On Love and being ‘smart enough’

I’m participating in the Bright Future Project at a local university again this semester. It’s always a good way to practice listening, and I get to pick up some really interesting vocabulary. This week’s topic was “True Love” and we did one of my favorite small group activity/discussions with the students. After being divided into a few same-sex groups, we ask them first to write a list of what they are looking for in a boyfriend/girlfriend. Then, after several minutes of letting them create their wish-lists, we ask them to write a list of what they think the opposite gender is looking for in a boyfriend/girlfriend. The answers are always interesting – and their reactions at finding out what the opposite gender thinks/desires are also fun to watch. This is one of those discussions that I can’t wait to hear over and over again as my Chinese continues to progress. Meanwhile, I’ll just give you a few bits and pieces from it that I did understand.

Surprisingly enough, most of the girls did not want a very handsome boyfriend. They stated pretty clearly that they felt like having a “too handsome boyfriend” was definitely unsafe (meaning, presumably, that he’d be a target for other women to hit on and therefore more likely to cheat). Also, I was even more surprised that the girls in this class didn’t say that their boyfriend should have a lot of money. Previous ladies in other classes have seemed to think that this was a pretty important quality.

The guys said that the girl should have long hair, big eyes, a good body, and “give him face.” I talked to one guy about the eyes, and he said “The eyes are the window of the heart/soul.” I was excited to discover both that I understood him, and that English and Chinese apparently share this saying. The guys also said that she should be “一般聪明” which means “smart enough” or “ordinarily smart.” There’s a definite thread in Chinese culture that says that smart, clever, and independent women are threatening or something to be feared, so the guys tend not to want a girlfriend that might be smarter than themselves.

Obviously, both groups mentioned a lot of other characteristics as well…it definitely wasn’t limited to the ones that I’ve written about here. Unfortunately, many of those desirable characteristics tend to be very poetic or abstract, which also makes them well above the reach of my current listening comprehension skills. Just think of it this way, if my eyes are the windows for you to see into the heart/soul of this discussion, then I’m the small-eyed undesirable girl for the time being. But it’s better than not having eyes at all, eh?

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