When a Woman Comes…

Here’s where i learned something invaluable about Chinese women. Or maybe women in general. it’s difficult to know because most of the women I know are Chinese. If you really want to see them, tell them you’re busy, and there is no way you can possibly rearrange your schedule. They’ll turn up on your doorstep the next day fully expecting you to drop everything to accommodate them.

Her name was Celia. At 30, she was slightly older than most of the women I dated. We’d known each other for a couple of years, but only online. We had lots of mutual friends, but had never met face-to-face before. When she arrived I was teaching a class, so she had to wait at the school gate for me for over an hour.

When I first saw her, as well as being relieved she wasn’t a catfish, I was surprised. She was much slimmer and prettier than her photos suggested. They didn’t really do her justice. She wore a white dress with red shoes and had long, black hair, which all made her look a bit like a ghost from a Japanese horror film. Her demeanour just added to that image. There was something alluring and mysterious about her. I can’t lie, it was a weird set-up. I’d already arranged to meet Lily, a girl I met on Facebook, the following week, which was a public holiday in China, so I made it clear from the outset that Celia could only stay with me for four days. And so began perhaps the weirdest four days of my life.

She asked endless questions, to the extent that for much of the time it was like being in a psychiatrist’s chair. She would ask me something, then say, in an accusatory tone, “I asked you that question a year ago and you gave me a different answer!”

No matter how often I tried to explain that people’s views evolve and change over time so both my answers could be true. Plus, I couldn’t remember what I did last week, nevermind last year, it wouldn’t wash. It didn’t help that her questions were the kind that rarely even have a definitive answer; what makes you happy? How important do you think money is? Do you believe in love?

Her lines of enquiry were barbed with thorns and stumbling blocks. Intentionally, I think. I’m not self-important to think it was all geared toward tripping me up. I think it was more she just had a tendency to over-analyse everything.

She was a deep girl, and that was okay. In moderation. I can talk about UFOs, life after death, or the struggle for equality in modern society all night. But I also like to discuss less weighty topics like football and stand-up comedy. She seemed deeply wary of me, and rightly so you might think. But having someone I barely knew in my apartment scrutinising my every move and second-guessing me 24-hours a day made me uncomfortable. If she was that unsure about me, she could just leave.

On night three, the inevitable happened and I dry humped her to within an inch of her life. We didn’t have full sex because she was on her period and I once fainted after a particularly gruesome bout of period sex. Celia wasn’t very experienced. In fact, she told me she’d only ever had sex with one guy, and I had no reason to disbelieve her. The funny part is that the next morning I woke up to find her sitting on the edge of the bed, sobbing.

“What’s wrong, Celia?”

“I am so regret what we did last night,” she said in a weak, trembling voice.

“What do you mean?”

“The sex,” she said, bowing her head in shame.

This confused me. Had I missed something? “But we didn’t have sex…”

“Almost.”

“Almost means it didn’t happen,” I reasoned. “It’s like ‘almost’ getting struck by lightning. It’s only really worth worrying about if it actually happens. We just kissed and hugged.”

“Sex hug.”

“But still just a hug.”

I’ve known for a long time that Chinese girls have a tendency to be drama queens, but this was next level.

As the end of the four day nightmare approached, Celia made it clear she didn’t want to leave. I didn’t tell her I was going to meet someone else. I didn’t see the need to do that, so I just told her I was going to the train station. She kept asking me about ticket prices and train times, probably to try to ascertain where I was going, and would then do that thing where she asked me the same question two hours later to see if I would give the same answer as if it were some kind of police interrogation. It was exhausting. I don’t know what she expected me to do. You can’t just show up on someone’s doorstep without an invitation and expect them to cancel plans that had been in place for months on your behalf.

Eventually, she said she was making other arrangements, too. That was fine with me. By that point I just wanted her out of my hair. She came with me/followed me all the way to Guangzhou South Railway Station, where I made an excuse and escaped into the crowd before she could question me any more. I was free at last.

This is an edited extract from the book This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 4 – The Return, out now on paperback and ebook.

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