Having just finished a cheap massage at some nondescript parlor near the bus station, I decided to claim victory over the boiling night with a well-deserved popsicle. I had just walked out of the store, admiring my trophy ice cream, and crossed the street, when I found the fellow customer I'd been chatting with in the massage parlor was blocking my path.
"Where are you trying to go? I can help you find it!" he said. I laughed to myself. He should have had at least 30 minutes of massage left.
Hours before, I had left my hostel feeling ill and in a need of a "guasha" (scraping) session, and there I was, succumbing to an invite to hotpot with a date—a very foreign date.
"My grandfather was from Singapore; he was mixed with British blood," he explained after I pointed out that his eyes were an incredible, light hazel color. He was a doctor in town for a few days for a medical conference, after which, he would travel to his mother's village an hour away. He seemed friendly, and I took note that he had not lit up a cigarette—a pleasant surprise for me.
He walked me back to my hostel, and after our goodbyes, I decided that he was nice and intelligent and interesting enough to continue meeting. Our conversation spanned from current events to Chinese politics, history, and culture. I began to feel lucky to have met such a man in Chengdu.
And then I got a text message. It had only been 45 minutes since we'd parted ways, and he was already announcing that he was going to move from the expensive business hotel where he'd been staying to the simple hostel where I was staying.
Um. OK. Still, I decided not to write him off.
I went to sleep and woke up the next morning to find a chain of unread text messages that had begun filling my phone at around 7 a.m. "I am downstairs"/"Can I take you to breakfast?"/"How are you feeling today?"
Maybe he's just lonely, I thought, still half-asleep, and less charitably, and not a crazy overzealous date.
I reflected on how his father had died of leukemia when he was a 12-year-old boy. His mother raised two boys on her own and put them through college even though they were very poor. Suddenly I began to feel sorry for him so I convinced myself to at least see him for brunch, although honestly, my initial interest in him had been rather dampened by his eagerness.
It's OK, I justified what I was about to do to myself. Eating something will be good, and anyway I'm still down with a cold, and after seeing me at my worst, he'll probably run away screaming.
Brunch was pleasant, and I didn't hear from him until the next day.
To be continued ...
Due to these interactions with Mr. Eager, I am trying to be conscious of the ways I've been conditioned as an American when it comes to "dating" culture. I've reflected on what appears to me to be his excess eagerness and can't come up with any reasons as to why I should write it off as wrong—in the United States or elsewhere it might say "desperate" but I can also take it as endearing and quirky. Maybe he's just not particularly suave at communicating with women, or my expectations as a foreign woman are different from his?
It's a bit intimidating when two people connect with many unknowns and face unfamiliar behaviors, and I still have a lot to learn.
This article by Christine Cauble was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 57 ("line 2"). Christine Cauble is a Taiwanese-American photographer and blogger attempting to date her way through Chengdu. Photos courtesy of Christine Cauble.