I can personally be proud of, but will never become a fashion statement. (In other news, I’m awesome at drinking IPAs)

4. Recent works of popular culture have made use of this highly-cliched, but very sought-after, trope. Notable examples include the pilot of How I Met Your Mother. Also relevant: the music video for “Jizz in My Pants” by The Lonely Island.

5.This reply was baffling because I was wearing plaid and flip flops. Also, as a graduate student, receiving comments about my presumed affluence really makes me very sad. 

6.”Meets cute”? What’s the correct plural for this rather saccharine internet-age adage? Or is the term actually a verb? Please comment and reply!
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Women Merely Glow

I never expected to be the girl who falls really hard for the first guy she dates.

We met at a party that I never really wanted to attend: the friend who convinced me to go and socialize ended up not even attending, but I met A. As the slightly socially awkward person I am, I decided to make small talk about the weather (hot and humid; this was a Hong Kong summer after all), to which A had the most dashing reply in the most charming British accent.

“Horses sweat, men perspire, but women merely glow.”

Done. Sold. That was the end of my perpetual singledom. Who knew I could find such a nice English gentleman on the streets of Wanchai1 that are home to hookers, drunken shenanigans, and most likely a fair bit of bodily fluid.

Aside from the first date2, nothing really was ever very awkward between us. We got along fabulously, ate our way through Hong Kong3, and watched ridiculous internet videos together. He would always bring me shit cake4 from his work, and sometimes really great cupcakes. He also brought me foods I craved when I was in the hospital for 10 days. I was a bit delirious from fever and probably smelled a little unwashed as my body couldn’t muster up enough blood pressure to keep me from feeling dizzy all the time. But he dealt with that and kept me company for the few hours of visiting hours the hospital allowed.

However, all good things must come to an end. I suppose we had an extended summer romance5 where, aside from my hospitalization, we had all the great stuff you want in a relationship, traveling to exotic locales, trying out new foods, just having a good time hanging out and having sex, without the fights. Either that or we really were just that compatible.

Every time I go on a date with a new person now, I can’t help but to not quite subconsciously make comparisons. I know that’s not something any guy would ever want to hear, but it happens when the bar is set so high. I understand that I can’t create that first relationship, but at the same time, there must be someone worth dating for an extended period of time in Chicago, right? Right? Anyone out there?

 

1.Wanchai: historically, where American servicemen would throng the streets to let loose after spending months on a boat. The prices for prostitutes also increased when the sailors and Marines had shore leave.
2. We went to go watch World War Z because I am slightly obsessed with zombies. Turns out, he hates horror movies. I also somehow talked about trying to find a double ended dildo.
3.Getting sushi with me on a date will increase your chances of getting laid 1000%. Getting sushi + Indian food + Korean food in the same meal will basically guarantee sex.
4. Shit cakes were cakes his school would provide students for their birthdays. They were bland, dry, and somehow very dense, sponge cakes.
5. We only dated for a year. We both knew that this relationship had an expiration date as neither of us could envision staying in Hong Kong or moving to each others’ respective countries.
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Dear Mother

Dear Mother,

I must apologise in advance for letting you down – this note does not bring joyful tidings of the type you are expecting. I am not pregnant, and you will not be receiving a grandchild in nine months time, but please trust me in knowing that it is probably for the better. What I do want to address is that conversation we keep circling back to. You know, the one we had again last weekend, when I averted eye-contact and told you that I was definitely still very single, and you retorted by blaming me for my lack of trying, stability, or foresight about my future.

You believe that I don’t date because I don’t feel like it. This is not quite true; I tell you that I don’t date because I do not want you to know about even the top two inches of the cesspool that I have to wade through just to find a semi-decent dinner companion, not to mention baby daddy. I don’t feel comfortable telling you about the time my colleague criticised me of being “such a girl!” because I said that I did not want to be fuck buddies. I couldn’t exactly tell you about that guy from Coffee Meets Bagel who informed me “I have to tell a girl that the blowjob was good if I ever want a repeat”. I never heard from him again. And I really, really did not want to tell you about the law student on the scholarship committee who wanted to send a taxi to pick me up, and take me to his place for a “deeeeeeep kiss”. I probably lost out on a $2000/month scholarship because I said no to the booty call, but I still didn’t want to tell you about it.

The truth is, Mother, that dating kind of sucks. The other truth is that you live in a fantasy world where men are not sometimes assholes,  and it is very easy to land a tenure-track position in the humanities. I love you for your delusions, and I want you to keep them. I don’t tell you about the gropers, the sleazes, or borderline date rapists because I, ironic as this sounds, want to protect you from the plethora of linguistic perplexities of the modern dating world – “friends with benefits”, “sexual fluidity”, and “I don’t like labels!” – that can crush the self-esteem of even the most well-intentioned, optimistic young woman.

I don’t tell you about these men because not only are they not good enough for me, they are also definitely not good enough for you. I want to shield you from the bad feelings, ick at best and devastation at worst, that comes from knowing that your kid is making misstep after misstep. You told me to never second-guess myself, my attractiveness, or what I have to offer in a relationship; I can assure you that you do not want to be here when I prove time and again that it does not take much, or long, for that self-doubt to inevitably kick in.

Maybe I am also just really bad at dating. I may be too much of a bro around my actually-nice male friends, or frequent the wrong bars, or scare off Tinder matches with my tendency to use too-witty jokes. But please know that I am ready to trust someone – I’m just trying to avoid being stomped on, neglected, or otherwise mistreated along the way.

Love, your daughter,

The Bun

P.S. Please tell Cousin Marnie congratulations on her engagement. While you pass on my message, can you please also add that I was voted best speaker at the recent department conference? Actually, can you say that I dazzled so much that a cute postdoc asked me out? I can make a fake LinkedIn profile if I have to.