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The experience of being in a foreign country and culture somehow liberated us from our usual American expectations for men and dating itself. We could even reinvent ourselves and what it meant to be in love with someone.It seemed natural and normal to do the same in China.
In the still, he's locked in an awkward slow-dance embrace with a girl an entire head taller than him, but that's not even the worst of it.Whenever anyone dared to broach the subject, usually someone would quickly pounce on the thread and sully it with some juvenile comment about Chinese men that wasn't all that different from that Long Duk Dong movie still.The worst of these threads generally devolved into a low-brow, expletive-laden conversation more appropriate for a bathroom stall.In September 1999 -- my first month in China -- I had a huge crush on a guy.My heart melted at that first sight of his big sesame-oil brown eyes.Whether in forums or blogs, the negative online discourse about Chinese men is consistent with Psychologist Zhang Jiehai's findings from surveys on "Chinese Men in the Eyes of Western Women" as reported by China's Xinhua News Agency in 2010 (I provided an English translation on my blog).
This Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences professor surveyed over 100 Western women from diverse countries including France, Germany and the USA via questionnaires, and then interviewed over 20 of them in a focus group in Shanghai."Whenever I arrive at the airport in America, the first thing I notice is our men, how handsome and how tall they are," one of my white female colleagues mentioned over lunch."I'll just stare at them for hours, as if I was Chinese and had never seen a foreign man before in my life." At least that woman wasn't as blunt as another colleague, who used to bicycle with me through the streets of Zhengzhou.He was more of a gentleman toward me than any other man I had ever known.He was Chinese, a man named Tian who grew up in Zhengzhou.One American participant in the study actually blamed Hollywood for projecting a poor image of Chinese men around the world, and I couldn't help but wonder if she was thinking of at the time.