Monday, June 18, 2012

The Lonely Hearts Narrative Part 2.1

I left off my last Lonely Hearts post with the question: Why do expat women get so bitter over yellow fever? The answer to this can be summed up by the phrase “white fever.” No, this isn’t a phrase that I have ever heard anyone use before, however considering the “symptoms” of “yellow fever” (which is a phrase commonly used) the term seems apt. The way I see it there are two causes of this affliction, though both stem from cultural differences:

1. ideas about masculinity

2. expectations within interpersonal relationships

But once again, this post would be too long as one, so after the break I will cover number 1.

1. Ideas about Masculinity

What is considered “masculine” varies by culture and also by generation. Considering generation is important here, because I have personally found a big difference between Taiwanese men in their 30s and 40s and those in their 20s. It is also important to mention that all of my expat girlfriends are in their late 20s or very early 30s. This matters because their age of course effects who they see as potential mates.

A lot of younger Taiwanese guys would be called – at best – metrosexual in the US. They dress extremely nice and clearly spend more time than anyone else I know on their hair. They often wear clothes that are much tighter than men in the Midwest (I’ve been out of the US for too long – how is it on the coasts? Do guys wear skin tight clothes there?) They are also quieter. At the bars I’ve been too it is often interesting to watch the very different behavior of expat and Taiwanese men in the room. The expat men will talk loudly, talk to many girls (or one if they hit it off the first time) and dance – alone, with friends, or with girls they pick up there. The local men are usually more subdued. Some will dance, though not many. They will sit back, drink, and have conversations that cannot be heard from across the room. The expats girls tend to look at these guys and comment that they all must be shy – generally not a turn on.

The other problem for some is physical. Western girls, when chatting about men, often bring up the issue of size. In all honesty we tend to talk about this in every way (as what I ended up doing all of last Friday night) but for now I will stick to the PG version because I have no personal experience of my own to comment otherwise. This is not a problem for every woman, but for many. It is the stereotype – what does a girl want? A tall, dark, strong, handsome man, right? Well, back home it wasn’t too often I met a guy smaller than me, but here it happens all the time. This is about physical attractiveness of course, but it is also about how one feels when compared to someone they are with. Personally, a guy barely shorter than me is not a problem, but when a guy a foot shorter than me talks to me I don’t feel sexy – I feel like an Amazon. Some of my friends have voiced similar feelings. This is a problem. If a woman can’t even feel sexy just talking to a man it isn’t going to go further. Of course I have also met plenty of men bigger than me too; I’m just saying that the odds here are not the same as back home.

Now, things are a little different with the over 30 pool. Of course, the same physical issues may arise, but behaviorally the testosterone flows differently. In short, the older Taiwanese men that I have met seem more masculine from my American point of view. They don’t look metro for one thing and they are louder when they go out. The display of machismo at 100NT or 热炒 restaurants, for example, are culturally familiar to me – its like being at a tailgate party or backyard cookout. So why aren’t my expat friends looking to these men to cure their loneliness? Well, for one thing, by this age people are more likely to already be married, and most of are not OK with being a mistress (not that a couple of us haven’t had such offers). Also, this isn’t their demographic. My guess, though I will need to look into this some more, is that they aren’t meeting older men (because the the expats tend toward younger hang out spots) or not interested in older men. 

So, what’s my point? In this instance, Taiwanese men aren’t the problem. In these cases the narrative suggests that they are looking for a Westernized man, around their age, single, and in Taiwan. All I can say is, good luck.

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